ALBANY --Like hoops?
Then you will love the U-Save-It Basketball Classic, an ageless holiday tournament that not only reaches back with a long and rich history, but promises some of the most competitive boys basketball anywhere in the state.
It's three days and nights of boys high school basketball, all played at the Albany High gym, where 15 teams, including 11 from out of town that will converge on the Good Life City.
"It's the second oldest tournament in the state of Georgia,'' said Albany High boys basketball coach Archie Chatmon, whose team will face Manchester today at 4 p.m. "I played in this tournament when I was in high school.''
It was a tournament format back in those days, but three years ago the U-Save-It was changed to a classic format in which all the matchups are prearranged.
"We had to change it because the rules for basketball teams changed and teams were limited to the games they could play in the regular season,'' Chatmon said. "This way some teams can come in and play two games or three games. It has helped draw teams here. This year we have 15 teams, the most we have ever had.''
Those 15 teams include the four city rivals --Albany, Dougherty, Monroe and Westover -- but none will play each other. They will all meet out-of-town teams.
"It's a good classic tournament to be in because you play other teams,'' said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, whose Tornadoes are ranked No. 1 in The Herald's Top 5 Poll and enter the Classic with a 5-0 record.
The U-Save-It also gives the city rivals a chance to watch each other play.
"We love to beat each other to a pulp,'' Chatmon said. "But we love to watch each other beat other people.''
The U-Save-It will feature six games today -- take a day off Sunday -- and then will resume with a long list of games on Monday and Tuesday. Quitman meets Webster County at 1 p.m. today to tip things off, and then nearby Colquitt County from Moultrie faces Statesboro, a Class AAAA powerhouse, at 2:30 p.m.
The final four games today involve the four city schools. Albany meets Manchester at 4 p.m., and then Westover meets Lanier County, one of the top Class A programs in the state, at 5:30 p.m. Monroe puts its undefeated season on the line at 7 p.m. against Mt. Zion, and at 8:30 Dougherty faces Southeast Bulloch in the nightcap.
Monday will feature seven games, beginning at 11:30 a.m. when Crisp County takes on Cedar Groves, then Tuesday there will be another seven games as Dougherty opens the action at 11:30 a.m. against Quitman.
"The best thing about this is that we get to give something back to the community,'' Chatmon said. "And the teams get to test themselves against quality competition. This (event) gives teams a chance to get a gauge on where they really are this time of year. A lot of teams will use this to springboard to the postseason and a state championship. In the past a lot of teams have done well, and looked back to this tournament as a reason they had so much success.''