Midtown: Sports

Bob Gibbons’ Tournament moves to Georgia

The Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, a Memorial Day boys’ basketball fixture in the Triangle, is heading to Georgia.

The tournament, which features dozens of the country’s top club teams and many of the nation’s top high school players, had been held in the area for 17 years, but it is being moved, a victim of a 2011 NCAA rule that prohibits schools from conducting non-scholastic competitions on their campuses in men’s basketball.

The tournament had used the facilities at North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State, but the NCAA room closed those doors.

“It was either dropping the tournament all together or moving it. It was a logical nightmare last year,” said Gibbons, a Lenoir resident and one of the top basketball recruiting analysts in the country. “We had to have a facility where there are multiple courts.”

The tournament will be at Suwanee Sports Academy, which is about 20 miles north of Atlanta, and at some neighboring facilities.

Gibbons began the tournament in 1994 in Hickory, but he moved the event to Duke and North Carolina the following year. The facilities at N.C. State were added a few years later.

“The college facilities was the big drawing card,” Gibbons said. “We were the only tournament in the world that was using those arenas. Players were coming from coast-to-coast to have the opportunity to play in the tournament.”

The Gibbons field often included more than a dozen of the nation’s top college prospects.

Among those who have played in the tournament are Allen Iverson, Jerry Stackhouse, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Lamar Odom, Amare Stoudamire, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and John Wall.

But the NCAA believed that tournaments such as Gibbons’ amounted to an on-campus recruiting visit for many players.

“I think it’s a good rule because those events basically turn into unofficial visits and (the rule) creates a level playing field.” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said soon after the rule was adopted.

Some years Gibbons used five courts at North Carolina, four or more at Duke and four or more at N.C. State. Without those courts last year, the tournament scrambled to find gyms at area high schools and recreation centers.

“Logistically, it had become almost impossible,” Gibbons said. “And a lot of the teams were not willing to come play in a high school facility.”

The tournament also will change dates. It will be April 27-29, during a period when NCAA coaches can evaluate prospects. NCAA coaches are prohibited from evaluating players on the tournament’s traditional Memorial Day weekend date.

“It will be the first tournament that I’ve had where the college coaches can come,” Gibbons said. “That will be nice.”

This year’s tournament will include 32 teams in U17, 16 teams in U16 and 15 teams in U15.