Atlantis seeking NCAA exempt status for Bahamas
Atlantis hit a slam dunk Saturday night with two sold-out NCAA(National Collegiate Athletic Association)basketball games that it hopes will bolster its bid to make The Bahamas one of the only countries in the world to be given exempt status by the U.S. collegiate athletic association.
President of Atlantis, George Markantonis, called Saturday’s”Battle at Atlantis 2010″a dress rehearsal for if and when this country receives the exempt status that will allow college basketball teams to play here and have those game wins counted toward their season play.
The Richmond Spiders battled the Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets, while Virginia Tech took on Mississipi State. Both Georgia Tech and Virginia tech blew-out their rivals.
The event drew government ministers, U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas Nicole Avant and even former Los Angeles Lakers forward Rick Fox.
Atlantis spared no expense in outfitting its grand ballroom, where the 2009 Miss Universe competition was held, as a NCAA-certified basketball arena, replete with a regulation court donning Atlantis’name and the name of the tournament.
“We actually purchased all of that,”said Markantonis.
“We purchased everything, but we didn’t purchase it for one double header, we purchased it because we’re serious and we’re gonna put The Bahamas on the map in college basketball.
“We were lucky to have a facility that meets the NCAA ceiling heights.”
The NCAA will hold a vote in early January to determine whether or not it will grant The Bahamas exempt status.
According to Markantonis, he and a small team put the proposal to all the U.S. colleges that have a vote, in order to lobby their support.
“We need to get the majority of the votes,”he said”And it’s not Atlantis, it’s The Bahamas-anywhere in the country we can stage this type of tournament.”
He admitted, however, that Atlantis itself has prepared itself to host many more college basketball tournaments.
“The planning has not just been for the double header tonight,”he said.
“The planning has been for what we hope this will turn into for the future and the next couple of years.
“We have now had the practice… hold your breath for January.”
Coaches and players lauded Atlantis’arena set up, with Richmond Coach Chris Mooney calling it a”tremendous”event that was an”incredible”experience.
Georgia Tech guards Iman Shumpert and Glen Rice Jr., both agreed that the experience was like none other. Shumpert compared it to the famed Madison Square Gardens arena in New York City.
“It was a nice venue they had put together,”he said.
“I actually kind of like that it’s dark in the back, to me it felt like Madison Square.
“I played at Madison Square for the Jordan game and it’s real bright on the court so you can’t really see into the crowd at Madison Square.”
Rice said he was amazed at the size of the crowd that came to watch the match and how many fans the teams have in The Bahamas.
“I liked the energy,”he said.”It felt like home and we don’t even know nobody out here.”
Markantonis contended that if The Bahamas is granted exempt status, Atlantis will fund the construction of outdoor basketball courts for every school in The Bahamas.
“Part of our program should we get exempt status is to take a portion of those funds over 10 years to every single school in this country and build them an outdoor basketball court,”he said.”We want to give back to the youth and it’s great to use college basketball to do that.”