And players need not worry. They’ll get those sought after, limited run t-shirts only given to participants as well.
“It’s like any other year,” Suggs said Wednesday. “I try to sit down and map out the best head-to-head games for the fans the first couple of rounds. I know folks in our county want to see some good basketball during the holiday.”
Next week’s Shootout media luncheon unofficially tips-off tournament festivities as each head coach and a couple players from the eight participating boys and girls teams get a chance to fraternize with their peers. West Bladen and Dillon, S.C. join the six county schools in this year’s Shootout.
“We’re excited to bring in a good, young team like West Bladen,” Suggs said. “They’ve been really good the last couple of years and are well-coached. Dillon has been apart of our tournament before and is always excited to come. It’s a short trip to Robeson County for their fans.”
Opening round games on Wednesday, Dec. 12 include West Bladen at Purnell Swett, Red Springs at St. Pauls, South Robeson at Lumberton and Dillon at Fairmont. Girls games begin at 6 p.m. followed by the boys. The loser’s bracket matchups will be played Thursday.
Winners in the first round get a one-day break before returning to the floor Friday. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will host Saturday’s final round, a 12-hour marathon of hoops inside the English E. Jones Center that includes fifth-place, third-place and championship games for both girls and boys. A seventh-place game has been eliminated.
Last season’s return to UNCP after a long hiatus was a hit among participants. The inaugural Shootout in 1986 was hosted by what was then Pembroke State University.
“It’s a neat deal having the final day at UNCP,” Suggs said. “It’s a rewarding experience for the kids playing in a bigger gym in front of more fans.”
Admission is $6 to any round of the Shootout including the six-game final day.
Michael Baker’s Fairmont Golden Tornadoes have reached the boys’ final three straight years and cut down the nets at Lumberton in 2010 with a memorable win over Terry Sanford. Loaded with size, athleticism and the county’s leading scorer in sophomore Kwinton Hinson, Fairmont appears to be the odds-on favorite again.
“Fairmont’s got so much talent, but there’s some other teams in this thing that have good ballplayers also,” Suggs said.
Nearby Flora Macdonald Academy, recently stripped of a state championship by the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, was not invited to this year’s tournament. FMA cruised through the Shootout field last season in its first-ever appearance and captured the title with a 30-point win over Fairmont.