January 5, 2013 11:25:25 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School Athletic Director Stan Miller already sees a problem with the third annual Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at The Hump Tournament, set for December.
However, the event's organizer is happy to have it.
"All of the teams that came this year want to come back," Miller said. "Now, that's a real problem. ... We are thrilled everybody had a good time."
Starkville High served as host for the second annual Christmas boys basketball event at Mississippi State University's Humphrey Coliseum the final week in December. The event is partially underwritten by Travis Outlaw, a former Yellow Jacket basketball player who is in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.
"This was an incredible experience for our kids," said Lanett (Ala.) High coach Richard Carter, whose squad traveled nearly 10 hours round-trip to participate. "It is hard to find three games against three quality opponents during the holidays. That is what you need to do as a team to get better. You owe it to your kids to play this type of competition. To be able to do it in a facility like this is incredible. We had a really good time."
Seven teams rang out 2012 in the event. Midfield (Ala.) and Hamilton (Tenn.) joined Lanett to form the out-of-state contingent. Starkville, New Hope, Columbus, and Aberdeen represented the state of Mississippi.
The inaugural event featured 12 games in three days. In 2012, the tournament was trimmed to nine games. Organizers look to go back the other way for this year's tournament.
"We just want bigger and better," Starkville High coach Greg Carter said. "We now have an established event. Teams look forward to it each year. Now, we need to look at ways to grow the event. We want to continue to make this a top-notch event for the players and coaches."
Miller said all three out-of-state teams have asked to return. Each team liked the opportunity to play three games against three opponents in three days. All three out-of-state teams stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, one of tournament's multiple corporate sponsors.
"We look forward to building on this success," Miller said. "Next year, we want to add girls teams for the first time. Hopefully, we can have a minimum of four girls teams coming and playing in the event."
Carter and Miller also will continue to look for highly regarded teams. The Hamilton squad is considered one of the nation's best. The Lawson brothers (Keelon and Dedric) already are being heavily recruited.
"Each year, you have a chance to see some eventual Division I players play in our tournament," Miller said. "That is what makes it special. Not only are the local teams seeing some outstanding competition, but local fans are getting to come out and see some really great basketball players."
The 2012 schedule coincided with MSU scheduling three home games in a 40-hour stretch after the high school event. Next season's dates are similar, with the tournament being scheduled for Dec. 26-28.
"We shift back to a Thursday through Saturday next year," said Carter, who played basketball at MSU. "I think that will be a huge benefit. You really want to stretch into the weekend so more fans have the opportunity to come out. The Mississippi State people have been great. They understand what we are trying to accomplish.
"Everything is great already. Now, we want to play more games and invite more teams. We feel like we can do even better."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter