Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 31, 2014

Hundreds hoop it up

Annual tournament sharpens skills

BLUEFIELD — March madness and ice have gone together this month. Both were present on Sunday at the Herb Sims Youth Center for the final rounds of the annual West Virginia ICE March Madness Basketball Tournament.

The competition involved approximately 25 teams, coming from as far away as North Carolina, said tournament organizer Tony Webster.

In addition to four Bluefield-based entries, squads also hailed from Princeton and Christiansburg, Va., he said. The tournament advertised divisions from third through 12th grade.

“With 12 players on each team, some with 15, I’d say (we have) close to 300 to 400 kids out here, easy,” Webster said.

The ninth-and-10th-grade Bluefield squad was playing a spirited game with a Princeton team outfitted in bright-blue-and-orange jerseys on Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd of about 100 watching from the bleachers above the playing floor.

Groups of little children wearing basketball outfits looked on from the corners of the gym.

Webster said, “That’s the main thing. That’s what I like to see. They could be playing PlayStation, they could be out running the streets doing some things that they shouldn’t be doing, but they chose to participate in basketball.”

“That was one of the reasons that we did this in the past, in the Bluefield Housing Authority, to try to use basketball as an incentive to get kids off the street and get them to do positive things through basketball. And it’s really paid off.”

Webster is the president and head coach of the West Virginia ICE.

“That (ICE) stands for intelligence, confidence and excellence,” he said. “It’s a traveling team that we put together in Bluefield with local kids, and we travel as far as North Carolina. We go to Myrtle Beach for our nationals every year.”

“It keeps our kids playing basketball. That’s one of the reasons, I think, that our high school has been very successful, because we have these young ones (who are) learning, the way we teach them now, and it continues on to the middle school and high school.”

“I’ve been involved with it the last four years,” said the Bluefield High School assistant coach. “We used to be called the Bluefield Blazers, and that started back in 1992, the traveling ball (program). So I’ve been doing this for a real, real long time.”

He works hard to get out-of-state teams involved in the annual tournament.

“It’s good for our kids to see different type of talent from other areas, and different types of basketball,” he said.

“When you see the teams from other states, they play basketball a little bit different from West Virginia. But everybody has a little bit different style of basketball. To see different styles just makes us a little bit better.”

As an example, he mentioned Team Upcoming, a fifth-grade North Carolina team that “played up” in the tournament’s sixth-grade bracket. “They were really, really awesome,” he said.

He said local players “know they can dominate in this area, but when you get outside the state, it gets a little bit tougher, especially North Carolina and Kentucky and Ohio.”

He noted that Sunday’s high-school-age championship game pitted two Bluefield teams — seniors and 11th-grade underclassmen.

“It was a very competitive game,” Webster said. “Our underclassmen lost by two points, which is a good thing, because we know we have a pretty good nucleus coming back.”

“We have a good thing going with these kids,” Webster said. “We’re going to try to keep this thing running.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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