Let the hoop action begin.
The third annual Nike Peach Jam Invitational Tournament will get under way today with the Peach Tree competition, better known as the play-in games, beginning at 9 a.m. at North Augusta's Riverview Park.
Twelve teams will be vying for six spots in the regular tournament field to round out the 24-team tournament. Eighteen teams have already received automatic invites and will begin play Monday.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the 24-team field, while the other six teams will play in an afternoon consolation bracket Monday through Wednesday.
"The Nike Peach Jam has become the premier high school event of the summer," said Clint Bryant, Augusta State athletic director and President of the 100 Black Men of Augusta, Inc.
Area squad the Georgia/Carolina Hoopsters are among the 12 teams in today's play-in games. The team is coached by former Richmond Academy coach Don Brock with Josey's Emmett Rouse and North Augusta's Ron McKie as his assistant coaches.
The other squads in today's play-in action include the Georgia Elite, Arizona Stars, Shreveport (La) Bossier Select, Arkansas Wings, Boston Area Basketball Club, Milford Sharpshooters, Magnolia Stars, New Jersey Celtics, Jabbo (D.C.) Kenner, Charlotte Royals and the Kentucky All Stars.
All twelve teams will play three games today with each team playing one contest in the morning, afternoon and evening session. The morning session will feature games at 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.; afternoon session is at 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.; and the night session will be 7 p.m. and 8;15 p.m.
As usual, the games are free each day. Peach Jam tournament director Ed Meyers said Nike has been very pleased with Riverview Park and the metro Augusta area in the first two years of the event.
"It's unbelievable the number of coaches who want to come to this event," Meyers said. "I've been getting about 50 calls a day on this tournament. There is no facility anywhere in the country better than the one at Riverview Park."
Four players who have played in the Peach Jam were drafted in the June NBA Draft. Dirk Nowitzki, who played for the European AllStars, was drafted No. 9 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to Dallas; Larry Hughes, who played for St. Louis Eagles, was drafted No. 8 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers; Rashard Lewis, who played for the Houston Hoops, was drafted in the second round by Seattle; and Korleone Young, who played for the Kansas City-based CMH 76ers, was drafted in the second round by Detroit.
Meyers said expect to see even more talented players, who could make that high school to the NBA jump, this week.
"I guarantee you in the next (1999 NBA Draft) we will see four or five kids drafted who played in the Peach Jam,"' Meyers said.
It's a safe assumption that the crowd will be huge as usual around the four gyms looking at the players and the enormous amount of college coaches who will be in the area this week.
"We are expecting a crowd of more than 5,000 fans each day," said Nike special assistant De Pierce. "This thing is getting huge and it's the place to be in the summer time."
Rick Meyer, the superintendent of North Augusta Parks and Recreation, said the crowds in the morning and afternoon sessions are usual around 2,000, but it's the night time when all the fans come out to see the action.
Sports Illustrated, Basketball America and SLAM are three magazines that will be here this week. Local channel Jones Intercable will tape a game Tuesday night that will be televised July 19.
"It's at night time when people are getting off work and want to see some basketball when we have our biggest crowds," Meyer said.