Thanksgiving is tournament time

Nov. 29, 2013 @ 12:27 PM

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, a retail bonanza for many Americans.

But if you’re a high school basketball player, you’re likely shopping for buckets instead of deals today.

“It’s awful because you’re very full from the day before,” said Sevier County’s Brittany Tarr. “You’ve just got to push through it. By the second game, third game you’re back to normal.”

It may be tough to digest all that Thanksgiving food and get back on the court, but many coaches around Sevier County view Thanksgiving tournaments as beneficial. Not only do the events prevent players from having an extended layoff but they also give teams experience against unknown opponents. It’s all a preparation for the postseason.

“Basketball’s a tournament sport,” said Seymour girls coach Brandi Stallings. “Any kind of tournament you can get in, it prepares you for later in the season: going into the district tournament, the region tournament, playing back-to-back nights, getting the kids mentally prepared for that kind of stuff.”

Most of the county’s teams are participating in events this weekend, including five teams at Heritage High School. Gatlinburg-Pittman, Sevier County as well as Seymour’s girls are in that tournament in Maryville. Seymour’s boys are at Karns while Pigeon Forge opened up a tournament at Union County on Tuesday against The King’s Academy. The Lion girls hosted a Thanksgiving Classic last week.

For the Smoky Bears, this weekend provides a nice bonding experience especially after their roster grew with the addition of football players last week. Trent Pope said he’s looking forward to a weekend of friends and basketball.

“We get more team unity,” Pope said. “We’re out of school, so we’re hanging out at each other’s houses and stuff. We’re talking about what we’re going to do Friday and Saturday when we play. ... It’s good to hang out with the guys on a holiday.”

There’s not unanimous love for Thanksgiving events. The Pigeon Forge girls aren’t playing in any tournaments. Coach Paul Reagan said the Tigers will practice this week but he likes to give his team a few days off from games. Seymour boys coach Tony Buell said he may reconfigure his schedule next year to play two Christmas tournaments.

“That way you’re not pushing your football players in,” Buell said. “That’s exactly what I did last year with my Carter schedule. They’re not playing a Thanksgiving tournament. They’ll be practicing a lot, but they’re playing in two Christmas tournaments, which gives you a little more time.”

Gatlinburg-Pittman boys coach A.J. Bennett said he likes playing holiday tournaments so his athletes don't face long layoffs. It's all about staying strong for the meat of the season in January. 

"You try to build some momentum, so you keep playing," Bennett said. "You don't want to take a lot of time off. We'll do the same thing at Christmas. We'll play right up to Christmas then we'll give the guys a few days off. We'll try to keep that momentum going because around the holidays you can lose momentum. We want to keep building momentum."