“There’s a lot of things teams can get out of this,” said Poore, who has made the trip four times and his Indians will join Johnson County and Science Hill in this year’s journey to the resort location in Freeport. “The biggest thing is the cultural experience, to see how blessed we are to have the facilities we have. You get a different appreciation and see things in a different light from what we have here.”
Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said he hopes his team will bond during the experience.
“You always want to build camaraderie and team chemistry,” said Atwood. “And the big thing for us is a lot of these kids won’t have a chance to do something like this again. I want to give kids an opportunity to see different places and do things they might not otherwise be able to do.”
Poore said it is also a chance for the players to learn how to battle through adversity.
“They will have opportunities to make excuses,” said Poore. “The rim might be crooked or the basket slanted, or there might be dips in the floor. Whatever the case, guys have to put that aside because everybody plays in the same environment.”
The tournament begins on Nov. 21. There will be pool play, followed by a championship bracket. Each team is guaranteed at least three games, and the championship is set for Nov. 24.
In other years, Atwood took his team to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, along with trips to Hilton Head and Atlanta. An opportunity for the Bahamas trip arose this year when a team dropped out late.
“Somebody told (former Tennessee High coach) Dale Burns we travel quite a bit, so he called to see if we could go,” said Atwood. “I talked to the director of schools and principal, and we were able to work it out.”
It was a sweet deal for Johnson County, right at $900 per player — for everything.
“That’s round-trip air fare, all of their food, resort hotel rooms, transportation back and forth to the gym, and some entertainment,” said Atwood. “It’s a three- or four-star resort, and you don’t leave it. It’s kind of nice not having to worry about it from that standpoint.”
Also traveling with the 16 Johnson County players and coaches are 19 fans and family members, but Atwood said they didn’t get the same price deal as the players.
In Johnson County’s pool are Columbia (South Carolina) and Sunland Baptist from the Bahamas. In D-B’s pool are Westwood from South Carolina, and St. George’s from the Bahamas. Science Hill will square off against Bahamas teams Tabernacle Baptist Academy and Eight Mile Rock High.
There are 12 teams in the field with Oak Ridge in the other bracket, joining Bahamas teams C.I. Gibson and Jack Hayward.
Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said there are several reasons he keeps taking his team to the Bahamas.
“We try to give the kids a chance to go to the Bahamas during their time in the program,” said Cutlip. “And those teams down there, they’ve gotten so much better over the last 15 years since I’ve been going. You can’t simulate their quickness and speed. And we try to do it to get ready for conference play.”
Dobyns-Bennett is the defending champion.
“There has never been a U.S. team win it two years in a row,” said Poore. “We will try to defend our title.”
It will be a tough task as the competition is usually tough, and different.
“They are very physical and very aggressive,” said Poore. “The game is more chaotic. But it’s a fun tournament, and I would recommend it to anybody for their program.”