Weekend in paradise
Flames to play in preseason tournament
The Liberty University men’s basketball team has accepted an invitation to play in the 2017 Paradise Jam – an annual preseason college basketball tournament that takes place in the U.S. Virgin Islands Nov. 6.
Other teams in the tournament include Wake Forest, Colorado, Drexel, Drake, Houston, Mercer and Quinnipiac.
Preseason tournaments in college basketball are popular around the country, as they provide teams the opportunity to play against high-level competition before the conference schedule begins.
Flames Head Coach Ritchie McKay said he is excited about his players being able to collect further experience against major NCAA programs.
“I think it’s significant in the form of having the chance to play some high major teams that normally you wouldn’t get a chance to play on a neutral floor,” McKay said.
“We always have the desire to play against really good teams in the non-conference because it prepares you for the regular season. We’ll have some young guys that we’re counting on early, and I’m sure they’ll have some big wide eyes, but we also have some guys that have played in those kind of games.”
Although this is Liberty’s first invitation to the tournament, McKay previously coached at the Paradise Jam with the University of Virginia back in 2011.
According to him, it is a top-notch tournament that is exciting for everyone, including the fans.
“I happened to be a part of the tournament when I was at University of Virginia, so I realized, for Basketball Travelers (the organization who runs Paradise Jam), they run a first-class event,” he said.
“I can tell our fans and supporters that will travel to this event will absolutely love it.”
At least one participant in every Paradise Jam since its inception in 2000 has gone on to play in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament – the two most recognized postseason tournaments in college basketball.
Simply receiving the invite says a lot about the development of Liberty’s basketball program.
“From the day I arrived at Liberty, we wanted to be on the same stage as the best programs in the country,” McKay said.
“To be afforded the opportunity by the Paradise Jam speaks volumes to the quality of players we have and where our program is going.”
According to Paradise Jam’s website, the tournament induces the second highest level of tourism in the Virgin Islands each year.
Additionally, Liberty will be doing much more for the community than entertaining fans.
“We’re actually going to have the opportunity to do some Christian service,” McKay said.
“I think it’s a really neat opportunity for our guys and our program. Any time you can help advance the local economy, that’s always a good thing. I think my wife’s going, so I’m sure she’ll put a dent in that advancement by some of her purchases.”
The actual tournament will be taking place at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas. Liberty is set to open the first round against Mercer Nov. 17.
Brienza is a guest writer.