Deep South Classic brings girls basketball teams to downtown Raleigh

tstevens@newsobserver.comApril 19, 2013 

— The Raleigh Convention Center is awash in uniforms of almost every conceivable hue this weekend as 272 girls club basketball teams converge on downtown Raleigh for the Deep South Classic, a girls basketball showcase event.

The Raleigh Convention Center is awash in uniforms of almost every conceivable hue this weekend as 272 girls club basketball teams converge on downtown Raleigh for the Deep South Classic, a girls basketball showcase event that has attracted teams from all over the country.

The tournament began at 8 a.m. on Friday and games were scheduled continuously through 8:50 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The teams will play 576 games this weekend, all in the same room. Play starts at 8 a.m., on Sunday and the final games tip off at 4:10 p.m.

The Convention floor was covered by 18 basketball courts, brought to the center and assembled piece by piece by a Utah company.

There were hundreds of chairs reserved for college coaches and spectators who passed beneath an arch of basketball balloons to ride the long escalators down to the lower level amid the sound of whistles and the din of the games.

Players stretched or clustered around the training tables on Friday morning. Action was constant except on one court, where the ball became stuck between the rim and the backboard, eventually freed by an official so play could continue. Many players, and parents, kept an eye on the special seating scattered among the courts for college coaches.

“There are all kinds of coaches here,” said Carolina Belles coach Andre Nabors. “You’ve got Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior college, the whole spread. They are all looking for players.”

The Belles’ Ryan Wilson, 15 and a student at Kestrel Heights, was playing in her first major tournament and the atmosphere was a bit overwhelming.

“There is a lot of excitement and high energy,” she said.

The Deep South has been played in the Triangle for years, but in the past was spread among several sites, including area college facilities.

“They may have hit on something with this format,” said Nabors, a club coach for 13 years. “All the games in one room. The college coaches don’t have to travel, the girls can stay at one place. It’s great.”

Brianna Powell and her twin Brittany have played in several big tournaments, including recently in the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, Va. Still ahead are trips to Washington, D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta with their Triangle Knights club team.

The Knights, like many of the teams, have girls from several high school teams. Durham Hillside High coach Ovester Grays has assembled players from Cary Academy, Hillside, Durham Academy and Northern Durham.

“You get good exposure and get your name out there,” said Brianna Powell, a junior at Cary Academy who is playing with Knights for the third year.

“And you have a lot of fun.”

Wilson, a sophomore, said the club season gives her a chance to play and practice more. And for all the players there is the dream.

Perhaps a chance that a big play might catch the eye of one of the college coaches, who are scouring rosters and making notes on paper and in their personal devices.

“You’re getting a chance to may be seen by coaches like Sylvia (Hatchell of the University of North Carolina), Geno (Auriemma of Connecticut) and Joanne (P. McCallie of Duke),” Nabors said. “You get to showcase your talent.”

TSTEVENS: 919-829-8910

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