Beach Ball Classic

Here’s the newest participants, top recruits to watch in the ’18 Beach Ball Classic

Wendell Moore, center, and Cox Mill will return to the Beach Ball Classic after placing fourth in 2017.
Wendell Moore, center, and Cox Mill will return to the Beach Ball Classic after placing fourth in 2017.

The Beach Ball Classic will have some new flavor in 2018.

Seven of the 16 teams playing will be first-timers in the prestigious high school basketball tournament played annually at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Two teams from Texas - Yates and North Crowley - Florence (Miss.), University (W.Va.), Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.), North Mecklenburg (N.C.) and Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach will make their debut this December.

“It gives our people a chance to see those teams that many of them have heard about,” tournament director John Rhodes said. “It keeps the tournament from becoming stale.”

Rhodes talked about how each of those squads is a major power in their respective states. Yates, in particular, should provide some excitement this winter as it averaged around 95 points per game last season, Rhodes said.

“They’re really an exciting team to watch. It’s a run-and-gun type deal,” he said, while pointing out that North Crowley also is a power in the Lone Star State. “Any time you can get good teams out of Texas it’s exciting.”

University High is another squad Rhodes pointed out as a unique draw, considering the number of West Virginians who now call the Grand Strand home.

“Here we are in Myrtle Beach and we’ve got a tremendous amount of people who live here who are from West Virginia, so I’ll look for them to have great support when they’re here,” he said.

The other 10 teams - Bishop O’Connell (Va.), Cox Mill (N.C.), Myrtle Beach, North Little Rock (Ark.), Scott County (Ky.), Socastee, St. Edward (Ohio) and Westchester (Calif.) - have at least some experience in the Beach Ball.

Locally, Christian Academy will be in the field for the first time. In the past, the Saints have opened with contests at the convention center, but they were not officially part of the tournament.

“Christian Academy’s team this year will probably be one of the best — if not the best — they’ve ever had,” Rhodes said.

For all teams, though, the tournament represents a chance to go against some of the nation’s best, which pays dividends in the long run. Many of these teams are reigning state champions or state runners-up and play in conferences where they rarely get challenged and therefore only see similar competition when they get to their respective playoffs, Rhodes said.

“This helps you get ready for that kind of talent, that kind of competition,” he said. “That’s what the coaches really like.”

Several players included in ESPN’s recruiting rankings for the next three classes will be part of the field.

Two top-20 players in the 2021 class - Christ the King (N.Y.)‘s Moussa Cissa (No. 7) and Archibishop Stepinac (N.Y.)‘s Adrian Griffin (17) - and one player each from the 2019 rankings - Cox Mill (N.C.)‘s Wendell Moore (18) - and 2020 list - North Little Rock (Ark.)‘s Moses Moody - are set to lace ’em up at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in December.

Three other players ranked in the 2019 class are slated to be here: Kofi Cockburn (Christ the King, No. 23), Jaylen Forbes (Florence, 70) and Jaelyn Withers (North Mecklenburg, 94).

“Going to be another exciting year!” the Beach Ball Classic’s Facebook post said.

Overall, Rhodes believes the field is loaded with teams that likely will ranked in the top 35 or so in the state at some point this season. Some teams, he expects will be ranked even higher.

“I’ve seen teams come here and lose two and move up in the national rankings,” he said.

Behind 27 points from Duke recruit R.J. Barrett, Montverde (Fla.) won the 2017 title.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295