PrepZone: Naples Holiday Shootout girls tournament, area boys tournament plot different futures

Corey Perrine/Staff 
North Gwinnett poses with the trophy after downing Hathaway Brown Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Barron Collier High School. North Gwinnett of Suwanee, Ga. and Hathaway Brown of Shaker Heights, Ohio faced off during championship final action in the 14th Annual Naples Holiday Shootout. North Gwinnett downed Hathaway Brown 57-50.

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff North Gwinnett poses with the trophy after downing Hathaway Brown Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Barron Collier High School. North Gwinnett of Suwanee, Ga. and Hathaway Brown of Shaker Heights, Ohio faced off during championship final action in the 14th Annual Naples Holiday Shootout. North Gwinnett downed Hathaway Brown 57-50.

Moments before Saturday's third-place game at the Naples Holiday Shootout presented by Arthrex, B.A. Crawford and Troy Costain sat against a wall in the Barron Collier gym already strategizing for next year.

As the girls basketball teams from Chicago-Whitney Young and Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill warmed up, the two architects of the Holiday Shootout reflected on this year's event. The Shootout had its strongest field yet, Crawford and Costain agreed, and the proof was right before them.

Whitney Young and Science Hill came into Naples ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the country by MaxPreps. Yet neither team could make it to the final of a loaded tournament that included four nationally-ranked teams and 19 players committed to Division I colleges.

"This has been the most talented (field) by far," Crawford said. "It's going to be difficult choosing the all-tournament team. We're going to have to order more trophies."

The girls basketball world took notice. Crawford said coaches from 35 colleges attended the Shootout, including ones from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big East conferences, and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Talent scouts, who compiled national player ranking, and people from recruiting services were on hand throughout the week.

The level of basketball has the Holiday Shootout on par with some of the top tournaments in the country. Events in Phoenix and Myrtle Beach, S.C., are the only holiday tournaments that rival the Naples tourney.

Troy High School from Fullerton, Calif., has played in both events. The Warriors played at Myrtle Beach last December but returned to the Holiday Shootout for the third time in five years this season.

Warriors coach Roger Anderson, whose team finished fifth, said few events can match the atmosphere and the level of play of the Holiday Shootout.

"Every year we've been here they've had great competition," Anderson said. "It's run so well. The organizers are the greatest people on earth. We just enjoy coming here."

The question is how Crawford and Costain can outdo themselves once again.

Crawford said he keeps trying to get better and better teams to come to Naples. He already has invitations for next year to seven teams, including perennial national powers Phoenix-St. Mary's and Duncanville (Texas).

The Shootout directors said they will keep the Beach Bash, which included six teams playing three games each supplemental to the main tournament. Costain said he played with the idea of making the Bash an eight-team tournament, but it likely would require adding an extra day to the four-day Shootout.

Lely went 0-3 in the Beach Bash, but Trojans coach Kirsti Jones said it was a good experience. A 2001 Naples High graduate, Jones played in the Holiday Shootout in its early years, and said she's amazed at what the tournament has become.

"It's grown so much," Jones said. "It brings in the top programs from all over the United State. For this area, it's great."

The local basketball community also wonders if a boys holiday tournament will return to Naples. The Gulfshore Shootout ran alongside the Holiday Shootout the past 13 years, first at Barron Collier, then at Golden Gate.

When the revamped Gulfshore Invitational fell apart under new organizers just two weeks before it was scheduled to start, it marked the end of the tournament that started in 1996.

Golden Gate boys basketball coach Joe Consolino, who created the Gulfshore when he coached at Barron Collier, said he didn't know what the future holds.

"I haven't really thought too much about it," Consolino said. "I just want to get through this season and see. There is interest in (a holiday tournament) staying in our area. It's one thing I'm sure we'll discuss after the season."

Three teams that signed up for the Gulfshore Invitational ended up coming to Naples after the event was canceled. Cincinnati-Moeller, Wilbraham (Mass.) and Monson, and Toronto-Waterloo played a series of games against each other and local teams over the past week.

Wilbraham and Monson coach Chris Sparks said he enjoyed his time in Naples. It's the second year in a row the Titans have come to Southwest Florida after playing in Fort Myers' City of Palms last season.

The Gulfshore was supposed to be an elite nationwide tournament in the vein of the prestigious City of Palms this season. Though its last-minute cancellation upset many coaches and teams, Sparks said he still thinks a tournament would be good in Naples.

"The location's great," Sparks said. "Everyone's been very accommodating. There are people around the community that want to see it happen."

NOTE: Orlando-Edgewater's Trimaine McCullough won the 3-point contest with 9 at the Naples Holiday Shootout presented by Arthrex on Friday at Barron Collier.

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