Blowing up the Beach Ball: The tourney, teams and times

So many teams, so many games and so little time.

The 31st Beach Ball Classic tips off Tuesday and you want to know what to expect from this year’s tournament, which teams and players to watch and which days to make a fast break to Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

This field seems stacked, and you don’t want to miss out on the type of players people still talk about, like Beach Ball veterans Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter.

We’ve got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of the schools competing in the Beach Ball Classic along with the full schedule of events:

* Ballard (Louisville, Ky.): The Bruins are young but they feature three heavily recruited players – 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Kelan Martin, who is receiving attention from major colleges across the country; 6-1 sophomore guard Quentin Snyder has already verbally committed to stay at home and play at Louisville; and 6-foot junior Lavonne Holland is a major to mid-major prospect. Although currently unranked nationally, this is a talent-rich team to watch for years to come.

* Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas): Currently ranked No. 6 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50, this is the team to beat in this year’s Beach Ball. Led by the nation’s consensus No. 1-rated senior in 6-6 swingman Shabazz Muhammad, who has still choosing between offers from the top programs in the nation, Bishop Gorman also features three players who have already committed to D-I schools – Rosco Allen (Stanford), Ben Allen (Oregon) and Demetris Morant (UNLV). Rashaad Muhammad, the younger brother of Shabazz, is a talented 6-4 junior, and 6-10 freshman center Stephen Zimmerman are among the future stars of the program.

* Gaffney (S.C.) has won four Class AAAA state championships since 2000 and features a pair of top recruits in 6-4 swingman L.J. Peak and 6-3 Quinshad Davis, who also has offers to play major college football. The Indians may have the best chance among in-state schools to hang with some of the nation’s elite in the Beach Ball.

* Lakota (Ohio) East: The Thunderhawks are no strangers to the Beach Ball and are led by a trio of talented players – Mark Minch, Stedman Lowry, and Robbie Harpring, who have gained valuable experience from playing in national tournaments with similar talent levels over the past three season.

* Lexington (S.C.): The Wildcats are better known for football than basketball, but two-sport standout Shaq Roland, an all-state wide receiver on the gridiron and a talented 6-2 guard on the hardwood, will show the team can play hoops as well as pigskin. Teammates Joby Glympth and Nygel Gates round out an athletic squad.

* Lone Peak (Highland, Utah): Ranked No. 21 in ESPN’s Rise Fab 50, Lone Peak has won four state championships, six region championships and has become tournament tested by playing in big-name events around the country. The Knights feature three highly recruited players – Nick Emery, T.J. Haws and Jordan Hamilton.

* Miami (Fla.) Senior: The Stingarees have appeared in the Beach Ball before and have the talent to hang with anyone in the field. Although they lack the size of other schools in the field, they can run with anyone thanks to a front court of 6-1 shooting guard Adriel Jimenez and 6-2 point guard Allen Baez.

* Milton (Ga.): The Eagles could be the spoilers of this year’s Beach Ball after making a run to the Georgia Class 5-A finals last season. Top returning players include 6-5 athlete Shaquille Johnson and a pair of 6-7 forwards Evan Nolte, who is committed to Virginia, and Charles Mann, who is staying home to play at Georgia  next year.

* Myrtle Beach (S.C.): The Seahawks were banned from the postseason and the Beach Ball last year after being found guilty of violating state rules about extra practice time. They are eager to showcase their talent after missing last season, including 6-3 guard Tramond Wilson, who scored 44 points in a game last week to lead Myrtle Beach to the Panther Classic title. Also look out for 6-2 guards Emeray Johnson and Eric Goings.

* Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas): Fresh off winning the prestigious City of Palms Classic, the 42nd-ranked Lions enter the Beach Ball with a ton of momentum. Prrestonwood is led by 6-9 senior center Zach Peters, who is committed to Kansas in Zach Peters, 6-9 Julius Randle, who is rated as the No. 3 junior in the nation, and freshman sensation Mickey Mitchell.

* Rye (New York): The Garnets feature a pair of familiar names for hoops fans – 5-11 point guard Michael D’Antoni, the son of New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni and the nephew of Beach Ball founder Dan D’Antoni; and 6-5 junior forward Max Twyman, the grandson of NBA Hall-of-Famer Jack Twyman.

