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Payton Lewis of Socastee passes in the game with University (West Virginia) during the Beach Ball Classic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Thursday. University won 85 to 77. The tournament continues through Monday night. Local teams in the annual event also include Myrtle Beach and the Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach. Other teams in the tournament are from California, Texas, New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Mississippi and North Carolina. Photo by Janet Morgan/Myrtle Beach Herald janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

It’s been quite some time since this much new blood has come to the Beach Ball Classic.

Nine of the 16 teams for the 2019 field will be first-timers. Just three of this year’s teams were part of last year’s tournament. And only one school heading to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center this December has ever won the Classic.

The number of fresh faces wasn’t a coincidence.

“You don’t want to become monotonous and have the same teams every year,” tournament director John Rhodes said Wednesday. “Next year will be our 40th anniversary, so we’ll have a lot of the familiar faces. We want to bring back the [Bishop] Gormans and the DeMathas. I didn’t want to do that this year.”

In 2019, all those new teams may be better known after the national rankings start rolling out next month and beyond. At least three teams, including repeat participants Whitney Young (Illinois) and Long Island Lutheran (New York) and first-timer Coronado (Nevada), could earn Top 25 nods.

The undisputed top team in South Carolina will be here in December, too.

Powerhouse Dorman has won three consecutive Class 5A state championships (coinciding with South Carolina’s move to five classifications) and owns eight region championships in the past decade. During the recent run of state titles, Dorman is a combined 76-12 overall and 72-4 against teams from inside the Palmetto State.

A big reason why is 6-foot-9 power forward P.J. Hall - who has more than 20 NCAA Division-I offers - and 6-foot guard Myles Tate, a Butler verbal commitment. They are considered the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects in the state of South Carolina and are also Top 100 nationally, according to various recruiting services.

“They could get to the semifinals,” Rhodes said. “They are coming here to play and coming to compete. But in a 16-team national tournament, you’ve got to be ready.”

In addition to the top-end teams, several players who are making waves in the national rankings, including three who are among the Top 50 for the Class of 2020, will be in attendance.

Whitney Young (Illinois) senior guard D.J. Steward is the highest of the bunch. Currently, he’s sitting inside the Top 40 nationally in each of the 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals rankings. Steward has already been offered by the likes of Duke and North Carolina, among plenty of others. 

Just behind him is Morgan Park (Illinois) senior Adam Miller. The 6-foot-3 lefty shooting guard has yanked his share of major offers after averaging better than 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game as a junior last winter.

Next up is Dwon Odom, the 6-foo-1 point guard from St. Francis (Georgia) who is verbally committed to Xavier. He toyed with the notion of reclassifying and graduating a year early before electing to stay at St. Francis for his regularly scheduled senior season.

Just outside that list but still inside the top 100 nationally are St. John’s (Washington D.C.) shooting guard Darius Maddox, Long Island Lutheran point guard Andre Cubrello, Baltimore Poly power forward Justin Lewis, and Dorman’s Hall and Tate.

Coronado (Nevada) guard Jaden Hardy is also ranked as the fifth best player nationally for the Class of 2021.

“We were looking at the teams that have good players and also have never been here that would be a good fit,” Rhodes said. “Bringing teams in from other parts of the country is exciting. It can [help] ticket sales and attendance.”

While the boys tournament field is now set, Rhodes said he expects the Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational roster to be completed in next week or two, as well. The girls event has expanded in the past two years to 56 teams - a primary 16-team national field and five eight-team tournaments.

2019 BEACH BALL CLASSIC FIELD

*Baltimore Poly (Md.) - Three-time defending Maryland Class 3A state champion

*Butchel (Ohio) - Ohio Division II state runner up

*Coronado (Nev.) - One of preseason top-ranked teams in Nevada

*Dorman - Three-time defending South Carolina Class 5A state champion

*Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) - 2016 CIF Division IV state champion

*Izard County (Ark.) - Defending Arkansas Class 1A state champion

Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) - 2017 Beach Ball Classic runner up

*Millennium (Ariz.) - Arizona Class 5A state runner up

*Morgan Park (Ill.) - 2017 and 2018 Illinois Class 3A state champions

Myrtle Beach - 1983 Beach Ball Classic runner up

Socastee  - Only team to play every Beach Ball Classic

St. Francis (Ga.) - 1-2 in 2015 Beach Ball Classic

St. John’s (Washington D.C.) - 2015/2006 Beach Ball Classic runner up

*St. Thomas Catholic (Texas) - 2019 Texas private school Class 6A regional finalist

Whitney Young (Ill.) - 2012 Beach Ball Classic champion

University (W.V.) - 1-2 in 2018 Beach Ball Classic

*Denotes first-time Beach Ball participant

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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