By Michael Bower
Some of the most talented boys basketball teams from across the nation and and Canada will be in town for the 23rd annual Under Armour Holiday Classic Basketball tournament, which tips off Wednesday, Dec. 26 at various venues across the county, including Rancho Bernardo High School.
Poway and Rancho Bernardo will be playing in the Governors Division, which is just one of five different divisions (National Division, American Division, Senators Division, Mayors Division) that are organized based on strength of teams.
The National Division, which features the strongest teams, will be played at Torrey Pines and Carlsbad. It is loaded with some of the highest-ranked squads from around the country, including Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, Newark Memorial, Salesian, Sheldon and Taft. St. John’s from Houston and Lincoln of Washington will also be in the division.
Some of the top players to watch are Cal-bound Jabari Bird of Salesian, 6-foot-9 sophomore power forward Ivan Rabb of Bishop O’Dowd (No. 2 player in country for class of 2015), 6-5 junior Justise Winslow of St. John’s (No. 9 player in country for class of 2014), 7-footer Kameron Rooks of Mission Hills and Cal-bound junior Ahmaad Rorie of Lincoln.
There will also be a pair of San Diego State commits playing in Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams of Sheldon.
The Broncos and Titans will play their opening games in the Governors Division on Wednesday. Rancho Bernardo will face Bishop’s at 2:45 p.m., while Poway will face Brea Olinda at 4:20 p.m.
The Governors Division has 12 teams, including Robert Bateman High of Canada, McQueen High of Nevada and Cienaga of Arizona. Games in this division will be played Wednesday, Dec. 26 through Dec. 29 -- all at Rancho Bernardo High School. The championship game will be the 29th at 6:40 p.m.
Poway has struggled thus far, winning just one of its first eight contests. The Titans have had a few key injuries and players out due to sickness early in the year. It also didn’t help when senior guard Derek Babiash, who is committed to Arizona for football, recently decided not to play basketball.
That has left a group of inexperienced players on the court for the Titans. But a tournament like this one gives Poway a chance to build camaraderie before the start of Palomar League play in January.
“I think, especially for us, the more opportunities my young, inexperienced guys get the better,” Poway coach Aaron Little said. “The reality is cross league and league play are the two most important parts of the season. All the stuff we can do before that helps us in long run.”
The tournament will run through Dec. 29, concluding with the National Division championship game at 8:15 p.m. at Torrey Pines High.
For a complete schedule and game updates, visit theholidayclassic.org.
DEL NORTE HOOPS:
The Nighthawks will be playing in the Mt. Carmel Holiday Classic, which also opens Wednesday, Dec. 26.
Del Norte will face San Pasqual at 12:30 p.m. in its first-round game at Mt. Carmel High.
The tournament will conclude with the championship game on Dec. 29.