Several summer basketball tournaments are struggling to attract top talent and stay afloat financially throughout the country.
St. Vincent-St. Mary High School boys basketball coach Dru Joyce II is happy to say the fifth annual King James Shooting Stars Classic is continuing to grow.
Joyce and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic conducted a press conference Thursday morning at the Findley Community Center to discuss the tournament.
The event will be held at approximately 80 area gymnasiums of area schools, community centers and churches from April 23-25.
The tournament features players in bracketed age groups from ages nine-and-under up to 17-and-under.
Joyce said that 618 travel basketball teams of boys and girls players will play. American teams will come from as far away as California, Washington, New Mexico, Texas and Florida. to take part in an event that will also have Canadian teams and total more than 1,800 games.
The University of Akron will not be utilized this year due to possible NCAA legislation and a perceived unfair advantage for a college to host travel games on its campus.
Joyce said the NCAA voted last year to not allow Division I college coaches to attend. Division II and Division III college coaches are allowed to attend.
Plusquellic said he is disappointed Division I college coaches are not permitted to come because of the exposure the kids could get and how it could help them earn a scholarship and advance their education.
Dru Joyce II
``Every year we have been trying hard, myself and the committee, to keep the quality up.´´
``We are excited about this year. We have overcome some obstacles and there have been some changes.´´
``Last year, as you know, the NCAA and their wisdom voted to not allow Division I college coaches to attend. There hope was that events like this would die of a nice slow death.´´
``Around the country, most of the events like this are half the size of what they used to be, except for ours. We continue to grow. I think that LeBron James is definitely a big reason for that.´´
``LeBron has generously allowed us to use his name. He is very happy with the product that we continue to put in place. He understands the importance of travel basketball and the impact it had on his life. I am sure he would love to be out watching some games, but he has a little job he needs to get done [for the Cavaliers] just North of here.´´
``If it is done right, travel basketball is great. I had the priviledge this year to coach in the McDonald's All-American game. With our team, I asked those guys `How many of you have played in our tournament?´ A lot of those guys I did not know. Of the 12 guys on our team, I think eight raised their hand.´´
``The tournament has really grown at the younger ages, while we are still getting some of the best high school players in the country.´´
``It was responsible last year for what was an estimated $2.5 million dollar infusion into the community as people stop and buy things, go to restaurants and stay at hotels. It provides, what I would describe as inexpensive family-friendly entertainment where some of the people here in the community can come and see some of the greatest basketball players.´´
``Each year the tournament has drawn thousands of people, mostly families from around the country, right here to our city. We get to highlight and show off some of our facilities and some of our great people.´´
``It is really not about the top 25 or 50 kids, they can pretty much write their ticket because everyone knows them.´´
``These young people who have some talent, but they might not be the tallest, they might be exactly the fastest and they might have the best shot, but they are the kid that makes a difference in a team in the long term because they are dedicated to working hard. Sometimes that is hard to see even in the regular season, but that travel opportunity I think gives them great exposure.´´
``Keeping coaches away from travel team games does not help the kids in my opinion. It is not going to make a difference for the top 100, but it certainly might for the next 100. I wish the NCAA would look at this differently.´´
Players -- according to Joyce
Some of the national players for this year's tournament in the rivals.com top 100 prospects for the class of 2011: Quincy Miller of High Point, N.C., Amir Williams of Beverly Hills, Mich., Dezmine Wells of Raleigh, N.C., James ``Zach´´ Price of Lakewood St. Edward in Ohio and Brandan Kearney of Detroit, Mich.
Some of the local players for this year's tournament: Buchtel's Jazel Garrett, Firestone's Darius Carter, Kenmore's Antonio Hearn, Archbishop Hoban's Greg McMullen, Walsh Jesuit's Evan Payne, Canton McKinley's Mike Mills and St. V-M's JaKarr Sampson, Ricky Johnson Jr., Lorenzo Cugini, DaVonte Beard, Khristian Taylor and Treyvon Crater.
Some of the national players from past tournaments: Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), O.J. Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies), Michael Beasley (Miami Heat), Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers), Bill Walker (New York Knicks), John Wall (Kentucky), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech) and Zeke Marshall (University of Akron).
Some of the local players from past tournaments: Kosta Koufos (GlenOak, Ohio State, Utah Jazz), C.J. McCollum (GlenOak, Lehigh), Josh Egner (Jackson, University of Akron), Mark Henniger (Jackson, Kent State University), Storm Sanders (GlenOak) and Cameron Black (Kent Roosevelt, Bowling Green).
Some other notable players from Ohio who played in the tournament: Delvon Roe (Lakewood St. Edward, Michigan State), Jared Sullinger (Columbus Northland, Ohio State recruit), Cameron Wright (Cleveland Benedictine, Pittsburgh recruit) and Derek Jackson (Cleveland Benedictine, Central Michigan).
For more information about the event, go to http://www.neobasketball.com or call 330-668-6547.
LeBron staying in Cleveland?
Joyce also briefly addressed James' upcoming free agency with a laugh.
``I do not know if LeBron is going to stay,´´ Joyce said. ``That is one of the questions I always get. ... Do I want him to stay? Of course.´´