Winter break signifies a time for family, the holidays and a break from the rigors of school. For many basketball teams, it’s a time to fly south.
Holiday basketball tournaments are popular for many reasons and numerous teams take advantage of the time off to play against some of the best around the country. With caps on how many games a team can play in a season, holiday tournaments are the only chance some get to play non-league schools. There are local tournaments, like the ones at Franklin and Bothell, but those down south have become popular.
Issaquah, Bellevue and Jackson will all participate in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., O’Dea is headed to the Under Armour Holiday Classic in Torrey Pines, Calif., Garfield will play in the Las Vegas Prep Championship and Rainier Beach will drive down to Oregon for the Les Schwab Invitational. These are just some examples of many teams playing in out-of-state tournaments.
“We’ve been grinding out some games, so for us it’s going to be a good opportunity to see how we stack up against some of the best teams from other states,” Issaquah coach Jason Griffith said.
It’s the first time Griffith has felt the No. 5 Eagles have been competitive enough to challenge themselves against out-of-state competition.
O’Dea has been going to tournaments since Al Hairston took over the program three years ago and like Griffith, the longtime Garfield likes to see how his team stacks up against good competition. That being said, both coaches don’t necessarily need to see their teams go undefeated.
“Our whole approach is just to get better — compete, get better, learn from the experience,” Hairston said. “I’m not so much concerned so much about win-loss records … are you improving, are you getting better?”
Unlike some other coaches, Garfield’s Ed Haskins isn’t too concerned how the Bulldogs stack up against top talent from around the country.
“For us, it’s always about chemistry and growth,” he said. “I wanted to be able to get away with the boys. No outside distractions.”
Most intriguing (potential) matchup: Rainier Beach is in the same side of the bracket at the Les Schwab Invitational as Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), the No. 18 team in the country in the FAB 50 national rankings. Whitney Young has one of the top recruits in the nation in Duke signee Jahlil Okafor. The Vikings theoretically could face No. 17 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) in the championship game.
Other top teams that could face a local squad: No. 7 Etiwanda (Calif.), No. 48 Westchester (Calif.)