Originally created 06/19/03

Event strives to grow



Kelvin Powell has his game plan all worked out.

The goal: to turn this weekend's Garden City Roundball Classic into a female version of the nationally known Peach Jam tournament. The progression of his game plan: right on track.

"What we're trying to do is get teams throughout the country to come to Augusta," said Powell, the executive director of the Classic. "If we could get the teams in (this year's) tournament to tell other teams they see about this tournament, we could move it to July."

July is the month when the Division I recruiting season begins, which would add to the tournament's prestige.

In part, that's why the Peach Jam has been such a national success. Coaches such as Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Indiana's Mike Davis and North Carolina's Roy Williams annually attend, attracting the nation's top high school players.

The Garden City Roundball Classic, in its fourth year, isn't as exclusive - or as well known - as its Peach Jam counterpart, but Powell wants to change that.

First, Powell said he needs to attract teams from around the country. This year, about 80 teams from nine states will attend, but most - excluding one squad from Oklahoma - are from the Southeast.

Once the tournament expands to national teams, it could move to July.

Until that happens, though, Powell will have to rely on the GA/LINA Lady 76ers to make noise for him.

"When we started to build this club, I wanted to make it a national club," said Powell, who is the director of the club team based in Augusta. "We could get kids from Atlanta and Columbia and play in national tournaments and meet other teams and tell them about the tournament in Augusta. That's been our train of thought."

So far, it seems to be working.

With alumni including former Thomson star Monique Martin, Louisiana State freshman Marian Whitfield and South Carolina freshman Melanie Johnson and current players such as Glenn Hills' Tyhiesha Smith and Richmond Academy's Marie Smith the Lady 76ers have become a solid club on the national landscape.

This week, they'll compete against tournament favorites Boo Williams (Va.), the Georgia Magic and the West Virginia Tornadoes while Powell and Rick Meyer - the superintendent of parks and recreation in North Augusta - try to convince Nike the future of the tournament is bright.

"Rick Meyer and I work together on a weekly basis to see where we can go with this tournament," Powell said. "We want to get to the point where Nike realizes there is a market for a girls Peach Jam."

THIS WEEKEND ONLY

WHAT: Fourth annual Garden City Roundball Classic

WHEN: Friday-Sunday

WHERE: Riverview Park, other locations in Augusta

ADMISSION: $5 per session ($14 for tournament passes); children 4 and are free

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.