Beach Ball Classic again bringing in top teams, talent

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Sounds like a wedding, but it’s something a lot more exciting for Grand Strand hoops fans – the 2011 Beach Ball Classic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
If the 31st annual event isn’t old enough for you, how about the return of 2010 tournament Most Outstanding Player Julius Randle? The 6-foot-9 standout put on a show for local fans last year and will bring back his Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) teammates to make a run at the Beach Ball title.

Other familiar names from previous Beach Balls include out-of-state squads Ballard (Ky.), Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), Lakota East (Ohio), Miami (Fla.), St. Edward (Ohio); Scott County (Ky.). Returning teams from the Palmetto State include Gaffney, Lexington, Myrtle Beach, which missed last year’s event due to rules violations, and host Socastee.

Something new? Check out Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad, who is considered one of the top seniors in the nation. Local fans didn’t get to see Muhammad in action when Bishop Gorman won the 2009 Beach Ball because of injury, but this time the 6-foot-6 star will be the main attraction. Also new are first-time visitors  Lone Peak (Utah), Milton (Ga.) Rye (N.Y.), reigning state champion St. Augustine (La.) and Whitney Young (Chicago).

Something borrowed is a familiar name to longtime Beach Ball fans – Rye’s Michael D’Antoni. He is the son of New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni an the nephew of tournament founder and Knicks assistant Dan D’Antoni, who coached three sons in Beach Ball Classics during his 30-year tenure at Socastee.

Something blue? How about a ton of blue-chip recruits who will continue the tradition of top talent in the tournament. Past participants include current NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Sebastian Telfair and Vince Carter, just to name a few.

The Nation’s Elite Holiday Basketball Tournament will again feature some great warm-up events – the 13th annual Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational girls high school tournament on Dec. 17-22 and the Crescent Bank Carolinas Challenge women’s college showdown.

The college classic features a border contest between North Carolina and South Carolina as the main event on Dec. 18, preceded by East Carolina vs. Jacksonville and followed by Coastal Carolina vs. South Carolina State. The Lady Tar Heels will take on East Carolina on Dec. 20.

The girls’ high school field includes Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), Atlantic (Fla.) Cape Henry Collegiate (Va.), Dutch Fork (S.C.); Erwin, (Ala.), Fayette County (Ga.), Goose Creek (S.C); Greater Atlanta Christian (Ga.)  Miami (Fla.) Myrtle Beach, Providence Day, (N.C.), Socastee, Spring Valley (S.C.), Stephenson (Ga.), St. James and Troy (Calif.).

The ladies look to serve as a nice opening dish for the slam- dunk main course – the Beach Ball Classic. It may not be as fancy as a wedding, but it will be a lot more exciting for local hoops fans.

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