MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Some of the best high school athletes in America — from New York to California — descended onto the Myrtle Beach Convention Center Monday for Day 1 of the 2021 boys’ Beach Ball Classic.

The long-running event has a major impact on the region’s sports tourism business, organizers said.

“We’ll have not only teams but their fans and families,” said Chad Smith, who’s on the event’s executive committee. “All those people come to Myrtle Beach at a time of year we really don’t have a lot of stuff going on. And we hope they come enjoy Myrtle Beach in December, so they come back in summertime during its full season.”

Some people came from Virginia to watch the event. Christine Gardner’s son was playing in the tournament.

“This will be the first night of gameplay so we are super excited to get this opportunity,” Gardner said. “For our school to even get the invite is absolutely fantastic. So we’re excited to be here.”

Bobby Gnight is from Darlington and hasn’t missed the Beach Ball Classic for more than 30 years.

“You get to see some of the greatest ballplayers you’ve ever seen,” he said. “I mean from all the Kobe Bryants to all the NBA guys. You see them right here at the Beach Ball.”

This year is the first year since the death of John Rhodes, who served as the executive director. The former mayor was remembered with his initials around the court. His old seat by the sidelines was left empty and was used as a memorial. People signed a large photo of him near the entrance and left messages there to John and his family.

“We’re doing everything we can to honor him and his love for the city of Myrtle Beach and basketball,” Smith said.

At halftime during Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game, event organizers will have a presentation to honor Rhodes and his family.