* Scott County (Kentucky): Led by 6-4 senior guard Tamron Manning, who is off to play at Marshall next season, the Cardinals are a powerhouse in the Bluegrass State and could be a sleeper in the Beach Ball.

* Socastee (S.C.): The tournament host school may be outclassed this season, a rebuilding year for the Braves, but they have some talent to showcase in guard Travis Frye and Matthew Scalise.

* St. Augustine (New Orleans): The Purple Knights are back at the Beach Ball again with even more talent this time around. Texas commitment Javan Phillips leads the team that has become a state power in Louisiana as well as the nation.

* St. Edward (Ohio): The Eagles are a force in the state of Ohio and this year looks to be another strong squad. Led by 6-7 senior center Jake Lorbach and 6-6 junior Michael Mason, St. Edward is coached by Eric Flannery, who also coached the 2010 McDonald’s All-American Game.

* Whitney Young (Chicago): The Dolphins are well known for cranking out top prospects, and this squad is loaded. Ranked No. 32 by ESPN Rise, Whitney Young is led by  6-11 sophomore center Jahlil Okafor, 6-9 junior forward Thomas Hamilton Jr. and 6-8 sophomore forward Paul White.

Tuesday

Exhibition – 1:30 pm – Myrtle Beach Christian Academy vs Green Sea Floyds
Game 1 – 3:30 pm – Miami Sr. (Fla.)  vs  Milton (Ga.) *
Game 2 – 5:15 pm – Ballard (Ky.)  vs  Gaffney (S.C.) *
Game 3 –  7:00 pm – Lakota East (Ohio)  vs  Socastee (S.C.) *
Game 4 – 8:45 pm – Rye (N.Y.)  vs  Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) *

Wednesday

Game 5 – Noon – Loser Game 1 vs Loser Game 2
Game 6 – 1:45 pm – Loser Game 3  vs  Loser Game 4
Game 7 – 3:30 pm – Whitney Young (Ill.)  vs  Lexington (S.C.) *
Game 8 – 5:15 pm – Scott County (Ky.)  vs  Prestonwood (Texas) *
Game 9 – 7:00 pm – St. Edward (Ohio)  vs  St. Augustine (La.) *
Game 10 – 8:45 pm – Lone Peak (Utah)  vs  Myrtle Beach (S.C.) *

Thursday

Game 11 – Noon – Loser Game 7  vs  Loser Game 8
Game 12 – 1:45 pm – Loser Game 9  vs  Loser Game 10
Game 13 – 3:30 pm – Winner Game 1  vs  Winner Game 2 *
Game 14 – 5:15 pm – Winner Game 3  vs  Winner Game 4 *
Game 15 – 7:00 pm – Winner Game 7  vs  Winner Game 8 *
Game 16 – 8:45 pm – Winner Game 9  vs  Winner Game 10  *

Friday
Game 17 – 10:15 am – Loser Game 5  vs  Loser Game 6
Game 18 – NOON – Loser Game 13  vs  Loser Game 14
Game 19 – 1:45 pm – Loser Game 15  vs  Loser Game 16
Game 20 – 3:30 pm – Winner Game 5  vs  Winner Game 6 *
Game 21 – 5:15 pm – Winner Game 11  vs  Winner Game 12 *
Game 22 – 7:00 pm –  Winner Game 13  vs Winner Game 14 *
Game 23 – 8:45 pm – Winner Game 15  vs  Winner Game 16 *

Saturday

Game 24 – noon – Loser Game 11  vs  Loser Game 12
CONSOLATION CHAMPIONSHIP
Game 25 – 1:45 pm – Winner Game 20  vs  Winner Game 21 *
5TH PLACE
Game 26 – 3:30 pm –  Winner Game 18  vs  Winner Game 19 *
3RD PLACE
Game 27 – 5:30 pm – Loser Game 22  vs  Loser Game 23 *
CHAMPIONSHIP
Game 28 – 7:30 pm – Winner Game 22  vs  Winner Game 23 *

* HTC Live Webcast

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