By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE excitement is starting to brew for the 32nd version of the prestigious Hugh Campbell basketball tournament for senior boys.
Under the theme “Highlighting Excellence Through Perseverance,” the tournament is scheduled to be held on February 16 at the host AF Adderley Gymnasium and conclude February 23 with the championship game at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Seven schools from the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA), seven from the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS), three from the Small Schools Sports Association, six from the Grand Bahama High School Sports Association (GBHSSA), six from the Family Islands, two out of the Turks and Cacios Islands and one from the Caribbean, are expected to make up this year’s 32-team field.
From the GSSSA are the CV Bethel Stingrays, RM Bailey Pacers, CC Sweeting Cobras, CR Walker Knights, Dame Doris Johnson Mystic Marlins, CI Gibson Rattlers and Anatol Rodgers Timberwolves. Not listed is the Government High School Magic.
The BAISS teams entered are the Queen’s College Comets, Kingsway Academy Saints, St Anne’s Bluewaves, St John’s Giants, Aquinas College Aces, Temple Christian Suns and Charles W Saunders Cougars.
The Westminster Diplomats, Teleos Cherubims and Mt Carmel Cavaliers are coming out of the Small Schools Sports Association.
From Grand Bahama are the Bishop Michael Eldon Warriors, Tabernacle Baptist Academy Falcons, Sunland Baptist Christian Academy Stingers, St George’s Jaguars, Eight Mile Rock Bluejays and Sir Jack Hayward Wildcats.
The Central Eleuthera Explorers are coming from Eleuthera, Agape Christian Eagles, Abaco Central and SC Bootle from Abaco, North and South Andros from Andros, while the Turks and Caicos will be represented by Blazer Elite Academy and Clement Howell High and a team from the British West Indies Collegiate will round out the field from the Caribbean.
The Rattlers, coached by Kevin ‘KJ’ Johnson, are the defending champions, having won the crown over the Mystic Marlins coached by Denykco Bowles. With the win, Johnson moved one title behind Tabernacle’s Norris Bain for the honour of the winningest coach in the tournament.
Bain has a record six titles on his ledger with his Falcons winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. James ‘Jimmy’ Clarke sits in third place on the list with four as the head coach for the Hawksbill High Hawks (1992-1994) and the CR Walker Knights (1997). However, he was an assistant to Doug Collins when the AF Adderley Fighting Tigers won their two consecutive titles in 1987 and 1988.
The tournament, incidentally, got started in 1982 when Collins and Alsworth ‘Whitey’ Pickstock, both teachers at AF Adderley, decided to provide some competition for the local high schools. The LW Young Golden Eagles, coached by Walter Rand with Bernard Storr as the most valuable player, won the initial tournament.
The following year in 1983, the tournament was opened up to the Grand Bahama teams. That year, legendary Gladstone ‘Moon’ McPhee guided the Catholic High Crusaders, featuring MVP Ben Russell, who won the first of three titles.
The Crusaders got a fourth title in 1999 under coach Charlie ‘Softly’ Rubins, now the president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation. Brian Bain, now playing in the New Providence Basketball Association with the Mail Boat Cybots, was the MVP.
Organisers were forced to cancel the tournament in 1986 when there was a split between the government and private schools, resulting in the formation of the GSSSA and the BAISS.