MLK Tournament Kicks Off Friday With Larger Field

Representatives from several participating teams came to Tuesday's press conference to stir up support for the tournament, which begins Friday.
Representatives from several participating teams came to Tuesday’s press conference to stir up support for the tournament, which begins Friday.

When the annual Martin Luther King Basketball Invitational kicks off Friday, it will be with the biggest men’s field the tournament has seen in years, along with a viable women’s side, which was reduced to exhibition games last year after only two teams participated.

Sharing his thoughts at a Tuesday press conference, V.I. Interscholastic Athletic Association President Mark Daniel said that the tournament has continued to grow over the years, and this time around features 11 men’s teams, including, for the first time, teams from three different schools in the British Virgin Islands: Bregado Flex Educational Centre, Elmore Stoutt High School and the V.I. School of Technical Studies.

Teams from all four of the USVI’s public high schools – Charlotte Amalie, Ivanna Eudora Kean, St. Croix Educational Complex, and Central High – sill take part, along with four private schools – All Saints, Sts. Peter and Paul and Antilles from St. Thomas and Free Will Baptist Christian School from St. Croix.

St. Croix’s varsity basketball season has already started and Daniel said the district’s teams are going into this weekend with one other tournament, which Central won, under their belts.

“It should definitely be interesting and entertaining,” he added. “The teams are all eager to play, and that includes the BVI. I don’t think those teams are coming over just to participate – they’re looking to win, too.”

Organizers said schools in New York and Jamaica expressed interest in participating, but the lack of hotel rooms on St. Thomas – the tournament will be held over four days at the Kean gymnasium – proved to be problematic.

On the women’s side, CAHS, Kean and Central will also field teams, which Daniel said is a step up and would allow for competition. He added, however, that more has to be done to encourage female athletes to stick with the game after the elementary leagues, where historically, there has been a drop in participation.

Daniel said the IAA is also working to bring schools sports in the territory back to what they were pre-hurricanes, but is still working out challenges with facilities, like the CAHS gym, that are still being repaired.

The tournament starts at 4 p.m. Friday, with the first game tipping off at 4:30 p.m. in the Eudora Kean gym. Championship games are Monday. In between, Daniel said, there will be fan contests on Saturday and Sunday.

This is the fifth year McDonald’s has sponsored the tournament, which offers a $2,000 grand prize to the winning team for its school’s athletic program. All games will be live streamed by Music Digital Media (MDM.)