It certainly doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the return of a premier high school basketball tournament like Slam Dunk to the Beach will buoy the Delaware sports scene. A national field featuring renowned programs from seven different states as well as the District of Columbia brings instant excitement to the First State sports calendar during the final week of the year.
The tournament, long a staple of the national high school basketball calendar, is returning for the first time since 2003. For 13 years Slam Dunk to the Beach hosted some of the nation’s premier players, including LeBron James (’01), Dwight Howard (’03), Kevin Durant (’03), Carmelo Anthony (’00) and J.J. Redick (’01), all now NBA superstars.
“It fills a void on the schedule,” says News Journal reporter Kevin Tresolini, who has been covering sports in the state of Delaware for more than three decades. “There is certainly a lot of recognition that comes with the name. Anybody who has been around for a little while, when you say ‘Slam Dunk to the Beach,’ they know exactly what you’re talking about. That type of recognition is good for the state and it’s good for everyone involved. I think it’s great that it’s back.”
How lasting is the impression that recognition can make?
“I was covering the U.S. men’s basketball team at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing and I was talking to Tayshaun Prince,” Tresolini recalls. “He was an All-Star in the NBA at the time and competing for a gold medal mind you, but when I got done interviewing him I couldn’t resist saying to him, ‘the last time I talked to you was on the basketball court at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Delaware.’ And he immediately got a big smile on his face and yelled excitedly, ‘Slam Dunk to the Beach!’ He remembered it right away. It resonated with him.”
That type of imprint on the memory is important not just on the court. The same way Prince can still recall his time playing in Slam Dunk to the Beach more than 15 years ago, folks that make their way to Lewes for the three-day basketball showcase also enjoy fond memories of the beach area they visit.
“It is a wonderful event that brings notoriety and celebrity to Delaware,” says Barbara Brewer, the Director of Marketing and Sales at the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center—which is one of Slam Dunk to the Beach’s three host hotels. “Now that people are aware of some of the huge stars that participated in Slam Dunk to the Beach before anyone knew who they were, those same people realize that a destination event is being housed in Sussex County. It’s a real noteworthy thing for the Lewes-Rehoboth area in general.”
Brewer raises what may be the most significant contribution Slam Dunk to the Beach makes to Delaware: a shot in the arm to the beach area during its offseason.
“Typically that period in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is especially slow, so having the Slam Dunk [to the Beach] come in at that particular time is not only a boost to business, but is a boom to Sussex County as a whole,” Brewer said. “The May-through-September stretch is very heavily populated with tourists and beach visitors. That’s our busiest time of the year obviously…The December-January period, even stretching into February, is a relatively slow time for us. So [Slam Dunk to the Beach] is certainly well timed for us and really the entire area.”
Brewer points out that the challenge is getting people to change their preconceived notions of when is and is not a good time to head to the beach.
“Anytime there is an event here that takes place in the offseason, and particularly in the winter, it helps to highlight how beautiful the beach is,” Brewer insists. “Most people think of the beach as a summertime location, but the beach really is breathtaking at any point of the year, especially during the winter. I think Slam Dunk to the Beach is the perfect venue to help highlight the fact that there are things to do and that the beach is beautiful even during the offseason.”
Tresolini agrees with that sentiment.
“Location is always important and you’re at the beach,” the veteran reporter points out. “Even though it’s the wintertime, it’s just so beautiful and everybody likes to be at the beach, so I really think that adds a lot to the event. The timing is pretty neat too. It’s between Christmas and New Year’s so people are still caught up in the Christmas spirit. People enjoy being together that time of year and I always looked forward to going down there for that atmosphere.”
That in a nutshell is what makes Slam Dunk to the Beach so special. Great basketball, a showcase event for future stars of the sport, and an infusion of activity that will greatly benefit Sussex County’s economy at a time of year it can certainly use it.
That’s the ultimate definition of the old term, win-all-around.
A national slate of high school teams will participate in the much-anticipated return of the Slam Dunk to the Beach basketball tournament, which will be held at Cape Henlopen High School from December 27-29, 2014. The field is headlined by several schools who annually occupy spots in the national rankings. Sunrise Christian Academy (Wichita, KS), Our Savior New American School (Centereach, NY), Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) and Ss. John Neumann-Goretti High School (Philadelphia, PA) will all spend their winter break in the First State.
A limited number of three-day tournament tickets are available for purchase. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit slamdunktothebeach.com or follow the tournament on Facebook at Slam Dunk to the Beach or via twitter under the handle @SlamDunkToBeach.