Samford University has garnered two days of national media attention by hosting the T-Mobile Invitational National High School Basketball Tournament Dec. 29-30. Games were being played at Samford’s Pete Hanna Center and broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
The tournament is in its fourth year and previously was hosted by the universities of Washington and New Mexico and Ball State University. It is considered one of the premier high school tournaments and is the only one sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The 2009 tournament featured girls’ varsity teams from California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Hoover High School in suburban Birmingham. Boys’ teams were from Texas, Florida, Washington and Butler High School in Huntsville, Ala. Several of the teams are nationally ranked and all feature highly-rated players. Seven of the eight teams either won or finished second in state championships last year.
Large crowds filled the Corts Arena stands for opening day games, even in traditionally football-crazy Alabama, including large contingents representing the two Alabama teams. Because both Hoover and Butler won, large crowds were expected for the consolation and championship games. A pep band from Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest High School provided music for the tournament, and several local dance and gymnastics groups provided halftime entertainment.
University officials learned in the spring that Samford would be hosting the tournament. Because the Samford men’s basketball team had a home game on Monday night, Samford and tournament crews had to work overnight to ready Corts Arena and the Hanna Center for the tournament.
It was worth the effort, according to Hanna Center Manager Sean Wright.
“We were honored to be selected as the host of the T-Mobile Invitational, and have been thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the Pete Hanna Center and Samford University,” Wright said. T-Mobile and the NFHS have been outstanding event partners to work with, and we have had great cooperation from throughout the university to make this a first-rate event for all of our visitors. The response from administrators, players, fans and coaches has been outstanding, both for the Samford campus and the city of Homewood.”
The tournament also was a boost to the local economy during what is typically a very slow time of year. Teams and fans stayed in nearby hotels and enjoyed local restaurants and attractions.
“We are thrilled to have the tournament and the fans from all over the U.S. in our city,” said Tricia Ford, executive director of the Homewood Chamber of Commerce. Homewood is the Birmingham suburb where the Samford campus is located.
“They have been able to enjoy great Southern hospitality and the wonderful things that our community has to offer. And, we’re grateful for the economic boost they have provided in what had been a tough year for many of our local businesses.”
A tournament highlights show is scheduled for Jan. 16 at 2:30 p.m. EST on CBS.