Renaldo's Ramblings: This is our mid-February madness


Sports Reporter


THIS is our March (or mid-February) Madness.

It is far from our most popular sport, doesn’t have the international profile of track and field, doesn’t earn as much scholarships for student athletes as baseball, yet it’s hard to find another sport that engages young Bahamians the way basketball does.

At the apex of that interest is the Hugh Campbell Invitational. What began in 1982 as a local tournament between seven teams is now the most prestigious high school sporting event in the country featuring 30 schools playing 54 games over the week long span.

It’s covered by every media house ad nauseam and is the only high school sporting event to have its championship game broadcasted live on national television.

As a disclaimer, I should note that I’m completely biased toward basketball.

In fourth grade, I started the tradition of skipping school to watch the first day of the NCAA tournament and I graduated from the University of Kentucky, a school so entrenched in basketball tradition that they make you pledge an oath to Adolph Rupp before they hand over your diploma.

As a nine-year-old superfan and aspiring writer, Hugh Campbell was one of the few local events that captured my attention the way I thought only the WWE or the NCAA tournament could do at the time. So I admit I’ve always had a nostalgic view of this tournament.

I thought Quentin Hall and Hawksbill High were the greatest sporting supervillians since Ivan Drago or that team from Iceland that nearly took down the Mighty Ducks.

I was bordering on clinical depression when Henchell and the late Henry Curry III couldn’t lead the RM Bailey Pacers to the title and was ecstatic when the CR Walker Knights brought the title back to a New Providence school in 1997.

It’s only right if I influenced other kids to grow up with this ridiculously skewed view of this tournament’s importance.

Over the last few years, there have been troubling signs for the 32-year-old event, which has become more than just a basketball tournament, but an institution.

Waning interest, decreased fan attendance, few contending programmes and the flight of our best basketball talent to high schools in the United States have diminished the programme’s mystique in recent years.

But it’s fixable.

  • Too Big For

AF Adderley

It’s clear that the tournament has become too big to simply be a fundraiser for one school. Whether it’s given the name or not, there’s no question that this has become a national tournament and it has to be treated that way.

  • Scheduling

Most contending teams have an 8-9 man rotation and that list gets even shorter toward the end of the week headed into Championship Monday. The one glaring problem I’ve always had with the format is making kids play a semi-final game Monday morning, only to come back and play the biggest game of their season and high school careers later that night.

I can’t think of any circumstance where it’s a good idea to play a basketball double header, especially with the stakes that high.

  • Fan Support and Alumni


There has to be a bigger draw to the tournament than the Nassau-Freeport rivalry. It may be enough to have that as the major storyline of Championship Monday, but it’s an eight day tournament. For the remaining days, there has to be a focus on drawing staff, family, and alumni to the gyms. That being said, you have to wonder if wealthy alumni in the Bahamas care about sports at all. How do we not have booster clubs? How is there such a wide gap between the quality in GSSSA and BAISS basketball programmes? If you’re St Andrew’s, wouldn’t you hire Kevin Johnson or Mario Bowleg to take over your programmes?

  • Signature Schools


For the tournament to remain a marquee event, you have to get the best teams in the country to play. Not only the best teams, but teams with biggest fanbases and followings.

In recent years, there was a struggle with Grand Bahama teams not making the trip to the capital, most notably the Tabernacle Baptist Falcons, who made a return in 2012.

In this year’s tournament, the Sunland Stingers will be a glaring omission after they reached the tournament final in both 2010 and 2011.

The St John’s College Giants, BAISS runner-ups, will not play in this year’s tournament along with the St. Augustine’s College Big Red Machine who have traditionally elected not to play in the event.

  • A Proper

Ranking System

The general public, unless they follow high school basketball closely, will have no idea what to expect from most teams coming into the tournament.

What they need is to be prepped on what matchups they should look out for and which players should be highlighted.

It would also alleviate some of the controversy surrounding the ambiguity of the pools. This year, you have both the BAISS champion (QC Comets) and GSSSA champion (CI Gibson Rattlers) in the same pool, something that should never happen.

  • Single Elimination


What makes any playoff game or tournament great, is the desperation that brings the best out of players when they know that one game could make or break their season. It would also give players more rest time throughout the week.

  • Social Media Presence

News in 2014 is reported in real time, or at least it should be. It’s the only way to remain relevant and with a tournament that features a minimum of eight games per day, played well into the night, it’s the only way to keep the public constantly informed of the tournament’s progression. Active Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for the tournament would go a long way in bridging the gap between generations and a new way of reporting.

If it reads like I take on a pro-Hugh Campbell crusade like Hunter Thompson did for Geroge McGovern, Ralph Wiley did for sport and the African American experience or Mitch Albom did for the Fab Five - it’s because I do.

More than anything else... we all just want it to succeed.


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