MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – One of the largest annual high school basketball tournaments will go on in Myrtle Beach this month, despite challenges with the pandemic.
The Beach Ball Classic (BBC) will host its 40th annual tournament while enforcing new precautions inside the Myrtle Beach Convention Center arena.
Since the 1980s, the BBC has been known as the birth of sports tourism in Myrtle Beach.
Teams still plan to travel from places like Utah, Texas, Florida and Georgia among several other states, to join local high school competitions, according to Executive Director of BBC, John Rhodes said.
All fans and players will be required to wear a face mask inside the arena. Temperatures checks will occur at the door and a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend.
“We are the only tournament in the nation playing. We are the ones the coaches are looking at to get information about the players, how they are playing, especially for recruiting,” Rhodes said.
Organizers predict the holiday tournament will bring in more than two million dollars to the City of Myrtle Beach this year, even considering the scaled back precautions.
Inside the arena, where the seating capacity is over 10,000, only 1,800 fans will be allowed to attend.
The BBC has become a nationally well-known and competitive sports tournament. For four decades, the BBC tournament has brought out the elite of the elite talent.
“You get a chance to meet these young men and women before they go into college. They have established a star status. They have gotten that status because of their ability to play the game, and play the game the right way,” Rhodes said.
This is the same tournament Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and other legends competed in when they were in high school.
Due to COVID-19 canceling most high school basketball tournaments and recruiting events, the BBC committee has been working to put safe and strategic guidelines in place.
Rhodes said players need the opportunity to be seen and recognized. It also poses a chance to boost city tourism dollars.
“A high school out of Ohio, their fans have already bought 125 bulks of tickets, they are coming from Cincinnati. They are ready to get out and go somewhere, but we have to use common sense and proper safety measures to make sure we are protecting people as much as possible,” Rhodes said.
The United Bank Holiday Invitational is the girls’ high school basketball tournament. It will be hosted the week before the BBC, starting this Saturday, December 19.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 22 high school girls’ teams had signed up. At one point this year, 80 girls’ teams were expected, but due to COVID-19, Rhodes said a bunch dropped out over the last couple of months.
The BBC starts on December 26-31. There are more than 50 boys’ teams signed up. Dozens of basketball teams are joining the last call.
“We picked up the possibility of having another 30 team event at the sports center because of teams that want to play and have nowhere to go. That will be a benefit to the city as far as tax dollars coming in,” Rhodes said.
Here are some of the local high schools scheduled to participate: North Myrtle Beach, Socastee, St. James, Carolina Forest, West Florence, Florence Christian, Wilson, Marion, and Lake View.