Twenty-four teams, including a squad filled with local players, will hit the basketball courts at Riverview Park in North Augusta this weekend for the second annual Nike Nationals Invitational.
The elite female players hope to catch the eye of some of the nation's top college coaches.
The event mirrors the Nike Peach Jam, which was held two weeks ago at the same facility. That event showcased some of the top boys players in the country, and Rick Meyer of the North Augusta Parks and Recreation Department expects nothing less for the girls.
Meyer noted that Pat Summitt of Tennessee, Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, Sylvia Hatchell of North Carolina and Gail Goestenkors of Duke all showed up for the inaugural event last year.
"The girls tournament was just as important as the boys was to (the men's teams),'' Meyer said in comparing the two events.
Pool play begins Friday morning at 9 on four courts. The event continues through the weekend and culminates Monday with the championship game at 2 p.m.
One wrinkle for this year is that 16 of the 24 teams will advance out of pool play. The top eight teams will make up the gold division and will compete for the overall title. The second eight will comprise the silver division and play for their championship game at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
The local team, the Riverview Park Bobcats, found out late last week that it was in the tournament.
The team has a strong North Augusta connection with four players (Sarah Meyer, Neci Allen, Sydnei Moss and Jacqueline Moyer) all on the team. A pair of Strom Thurmond players, Courtney Mealing and Niesha Searles, will be joined by Lynlee Satcher (Augusta Christian), Kaylyn Small (Richmond Academy), BreeAna Perry (Aiken) and Erika Sumpter (Orangeburg-Wilkinson).
A year ago, the local squad was a late entry and didn't have time to practice.
"As opposed to last year, at least we had five or six practices,'' Meyer said. "We were able to recruit some size this year. I don't have any false expectations when you're playing Nike teams that have been playing for two months. But I think we'll do all right."
The tournament is a family affair for Meyer. His daughter, Sarah Meyer, is on the team and his wife, Beth, is the coach of the local team. She will be assisted by their son, Trey Meyer, and Buddy Satcher.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NIKE NATIONALS INVITATIONAL
WHERE: Riverview Park, North Augusta
TICKETS: $5 per day. Children under 6 are admitted free.
SCHEDULE: Games begin at 9 a.m. Friday.