News that injury would keep Spartanburg Day’s Zion Williamson out of the Beach Ball Classic took a little wind out of the 2017 edition’s sails.
It didn’t take all the shine out of the annual holiday basketball tournament, however.
The 37th edition of the Beach Ball Classic tips off Tuesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Teams from 11 states are set to participate in this year’s event.
Here are a few story lines and players to watch at this year’s tournament:
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Best of the best
If nothing else, this year’s tourney field has championship pedigree in its DNA.
Six reigning state championships will participate in the 2017 edition of the Beach Ball Classic.
Among those to take the court this week include Albany Academy (N.Y.), Bishop Gorman (Nev.), Cox Mill (N.C.), Imhotep Charter (Pa.), Lanett (Ala.) and Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.).
A trio of state finalists – Lone Peak (Utah), Moeller (Ohio) and Clark (Nev.) – also are part of this year’s field.
Three participants are currently ranked in the USA Today Super 25.
Montverde Academy (Fla.) tops the poll, while DeMatha (Md.) and Imhotep Charter come in at 16th and 17th, respectively.
Also highly regarded is Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.), which is ranked No. 42 by USA Today.
No Zion? No problem
Beach Ball Classic executive director John Rhodes has often described Williamson as the “exclamation point” to this year’s tournament.
A foot sprain will keep the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2018 off the floor for this year’s event. But even without the services of the Spartanburg Day phenom, there’s plenty of talent to go around.
Montverde Academy standout R.J. Barrett now becomes the top attraction for this year’s Beach Ball Classic. A Duke commit, the 6-7 forward is ranked as the top player in the upcoming graduating class.
Several four-star prospects are also headed to Myrtle Beach for the post-Christmas hoops bash.
Three fellow Montverde standouts – Andrew Nembhard, Michael Devoe and Filip Petrusev – along with their former teammate Leaky Black of Cox Mill should also provide some flavor despite Williamson’s absence.
Can Imhotep Charter repeat?
Last December, Andre Noble and his Panthers left with the Beach Ball Classic championship, downing Evanston Township (Ill.) on a buzzer-beater.
Apparently one shot at greatness wasn’t enough.
After winning it all in their first trip to Beach Ball, the Panthers are back for another round.
Led by Daron Russell and David Beatty – now at Rhode Island and South Carolina, respectively – Imhotep flexed its tourney victory into a Philadelphia city and Pennsylvania state championship. This year, taking a lead role is a long, athletic group of juniors in Donta Scott, Dahmir Bishop. Karam Cummings and Jamil Riggins.
Imhotep is seeking to become the first repeat champion since Archbishop Molloy won three straight in 1987-89.
Will a local team breakthrough for a win?
Success has been hard to come by for local teams at the Beach Ball Classic, particularly of late.
Could this be the year the trend comes to an end?
The best bet would be Socastee, which takes on Spartanburg Day in the opening day of competition. Without top prospect Zion Williamson available for Spartanburg Day, the Braves could be in the mix for their first tourney win in several years.
As for Myrtle Beach, its task is a bit tougher as it takes on nationally-ranked Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.).
10 to watch
▪ PF R.J. Barrett, Montverde Academy (Fla.)
▪ SF Jamal Bey, Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
▪ SF Leaky Black, Cox Mill (N.C.)
▪ PG Michael Devoe, Montverde Academy (Fla.)
▪ PG Justin Moore, DeMatha (Md.)
▪ SF Wendell Moore, Cox Mill (N.C.)
▪ PG Andrew Nembhard, Montverde Academy (Fla.)
▪ SF Frankie Policelli, Long Island Lutheran
▪ PF Filip Petrusev, Montverde Academy (Fla.)
▪ SF Donta Scott, Imhotep Charter (Pa.)
2017 Beach Ball Classic schedule
At Myrtle Beach Convention Center
Tuesday, Dec. 26
Cox Mill (N.C.) vs. Fairland (Ohio), 3:30 p.m.*
Clark (Nev.) vs. Lanett (Ala.), 5:15 p.m.*
Scott County (Ky.) vs. Moeller (Ohio), 7 p.m.*
Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) vs. Myrtle Beach, 8:45 p.m.*
Wednesday, Dec. 27
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, noon
Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1:45 p.m.
Imhotep Charter (Pa.) vs. Bishop Gorman (Nev.), 3:30 p.m.*
Lone Peak (Utah) vs. DeMatha (Md.), 5:15 p.m.*
Spartanburg Day vs. Socastee, 7 p.m.*
Albany Academy (N.Y.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.), 8:45 p.m.*
** 3-point contest following last game of night
Thursday, Dec. 28
Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, noon
Loser Game 9 vs. Loser Game 10, 1:45 p.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 3:30 p.m.*
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 5:15 p.m.*
Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.*
Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 8:45 p.m.*
Friday, Dec. 29
Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 10:15 a.m.
Loser Game 13 vs. Loser Game 14, noon
Loser Game 15 vs. Loser Game 16, 1:45 p.m.
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 3:30 p.m.
Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 5:15 p.m.*
Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 14, 7 p.m.*
Winner Game 15 vs. Winner Game 16, 8:45 p.m.*
Saturday, Dec. 30
Loser Game 11 vs. Loser Game 12, noon
Winner Game 20 vs. Winner Game 21, 1:45 p.m.*
Winner Game 18 vs. Winner Game 19, 3:30 p.m*
Loser Game 22 vs. Loser Game 23, 5:30 p.m.*
Winner Game 22 vs. Winner Game 23, 7:15 p.m.*
*** Dunk contest following awards ceremony
* Games broadcast live via HTC Channel 4 and htcconnect.com