By Steve Jones
Just days after the World Series ends, the college basketball season begins. And there will be few places in the country holding a bigger tipoff event than Stevenson University's Owings Mills Gym.
From Nov. 16-18, Stevenson will host the nation's largest NCAA Division III tournament held on a college campus, the first-ever Hoopsville National Invitational Classic. Eight men's teams from five different states and Washington, D.C., will partake in the three-day tournament, including host Stevenson, 2001 Division III national champion Catholic University, Transylvania, UMass-Boston, Franciscan, Gallaudet, St. Mary's (Md.) and Randolph-Macon.
Only the 20-team D3hoops.com Classic, Dec. 27-29 in Las Vegas, will have a larger field than the Hoopsville event.
The tournament tips off at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 with a game between Catholic and Transylvania. Four games are scheduled for Nov. 17, including Gallaudet against Stevenson. The Hoopsville Classic concludes Nov. 18 with Stevenson taking on UMass-Boston during the second of three games that afternoon.
Stevenson men's basketball coach Gary Stewart and athletic director Brett Adams developed the tournament concept. The Mustangs had previously participated in the Pride of Maryland tournament, which included the in-state Division III teams. When the Pride of Maryland was discontinued after five years, Stewart and Adams decided to start a tournament that would bring several nationally recognized Division III programs to the Stevenson campus.
"The Pride of Maryland … [was] a great tournament, one of the best in the country," Adams said. "We didn't want our tournament to compete with the D3hoops Classic, but we did want to follow that format."
Adams and Stewart approached Dave McHugh, D3sports.com broadcast director and host of the twice-weekly "Hoopsville" television program, which spotlights Division III basketball.
"We knew that we had a really good concept, a great location and an outstanding facility to offer," Stewart said. "We wanted to do something special and unique. This is a real showcase for college basketball in Maryland, and the tournament has been well received throughout the Division III basketball community."
The eight teams are gathering for more than just basketball competition. The Classic will honor the nation's veterans, and tournament proceeds will benefit Goucher player Damone Brooks. As a freshman at Goucher last season, Brooks averaged 7.7 points per game, but was paralyzed after an accident in April.
"Since the tournament is the weekend after Veterans' Day, we are making sure that we honor our veterans at that time," Adams said. "Our effort to help Damone Brooks is a part of being in this community. We can bring attention to this young man and his family. And the players will feel that it's not just about basketball. They will know that they have helped a fellow human being."
The event brings together four Division III teams that were ranked in the D3hoops.com national top 25 last winter -- Catholic, Randolph-Macon, St. Mary's and Transylvania. Randolph-Macon, St. Mary's and Transylvania advanced to the 2012 NCAA Division III tournament.
In addition to the tournament opener between Catholic and Transylvania, Hoopsville's marquee matchups include Randolph-Macon against Transylvania (8 p.m. Saturday) and St. Mary's versus Randolph-Macon during the tournament finale (4 p.m. Sunday).
"We wanted to schedule as many top 25 teams as we could," said Adams, who coached the Stevenson men's basketball team for 17 years.
Led by second-year coach Stewart and top scorer Brett Burrier (14 points per game last season), the Mustangs begin their 2012-13 campaign against Gallaudet and UMass-Boston, whose feature player is 2012 Little East Conference Rookie of the Year Vinny DeLucia. Stewart said he thought the attractive tournament field would help boost Stevenson's national profile.
"This tournament is vitally important for us, because we'll have an elite level of competition here," said Stewart, who has won 236 games as a coach at each of the three NCAA levels of competition. "We want to be a national-caliber program, and we need to align ourselves with these kinds of college basketball programs."
More Cheap Seats:
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• Jennings Goes Ironman For Brigance Brigade
• Veteran Goalie Thornton Returns To Alma Mater
• Blast Pitch In To Help School Shooting Victim
• Stevenson Will Play Host For Jumbo D-III Tourney
Issue 178: October 2012