It is still 2019 but Simeon Hinsey and Marvin Henfield, organizers and co-founders of the inaugural Bahamas Hoopfest Women’s Basketball Classic that wrapped up this past weekend at the Baha Mar resort, have already begun looking towards next year’s edition.
The event, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I women’s basketball tournament, took place on November 28-30 inside the New Providence Ballroom at Baha Mar.
It featured five teams: Arkansas University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ball State University, Lehigh University and Fordham University. They played two games each, with Wisconsin and Arkansas culminating the tournament on Saturday night in a fiercely competitive game.
Hinsey is the co-founder of the International Youth Education and Sports Foundation (IYES), an Arkansas-based non-profit organization. He said they are looking to get eight teams down for next year.
“Our vision for this year was to always get eight teams but we only had five. Honestly, it was a blessing because you don’t know how much work is involved in an event like this until you actually do it,” Hinsey said.
He continued: “Our goal moving forward is now that we have this under our belt, let’s increase our number of teams to eight teams so we can get even bigger and make it better. With Baha Mar allowing us to be in here, it gave us just a little bit more prestige.”
Marvin Henfield is the president and director of Basketball Operations at the Caribbean Sports Academy (CSA). He echoed the same sentiments that Hinsey gave.
“Next year 2020, five contracts are out and those things take time. We’ll have those things concluded by God’s grace sometime early next year in the first quarter. We are looking to expand to build this and more importantly, expand our social reach with our kids so it is good to see that many girls inside the space in a place they can all be there one time,” Henfield said.
One of the teams that the organizers are looking to have in the classic next year is the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. That team features Bahamian Yolett ‘Coach Yo’ McPhee-McCuin as its head coach and Bahamian Valerie Nesbitt, a junior guard.
“We are definitely working on it. I don’t want to ‘let the cat out the bag’ but there have been discussions about them coming down to participate in this event. There aren’t many obstacles that are in front of us. We have cleared the way to make some of those things happen… Let’s keep our fingers crossed,” Henfield said.
Hinsey would also love to get ‘Coach Yo’ and Nesbitt home for next year to show the young girls what they do from a coaching and player standpoint.
The games were closely contested, but that is not the reason why Henfield said the weekend was a success but rather the social impact of the tournament.
“This weekend was a huge success. Not necessarily because of the games as many people had good games and the games were close which was a caveat in my mind. It was a success truly because of the impact that we had socially within our local community,” Henfield said.
Henfield added: “We gave out 4000 tickets to young girls. We partnered with the Government Schools Principals Association along with the private schools and their coaches. We gave them 30 tickets for the junior and senior girls to attend. Over the weekend we saw many of the girls who came to be inspired. That was the highlight for me – giving these girls the opportunity to be inspired and an opportunity to dream and see something they have never seen before.”
After the final game on Saturday night several local young players were seen on the court shooting basketballs and looking excited to be on the court. They were also interacting with the college players who were signing autographs and taking pictures.
Hinsey said they also wanted to give the young girls a taste of what they can potentially become.
“Everything that has happened has gone beyond my expectations. We have been so blessed just to be here in Baha Mar where the venue we wanted to be in is now a shelter for those recovering from Hurricane Dorian,” Hinsey said.
Hinsey continued: “Our goal in this event was bigger than a basketball game or bringing an event to The Bahamas. We know what our island and country have in it as far as the talent. We wanted to allow our young girls here to get a taste of what they can potentially become. There is no reason our Bahamian girls can’t compete like those girls out there tonight.”
There is a Battle 4 Atlantis women’s college basketball tournament next year just before the Thanksgiving weekend. Henfield said he is aware of it and said that he does not see it as competition but more complementary, and think it is great for the sport.
“People have asked me about the possibility of Atlantis doing a female tournament and my personal opinion on that is I say go do it. I think it is great for the sport. I don’t see us as competitors, I see it as complementary,” Henfield said. “I think the more opportunities that we have for our girls to gain exposure is beneficial and, as I have said before, if there is anything that we can learn from them we will take that and learn. We encourage them to take a page out of our book and make sure that they also endeavor to expand their social reach in this local community with our girls.”
While here, several of the universities gave back to the community particularly Arkansas and Lehigh.
The organizers thanked Baha Mar, persons who came out to watch, Melia Nassau Beach resort, the National Sports Authority, the Bahamas Basketball Federation and the Ministry of Tourism.