The 31st Annual Beach Ball Classic will tip off Tuesday, December 27th at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
A holiday tradition now in its 31st year, the Classic is known for attracting the nation's top talent earning the tournament a special place in the hearts of basketball fans across the globe, and the distinction as the ‘most prestigious high school basketball tournament in the country'. All but five of this year's teams have played in the tournament before - a sign that this is a truly sought after tournament.
According to critics, no other tournament carries the weight of the Beach Ball Classic. It is solely responsible for launching the careers of countless NBA stars, including Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby, Rasheed Wallace, Kwame Brown, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, and Michael Irwin.
According to Executive Director John Rhodes, 2011 will be no exception as three of the nation's top players hit the boards amid the cheers of family and fans and under the watchful eye of some of the nation's top recruiters.
"We are excited to welcome back 2009 Champs Bishop Gorman," said Rhodes. "In addition to an impressive team record, the Gaels have the Number One Senior in the country. At 6'6" and 210 lbs., Shabazz Muhammad has been ranked Number One since his sophomore year. Muhammad, with not only talent but also an extremely humble nature, opted to forgo the early signing period, waiting until spring to announce his college decision.
As if having the Number One senior in the country is not enough, the Beach Ball Classic boasts both the Number One junior and sophomore.
Julius Randle from Prestonwood Christian (Texas) is the Number One Junior in country and one of the top players of the class of 2013. According to Coach Chris Mayberry, he has worked hard throughout the summer, and after a great sophomore season, is poised to be a great leader on this year's team. Julius averages 23.8 ppg and 12.2 rpg as a sophomore. Prestonwood, which has made a previous appearance at the Classic, has yet to win the tournament.
Rounding out the top three is Jahlil Okafor from Whitney Young. Okafor, the Number One Sophomore in the country is the Number One ranked power forward in the nation for the class of 2014 and ranked third overall in the nation. He is the Number One ranked player in the state of Illinois for the class of 2014, and was a member of the 16 and Under USA team who won the gold medal last summer in Mexico.
"All of these players are really something to watch," said Rhodes. "I can't remember any tournament with such an exciting lineup. The anticipation is high. It's hard to predict who will be this year's champion".
The tournament, which runs December 27-31, 2011 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, is expected to attract record numbers due in part to the powerhouse performances of Muhammad, Randle, and Oakafor, but mostly because of the reputation it has earned over the last 30 years.
Named South Carolina's Most Outstanding Tourism Event in 2003, the tournament
has entertained an estimated one million fans since its move to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center from Socastee High School in 1994.
Rhodes attributes the success of the tournament to not just the talent of the players, but also the support of the local community, the volunteers who serve as Ambassadors to visiting teams and their families, and the tournament sponsors, many who have been with the program since its inception.
"It is this type of yearly commitment that allows the Beach Ball Classic to continue to be the most successful sporting event on the Grand Strand and Horry County. We are proud to say that because of this success, we have been able to provide over $500,000 in college scholarship money to over 300 students in Horry County since 1981."
"I feel honored to be part of this great event", he concluded.
For a complete tournament schedule and team information, visit www.beachballclassic.com.