Socastee/Carolina Forest

Jon Jones (left) of Socastee makes an under-the-basket pass to Kyle Watkins of Carolina Forest in the Big Shots tournament at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center on Monday.

Hundreds of boys basketball teams descended on the Myrtle Beach Sports Center this week to compete in national tournaments, and one locally based squad was in contention to win a national championship.

Big Shot Elite SC 2021, which features eight rising sophomores from seven different schools in Horry County, was in the hunt for the NTBA (National Travel Basketball Association) championship Wednesday (see www.grandstrandsportsreport. com for updates).

While teams from across the country were visiting the Grand Strand to take part in the tourney, the Elite got to enjoy a working (or playing) staycation.

“It’s convenient to have such a great venue in our home town. We play 10 tournaments a year here,” said Big Shots Elite SC 2021 coach Jason Warren. “A lot of these guys have been playing [rec basketball] together since the third grade, and they’ve been playing travel ball together since the sixth grade. We started out going to North Carolina to play in [a regional league] and we’ve just kept moving up.”

The team features a pair of players from Carolina Forest High - Grant Warren and Kyle Watkins - along with Myrtle Beach’s Ayden Hickman, North Myrtle Beach’s Javi Marlowe, Socastee’s Jon Jones, St. James’ Jeremiah Nesbitt, Loris’ Jamarious Herring and Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach’s Lawton Fulford. Although they are rivals during the high school season, they are teammates during the travel hoops season.

“It’s all friendly,” said coach’s son and guard Grant Warren. “We try to get bragging rights against each other in school ball and we joke about who beat who, but it’s all in good fun. We’re teammates.”

The Horry County connection seems to work well for the Big Shot Elite SC 2021, which added a pair of players from Dorman High this year. They have accumulated a 118-18 record over the past three seasons, and got off to a 3-0 start in the NTBA tournament. They defeated the East Cobb (Ga.) Playmakers 57-54, the Carolina Hounds 72-48 and the New England Nightmare 69-23 in pool play to reach the final bracket.

“We made it to the championship game last year and ended up finishing second, so our guys have been looking forward to coming back and winning it all this time,” Jason Warren said. “They play really well together, probably because they have been teammates so long. We’ve added a couple of players, but the core group has stayed together. It’s a very balanced team. Every game someone different steps up.”

Win or lose, the team will compete in the Big Shots Basketball tournament starting Thursday, which welcomes more than 200 teams to the Grand Strand. Some of the top prospects in the country are expected to showcase their talents before college scouts for the July 12-15 Big Shots tournament.

The Myrtle Beach Sports Center features eight regulation basketball courts with games running simultaneously, day and night. The Big Shots event features pool play Thursday through Saturday and wraps up with title games Sunday.

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