The C.I Gibson Rattlers senior boys basketball team will leave today for the Tarkanian Classic, set to be played at the Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, this week.
The classic is one of the biggest high school basketball tournaments in the United States. Quite a number of former and current National Basketball Association (NBA) players played in the tournament.
Rattlers Head Coach Kevin “KJ” Johnson said he and his team have been going to the tournament every year for the past seven years to expose the players to a higher level of competition.
“For the last seven years I have been going, giving the young men an opportunity to be exposed to a high level. As a matter of fact, the NBA have four NBA academies around the world which will be in the tournament; we will not be playing them, but I am excited to watch them. It’s an opportunity to not only be seeing it at a high level but just the exposure that the young men are going to have and hopefully they are going to learn from it, and grow and learn a lot of stuff and implement it in their games.”
Johnson said there will be NBA and college scouts at the tournament.
Prior to going to this tournament, Johnson said he and his team frequented the Spring Branch Holiday Classic in Houston, Texas.
“I traveled a lot with AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball for the past 25 years. A coach who knew me from AAU basketball said my teams were very good and competitive and asked if I can bring down the team to Vegas during the Christmas time. At the time when he asked, I used to go to Houston at the Spring Branch Holiday Classic and decided that a change of venue might be good,” said Johnson.
The number one draft pick into the NBA this year, Bahamian DeAndre Ayton, played in the tournament. Johnson said it is very expensive this time of the year and calls for a lot of sacrifice.
“We have been getting it done by starting early and planning early. At the end of the day it is all about giving our young men exposure to get them scholarships to further their education through basketball,” he said.
In the beginning, they suffered a lot of defeats, but lately, he said, they have been winning some games.
“At the end of the day, it is all about controlling their mindset in how they think and how they want to get it done. They have been getting it done, in terms of competing,” he said. “We have won a lot of games in Vegas, and that is why they are always excited to have us down. When we first started out, we got run out of the gym a few times, but at the end of the day, it is all about representation and preparing the young men to play at college level. These are the guys they have to play with if they want to play at the college level.”
The Tarkanian Classic begins tomorrow and will end on Saturday December 22 — a few days before the Providence Holiday Classic here in The Bahamas. The Rattlers have hosted Providence Holiday Classic a number of years at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, and will be playing in the tournament again this year.
In Vegas, C.I. Gibson will be playing in the Orleans division that features teams from Nevada, Canada, Utah, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Oregon.
The tournament is named after Jerry Tarkanian, who was quite famous as a coach in Las Vegas. He coached the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) for 19 years, where he produced 10 first-round selections in the NBA drafts, including the number one overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. In that same draft, two other players were drafted from his team, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
Tarkanian ended his 30-year coaching career with a 761-202 win-loss record. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.