The first-round pairings of boys and girls teams for the 2009 T-Mobile Invitational national high school basketball tournament have been announced by T-Mobile USA, Inc., and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The tournament will be broadcast live by CBS College Sports Network and will be played Dec. 29-30 at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. Coverage on both days begins at 2:00 p.m., EST. Play-by-play announcer Jason Knapp teams with analyst Pete Gillen to call the boys games, while Ann Schatz and analyst Tammy Blackburn announce the girls games. Adam Zucker hosts the Network’s live on-site coverage. In addition, CBS Sports will air the one-hour “T-Mobile Invitational Showcase: National High School Basketball” on Jan. 16, 2010 (1:30 p.m. EST).
The T-Mobile Invitational is the only basketball tournament sponsored by the NFHS, and the field is composed only of schools from NFHS-member associations. The NFHS’ 51 member associations oversee and administer athletic and fine arts activities within those states. Only high schools that are members of those state associations are allowed to compete for their respective state titles.
Leading off the Dec. 29 first-round girls games is a matchup between national powers St. Mary’s High School (Stockton, Calif.) and Mt. Lebanon High School (Pittsburgh, Penn.). St. Mary’s is the nation’s top-rated team in most preseason rankings. Last year, the Rams won their fifth Division II state title this decade. Mt. Lebanon returns 18 of 20 players from last year’s undefeated state championship team. The second girls game matches defending Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Class AAA champion Hillsboro High School (Nashville, Tenn.) and Hoover High School (Hoover, Ala.), which was runner-up in the 2009 Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Class 6A state tournament.
The first boys game features Yates High School (Houston, Tex.), which averaged 96.5 points per game in winning the 2009 Texas University Interscholastic League Conference 4A state title, against Kentwood High School (Covington, Wash.) The nightcap matches Winter Park High School (Winter Park, Fla.) and Butler High School (Huntsville, Ala.), the two-time defending AHSAA Class 5A state champions.
The winning teams will advance to the girls and boys championships on Dec. 30, with the consolation games to be played earlier that day.
Tickets for this year’s event may be purchased:
• In person at the Samford University box office
• Over the phone by calling 888-DUNK-TIX (888-3865-849)
• Online at www.t-mobileinvitational.com
Two-day passes are $10 for students and $16 for adults. One-day passes are $6 for students and $10 for adults.
The boys field features two of the top individual players in the country. Kentwood’s Joshua Smith is rated the nation’s No. 1 center. The 6-foot-10, 280-pound senior averaged 24.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a junior while shooting nearly 70 percent from the floor. Earlier this month, he announced he will play next year at UCLA. This year’s tourney also features one of the top-rated juniors in the nation in Winter Park’s 6-3 guard Austin Rivers. The son of former National Basketball Association standout and current Boston Celtics head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers has committed to play college ball at the University of Florida.
The girls bracket also features some of the top players in the country. St. Mary’s’ starting backcourt tandem of Chelsea Gray and Afure Jemerigbe are each headed to top Division I programs next year. Gray, a 2009 third-team USA Today All-American, will play her college ball at Duke while backcourt teammate Jemerigbe has accepted a scholarship from the University of California Berkeley. Hoover High School will be led by gifted 6-0 small forward Tyrese Tanner, who has committed to play at Auburn next season.
“This is our strongest and most balanced field in the four years of this tournament,” said Robert F. Kanaby, NFHS executive director. “We’re excited to give basketball fans everywhere the chance to see some of the nation’s best basketball players and some of the top all-around student-athletes in an atmosphere that fosters the values of educational-based interscholastic athletics.”
“With five defending state champions and one state runner-up, this should be the best T-Mobile Invitational so far,” said Mike Belcher, vice president of brand communications, T-Mobile USA. “The great high school basketball fans in Birmingham are in for a treat and we’re excited that all high school fans around the country will be able to watch on CBS College Sports Network.”
In addition to the two days of games, all coaches and players of the participating schools will join together for a T-Mobile Huddle Up SM community service project on Dec. 28 designed to improve various elements of the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club in Birmingham. T-Mobile Huddle Up is T-Mobile USA’s community outreach program connecting kids, primarily from single-parent families, in high-need urban communities to positive people, places and programs.
Here is the complete schedule of games (subject to change). Game times are Central Standard Time:
Tuesday, Dec. 29