U.S. Open Basketball Championships Participants Delight in Opportunity to Play in USA Basketball Tournament
The inaugural youth tournament featured 72 teams and 212 games across three age divisions.
- 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships Recap Video
- 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships Gold Medal Teams Gallery
- 2018 U.S. Open Basketball Championships Results
Basketball fan Charlie Smith has watched some big-time events at the Pacers Athletic Center.
On Sunday afternoon, the eighth grader was part of a historic one as a player.
The complex just outside of Indianapolis hosted the inaugural U.S. Open Basketball Championships, a national youth tournament put on by USA Basketball. The goal of the tournament was to give youth basketball players the chance to compete at a well-structured tournament under the direct guidance of USA Basketball.
“It was really well put together,” said Smith, a guard who helped his Indiana Rise team win the boys’ eighth grade championship over Arkansas Woodz Elite in a game televised on CBS Sports Network. “I think (USA Basketball) did a really good job. It felt pretty big, especially with CBS being here and being on TV.”
This week’s U.S. Open Basketball Championships were the next step in USA Basketball expanding its involvement with the youth levels. All coaches held a USA Basketball Coach License, and the emphasis was on creating a tournament that was inclusive, but also set high standards for quality.
The process that resulted in the U.S. Open began rolling a year ago with a national Under-14 tournament. This year, USA Basketball expanded the Open Championships to three divisions, holding 8th Grade, 13U and 12U tournaments for both boys and girls. Within six months, an idea to expand the tournament blossomed into this week’s four-day experience.
Seventy-two travel basketball teams from 25 states and two from Canada came to Indiana for a USA Basketball first.
USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley called it instrumental in the growth of the sport.
“Our emphasis has really been on the elite stage, the one percent of the one percent,” Tooley said. “In 2013, we really started to expand our horizons and take more of a leadership role in the youth to create standards and some uniformity in a space that is fairly unstructured. We are excited to have made great progress the last five years and look forward to the next five.”
Fans jammed into the large basketball complex that featured games being played at every turn.
Swinging the entry doors to the Pacers Athletic Center open, fans were greeted by a walkway of USA Basketball memorabilia, complete with actual Team USA issued shoes worn by NBA star and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Davis, USA jerseys, placards featuring facts about recent USA Basketball teams and banners of heroes to many who were taking the court this week.
“Will Anciaux, my big boy, putting on his lanyard (with a gold medal), he thought he was a top 10 recruit in the country,” said Jaray Mathews, who coaches the 13U division boys’ champion Wichita Select. “It felt so special with that. This event is amazing.”
Of the championships teams, only two came from the same state.
In fact, they came from the same travel program: Alabama Southern Starz, who won the 13U and 8th Grade girls’ tournaments.
“It was a big thing. It was a lot of fun for a lot of the girls and I liked it,” said Brittani Wells, point guard for the 13U Southern Starz team that defeated Tree of Hope Pacific in the day’s first championship game.
The 12U champions were Mississippi MBA in the boys’ division and the New Mexico Dogs in girls’.
“I think for the first year of the U.S. Open Basketball Championships this was a great success,” Tooley said.
Tooley hopes the word will spread and USA Basketball’s marketing will make the tournament an even larger event in the future.
“We announced this event in January and then we had several qualifying events with event operators across the country,” Tooley said. “There (were) over 1,200 teams that had a chance to earn their way here. In a short time of six months or so, we are really happy with what has turned out here. Next year we are looking for bigger and better things.”