Due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, a premier college basketball tournament, which was set to be played in Puerto Rico, has been moved to Conway.
The 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, originally set to be played at the Coliseo Municipal Tomas Dones in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, has been relocated to the HTC Center on the Coastal Carolina University campus in Conway.
The tournament, now in its 11th year, is set to take place from Nov. 16-Nov. 19 at Coastal, featuring eight teams from throughout the country.
The tourney is an ESPN production and games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, including the opening and championship games on ESPN2.
The city of Myrtle Beach is also assisting in hosting the event.
Teams participating are Appalachian State, Boise State, Illinois State, Iowa State, the University of South Carolina, Tulsa, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Western Michigan.
Officials from ESPN, Coastal, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Myrtle Beach spoke on the relocation at a press conference held at the chamber last week.
“It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to pay back something to our neighbors in the south,” said Myrtle Beach mayor John Rhodes. “We [also] want to make sure we extend our hands out to offer any help that we can.”
According to Rhodes, a few weeks ago, ESPN reached out and said that the Tip-Off wouldn’t be able to take place in Fajardo and asked if the Myrtle Beach area would be interested.
Rhodes said he then talked with officials from the MBACC and CCU, who expressed a desire to help put on the tournament.
“This is a team effort,” he said.
Pete Derzis, vice president of college sports programming and events at ESPN, said that the Myrtle Beach area was a perfect fit, especially because of it being "hospitality driven."
He added that, with he and other officials from ESPN having worked with Mayor Rhodes, members of the Chamber and Coastal before, they were comfortable with the relocation being to the Myrtle Beach area.
“The leadership across the table here speaks volumes,” he said. “There was a great confidence knowing that the leadership of this community could make it happen.”
Derzis also said that the hopes are to bring the tournament back to Puerto Rico next year.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, said that though he was excited to be able to bring in loads of visitors to the area, the relocation was bittersweet.
“It goes without saying that this event is a bittersweet moment for us,” he said. “While it’s a great opportunity for us to host … we also know that our gain is coming at Puerto Rico’s expense because of the devastation that they have felt.”
He said that efforts would be made toward going back to those who have been affected by the natural disaster, adding that they would use the tournament not only to showcase Conway and the Grand Strand but as a means of giving back.
“It won’t just be hoops; it will be hoops with hope,” he said.
CCU Athletics Director Matt Hogue said that things worked out fortunately in terms of the relocation, as the school’s football and men’s basketball teams are playing away games during the days of the tournament.
The CCU women’s basketball team is also set to play UNC-Wilmington on Nov. 18 at the stadium, which is an off-day of the tournament.
He also said the logistics of the HTC Center made the stadium a suitable place to hold the tournament, as it’s able to accommodate members of the media as well as a large number of fans and players.
Earlier this year, the stadium hosted an ACC women’s basketball tournament, which brought a high turnout of fans.
“This is a great opportunity, [not only] as a way to showcase our arena what staff can do, but for our students and entire campus community,” he said.
More information and a full schedule can be found at espnevents.com/puerto-rico-tip-off.