Start with five defending state champions, throw in a state runner-up and another state semifinalist and then add in the nation's top-ranked big man, and you have the winning recipe for the 2009 T-Mobile Invitational national high school basketball tournament, the nation's premier event featuring top boys and girls teams.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and T-Mobile USA, Inc. today announced the eight-team field for this year's event, which will be held Dec. 29-30 at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The NFHS-member Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) will serve as the tournament's host state association. As such, two Alabama high schools were invited to participate in the tournament.
The four boys teams feature a pair of defending state champions - Houston (Texas) Yates High School and Huntsville (Alabama) Butler High School. Also taking part are Covington (Washington) Kentwood High School and Winter Park (Florida) High School. Kentwood features 6-foot-10, 280-pound senior Joshua Smith, who some consider the top-rated center in the nation. Winter Park is led by junior sensation Austin Rivers, considered the top-rated shooting guard in the Class of 2011, and son of former NBA player Glenn "Doc" Rivers.
Coming off a state runner-up performance last year, the Hoover (Alabama) High School girls will serve as the host team on the girls' side of the 2009 T-Mobile Invitational bracket. They'll be joined by three defending state champions - Stockton (California) St. Mary's High School, a perennial national power featuring senior guard Chelsea Gray, a third-team USA Today All-American last year; Nashville (Tennessee) Hillsboro High School, which was 36-1 in 2008-09; and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Mt. Lebanon High School, which returns 18 of 20 players from last year's 31-0 championship team.
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.
"This year's tournament should be outstanding," said Robert F. Kanaby, NFHS executive director. "Not only does this event showcase some of the best teams and individuals in the country, but it also showcases the important role that activity programs play in high school education."
"T-Mobile is proud to sponsor such a premier event," said Mike Belcher, vice president of brand communications, T-Mobile USA. "Every year, the fields seem to get better and better, and this year is no exception. Top-rated teams and outstanding student-athletes make this the best tournament in high school sports."
In addition to the two days of games, all coaches and players of the participating schools will join T-Mobile employees for a T-Mobile community service project on Dec. 28 designed to improve the after-school facilities at a local community-based organization or public school (site to be determined). T-Mobile stresses community outreach programs connecting kids to positive people, places and programs.
The inaugural T-Mobile Invitational was held in 2006 in Seattle with the nation's No. 1-ranked girls team, Suwanee (Georgia) Collins Hill High School, and the boys team, Los Angeles (California) Fairfax High School taking home the championship trophies. The scene shifted to Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico's "The Pit" for the 2007 T-Mobile Invitational. Set against that scenic Land of Enchantment backdrop, Jersey City (New Jersey) St. Anthony High School, ranked No. 1 in the nation, claimed the boys title, while Long Beach (California) Poly High School was the girls winner.
Last year's event was held on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. with the host-state schools capturing the titles for the first time ¨C Indianapolis (Indiana) Lawrence North High School earning the boys title, while South Bend (Indiana) Washington High School walked off with the girls trophy.
The partnership between T-Mobile and the NFHS, the national leadership organization for high school athletic and fine arts activities, strives to encourage student participation in interscholastic activities and emphasizes the importance of these programs in preparing students for life. In addition to the basketball tournament, the partnership between the NFHS and T-Mobile includes T-Mobile's sponsorship of the NFHS annual national student leadership conference, plus other initiatives and events. T-Mobile is the Official Telecommunications Partner of the NFHS.
Tickets for the 2009 T-Mobile Invitational will go on sale later this fall. For the most up-to-date information on the tournament and this year’s teams, visit www.t-mobileinvitational.com
Here’s a closer look at the 2009 T-Mobile Invitational field: