TRM Tournament kicks off Tuesday
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
New teams, new format and an extra day of basketball highlight the Fourth Annual T.R. Miller Holiday Tournament.
Twelve new teams are entered in the tournament, mostly as a result of the tournament's expansion from eight to 16 teams and from three days of competition to four.
Greenville, Monroe County and Flomaton join T.R. Miller as carryover teams. Georgiana, Jay (Fla.), Excel, Culleoka (Tenn.), St. Paul's, Northview (Fla.), J.F. Shields, Robertsdale, Niceville (Fla.), Booker T. Washington, Hillcrest-Evergreen and Smith's Station are new entries.
Atkinson said it took countless phone calls to fill the tournament field.
For the most part, the tournament has a David and Goliath approach. The tournament features two eight-team brackets, one made up predominantly big schools and one made up of predominantly small schools. The champions of the two brackets will meet for the overall championship. The two runner-ups from the two brackets will play for third place.
T.R. Miller, Georgiana, Jay, Excel, Flomaton, Culleoka, St. Paul's and Northview are in the small school bracket. The big school bracket consists of J.F. Shields, Robertsdale, Niceville, Monroe County, Greenville, Booker T. Washington, Hillcrest and Smiths Station.
T.R. Miller, which takes a 5-5 record (through Thursday's play) into the tournament, opens up against Georgiana Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the last of eight first-round games played that day.
If the Tigers win their opening contest, they will play the Jay-Excel winner Wednesday at 8 p.m. A loss would send T.R. Miller to the consolation bracket where it would play the Jay-Excel loser Wednesday at 12:50 p.m.
The mystery team of the tournament is probably Culleoka (Tenn.).
Much like the small school side of the bracket, the large school division also figures to be wide open.
Both of the tournament's state ranked teams are on this side of the bracket. J.F. Shields is 6-4 and ranked number one in the state in Class 1A. Booker T. Washington is ranked ninth in Class 5A with a 5-1 record.
Greenville, which won the tournament in 2003 and finished third last year, figures to be another prominent force this year. The Tigers are a somewhat modest 5-3, but have played a difficult 5A-6A caliber schedule so far.
Greenville also fields the biggest name in the tournament, literally, in 6-7, 320-pound center Josh Hawkins. Hawkins has signed to play football at the University of Louisville.
The tournament is a homecoming for Smiths Station coach Dewayne Drakeford, who graduated from Brewton Southern Normal School and is the uncle of former T.R. Miller and Jefferson Davis College player Ryheen Drakeford.
Atkinson said Niceville (Fla.) may be the tournament's biggest sleeper.