THE GULFSHORE INVITATIONAL
Dec. 27-31 at Community School of Naples
Bel Aire (Kan.)-Sunrise Christian
Concord (Calif)-De La Salle
High Point (N.C.)-Wesleyan Christian
Metuchen (N.J.)-St. Joseph’s
New Orleans-St. Augustine
Newark (N.J.)-St. Benedict’s
Orlando Christian Prep
Wilbraham (Mass.)-Wilbraham and Monson Academy
Winston-Salem (N.C.)-Quality Education Academy
When organizers announced plans this summer to revamp the Gulfshore Shootout, a holiday basketball tournament in Naples for nearly two decades, they promised to bring in some of the top teams in the country.
Tournament officials delivered on their promise and have compiled a field of highly-ranked boys teams and top recruited players. The field for the newly named Gulfshore Invitational was announced Thursday, and it features 22 teams from 15 states and Canada. But none from Southwest Florida.
With three teams currently ranked in the top 20 nationally by ESPN and 18 players who are ranked among the top 100 in their class, the Gulfshore could be on par with the City of Palms. The tournament in Fort Myers the week before the Gulfshore is largely regarded as the best high school basketball tournament in the country.
"I'm excited to see and show a very competitive, high level of basketball here in Collier County," said Alexander Getta, president of Getta Sports which created the new Gulfshore Invitational.
The Gulfshore Invitational is nearly a complete turnaround from the Gulfshore Shootout, which had featured mainly local and in-state teams recently.
In addition to increasing the quality of teams, the biggest difference with the new Gulfshore is location. The tournament will be Dec. 27-31 at Community School, moving from Golden Gate High School where it was played since 2004.
"Community School is so centrally located," Getta said, "and with their beautiful field house arena, we felt it was the best fit for us long term."
"We're excited to have it in our building," Community School athletic director Cassie Barone said. "We hope it's very successful. We'd like to see it in our field house for quite a few years to come."
Headlining the Gulfshore is Montverde Academy from near Orlando. The Eagles are ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN and have two University of Florida recruits. Montverde will play in the City of Palms from Dec. 18 to 22. Prime Prep Academy, a charter school recently started in Dallas by Fort Myers native and former NFL star Deion Sanders, was scheduled to play in both tournaments, but now won’t in City of Palms.
Newark (N.J.)-St. Benedict's (No. 13) and Hyattsville (Md.)- DeMatha (No. 20) also are ranked by ESPN. Sunrise Christian Academy from Bel Aire, Kan., is No. 9 in MaxPreps' rankings of academies and prep schools.
Sunrise is one of the eight independent teams playing in a separate bracket from the 14-team Gulfshore Invitational. Some schools who belong to their state athletic associations are not allowed to play teams who are not in the National Federation of State High School Associations, so the independent teams have their own bracket.
Montverde and Orlando Christian are the only teams from Florida. Community School and Golden Gate will play games during the tournament but will not be part of the bracket.
The one mainstay will be Ensworth from Nashville, Tenn. The Tigers are making their fifth trip to Naples the past six seasons. Ensworth won the Gulfshore Shootout title last year and in 2008.
For the tournament's first 15 years, the Gulfshore Shootout was run by Golden Gate coach Joe Consolino. He started the eight-team tournament in 1996 when he coached Barron Collier. It expanded to 16 teams the next year and soon began drawing teams from all over the state and some from outside Florida.
As the down economy affected the area, the tournament lost sponsorship dollars and couldn't afford to pay teams' travel expenses. That led to a 2010 tourney in which nine of the 16 teams were from Southwest Florida.
Getta stepped in this year with a vision of creating a top-notch event. He knew there was a market for it after watching the Holiday Shootout, the girls' tournament at Barron Collier, expand to a national field in recent years.
A former player of Consolino's at Barron Collier and former Golden Gate assistant, Getta used his connections from the business world to drum up sponsorship. He used his coaching contacts to bring in some of the top teams in the country.
"We felt that this city had the ability, after hosting a girls tournament with a national feel to it, to do the same thing here," Getta said. "The fact that we live in one of the best cities in the country made it easy."
General admission tickets will be $20 a day, and weekly passes can be purchased for $90. For more information visit www.gulfshoreinvitational.com.