While the St. Hope Elite Hoop Classic boys basketball tournament has expanded to a record 32 teams, the school to beat remains the host, the Sacramento High Dragons, when the four-day event tips off Saturday at three gymnasiums: Salvation Army, Dr. Ephraim Williams Family Life Center and the Dave Hotell Pavilion.
Sac High, the defending champion, has one of its better squads in recent seasons. The Dragons are led by scholarship signees Solomon Young, a senior forward headed to Iowa State, and Christian Terrell, who senior guard bound for UC Santa Barbara. Both are four-year starters.
The Dragons are 6-0 after winning the Valley Children’s Hospital Tip-Off Invitational in Clovis and the prestigious Gridley Invitational for the first time in eight tries. They are ranked No. 1 in the state in Division II by Maxpreps.com and No. 54 nationally by USA Today.
“Most of these kids have been with me for four years, so it’s a good group,” said Sac High coach and tournament director Derek Swafford.
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The Dragons will be immediately tested in the challenging, 16-team elite Platinum bracket. They’ll face Eisenhower of Rialto at 6 p.m. Saturday.
8 Teams from The Bee’s Top 20 that will play in the St. Hope Elite Hoop Classic boys basketball tournament
The teams to watch include Central Section No. 1 Clovis North, state No. 9 Weston Ranch of Stockton, defending North Coast Section Division II champion El Cerrito and its Montana-bound star Sayeed Pridgett, perennial Bay Area power Newark Memorial and 2014-15 CIF Southern California Regional Division II finalist Lawndale.
Eight of The Bee’s top 12 teams also are entered, highlighted by No. 4 Woodcreek and national recruit Jordan Brown, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, and talent-ladened No. 6 Capital Christian, led by Tiegen Jones, who has accepted a Fresno State baseball scholarship. Also entered are No. 7 Burbank, No. 8 Kennedy, No. 9 Oak Ridge, No. 11 Granite Bay and No. 12 Christian Brothers.
All will compete in the Platinum bracket.
Swafford started the event 14 years ago with eight teams. It has been as large as 16, but expanding to 32 has been on Swafford’s wish list for the past five years.
“There’s always been a void up here,” Swafford said. “There isn’t a tournament of this size in Northern California.”
He credits the Sacramento Sports Commission, more than two dozen sponsors and nearly 50 volunteers for helping to make it happen.
In Saturday’s opening round, nine games will be played at Sac High’s remodeled Dave Hotell Pavilion, four at the Salvation Army Ray Robinson Oak Park Community Center and three at the Dr. Ephraim Family Life Center.
The tournament will resume Monday and continue through Wednesday at the three sites. The Gold bracket championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the Platinum bracket final for 8:30 p.m., both at Sac High.
Swafford said a fellowship brunch will be held Sunday for the players. Among the speakers will be Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn, a Sac High graduate, and Rapid Ramen Cooker entrepreneur Chris Johnson.
For more on the tournament or to follow the results, go to http://bit.ly/1ZeQlTK.
SATURDAY’S OPENING-ROUND SCHEDULE
Sacramento High School
9 a.m. – Fairfield vs. Pleasant Grove
10:30 a.m. – Burbank vs. Clovis North
Noon – Weston Ranch vs. Capital Christian
1:30 p.m. – Christian Brothers vs. El Cerrito
3 p.m. – Kennedy vs. Newark Memorial
4:30 p.m. – Oak Ridge vs. Lawndale
6 p.m.– Eisenhower vs. Sacramento
7:30 p.m. – West Ranch vs. Woodcreek
9 p.m. – Granite Bay vs. Hawthorne
Salvation Army Ray Robinson Community Center
Noon – Pittsburg vs. Whitney
1:30 p.m. – Jesse Bethel vs. Tokay
3 p.m. – Johnson vs. Ponderosa
4:30 p.m. – Valley vs. Cordova
Dr. Ephraim Family Life Center
1 p.m. – River City vs. St. Mary’s
2:30 p.m. – McClatchy vs. Foothill
4 p.m. – Centennial vs. Florin
Tickets (sold only at the gate, no CIF, league or referee passes honored)
Single-day ticket (adult) – $10
Single-day ticket (senior: 62-and-over) – $8
Single-day ticket (child: 6-12) – $5
Students with I.D. card – $5
Children (5-and-under) – Free
Pep Squad and bands – Free (in uniform)