Beach Ball Classic

Rhodes’ new singular focus could lead to Beach Ball Classic expansion

John Rhodes’ political loss may mean significant gains for the Beach Ball Classic.

Nearly three weeks after Brenda Bethune was sworn in to the job he once held, the now-former Myrtle Beach mayor is spending more time on the job that first brought him into the public eye on the Grand Strand. The Classic’s executive director, Rhodes has re-invested himself back into basketball.

“Once the election was over, about three days later, I felt like my body went through a transformation. I had a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Rhodes, who served three terms and 12 years as the city’s mayor. “People said I looked more relaxed. Am I going to miss it? Absolutely. But there are times for change. You need to accept those changes, which I have. Now, I’m focusing on something else I love doing.”

Rhodes said he is spending more time with family. He was in Arkansas last week visiting some of his 12 grandchildren (a 13th is due around Rhodes’ 75th birthday in early April). However, he also admitted that part of his vacation there was spent on team and player assessments as he attempts to finalize the 2018 Beach Ball Classic and CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational.

So far he has contracts prepared to go out to 11 boys teams – St. Edward (Ohio), Cox Mill (N.C.), Dominican (Wisc.), Christ the King and Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.), University (W.Va.), Bishop O’Connell (Va.), Florence (Miss.) and local programs Socastee, Myrtle Beach and Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach. He also intends to formally invite University (Fla.) and McEachern (Ga.), although those talks are slightly earlier in the process.

But team evaluation and invitations were something he had little problem with, even during his time in office. With his newfound “free time,” Rhodes is looking into something that wasn’t possible before: Expansion.

He and the committee are looking to add another day of women’s college doubleheaders, as well as adding teams to the Holiday Invitational. Eventually, he would like to double the current number of teams in that event to 32. And if that litmus test goes well, Rhodes said they’ll take a similar approach with the Beach Ball.

There are also plans to add more volleyball tournaments under the Beach Ball umbrella and hopes of creating recreational programs for senior citizens.

“By not being in office, it gives me the opportunity to work on that,” Rhodes said. “They are different types of sporting events. Let’s look at volleyball, kickball, all the things this country is growing. That’s what we need to work on in our city. The Beach Ball can help with that.”

One thing the Beach Ball will no longer be helping with is the Carolinas Classic All-Star Basketball games.

South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association president John Combs told The Sun News last week that the Beach Beach Ball committee is no longer in control of production of the Carolinas’ top all-star event, which had been played in Myrtle Beach from 2009 through last year. The SCBCA credited the Beach Ball with keeping the games afloat after years of financial losses. Still, the sides agreed to part ways after last year’s games. The coaches associations from North Carolina and South Carolina scheduled this year’s event at Wilmington’s Hoggard High School in March.

By that time, it’s entirely possible the fields for both the 2018 Beach Ball and the Holiday Invitational are completed thanks to Rhodes’ more singular focus – one that could continue for the foreseeable future. Rhodes said he won’t run for public office again, a realization he came to during a vacation with his wife in December.

“When [my wife] Terry took me on the cruise and there were no cell phones and I was able to sit back and relax, I said ‘There is a time that you let go and move on,’ ” he said. “You look at something else that you can be involved with and be beneficial.”

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