WHITTINGTON: Victoria Classic tweaks format for 2011
Dec. 27, 2011 at 6:27 a.m.
Updated Dec. 28, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.
CLAY WHITTINGTON, PREP HOOPS :: There is nowhere to hide at the Victoria Classic this year.
Not even for the hometown teams.
Victoria East head coach John Grammer, who oversees the annual Victoria Classic, made an executive decision to tweak the design of the long-running tournament by instituting a round robin format.
While most tournaments utilize pool play, bracket play or a combination of both to crown a champion, teams at the Victoria Classic must each face the remainder of the five-team field in order to earn the title.
"You can't dodge anybody," Grammer said. "What I've seen happen in most tournaments is they bring in good teams and then the home team doesn't play them because they've set up the tournament so they can make it to the finals or win the tournament.
"There is no way to do that (in a round robin)."
East and crosstown rival Victoria West are both in the field and will play in the tournament finale Friday at 7 p.m.
It will be the first time the schools played in the Victoria Classic. Last year, in their inaugural seasons, the teams intentionally did not play each other.
The reasoning behind the decision was based on the crowds, who were fanatical anytime the schools encountered each other.
Grammer simply did not believe the tournament was the appropriate environment for such an emotional contest.
With several encounters already under their belts, however, this year is another story.
"A lot of times, you compete your hardest against your friends and even your brothers," Grammer said. "Sometimes, the most heated battles are between brother and brother.
"It is like family against family."
It is a fitting analogy considering some of the opposing local players actually grew up guarding each other in street pickup games.
But they will not be so well acquainted with other teams.
In fact, at times, it might feel like they are facing someone from the other side of the world.
At times, they literally will be.
Egyptian-born center and Rice commit Ali Mohamed Ali leads a talented Trent International team into the tournament. The 6-foot-9 senior was named to the Victoria Classic all-tournament team as a junior in 2010, when the Phoenix went undefeated en route to the championship.
Other Trent International players come from Lithuania, Lebanon and Iran.
Not nearly as foreign, but equally unfamiliar, Oklahoma City's Capitol Hill has made 10 trips to Oklahoma's state tournament under head coach Don Tuley, who recently won his 500th game.
The Redskins are currently ranked ninth in the state's Class 5A rankings.
Sweeny rounds out the field.
Although smaller in comparsion to 12-team fields of the past, Grammer believes the level of competition will be extremely high.
"All five teams, I predict will be in (their respective) playoffs," Grammer said.
It will not all be serious business though.
The tournament games are broken up with 3-point, free throw and dunk contests.
Interested players sign up prior to the contest, causing many to size up the competition before putting pen to paper.
"They change their mind from minute to minute," Grammer said. "They'll sign up and if they see some guys who are really good, they will drop out, and if they think they can compete, they will get in."
Such a strategy might fly in the contests, but it will be impossible to avoid undesirable competition when the games tip off.
Clay Whittington is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.