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SJIT cancelled

September 27, 2002|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

A 29-year basketball tradition came to a close as Saint James School announced Thursday it will not host the Saint James Invitational Tournament in February 2003.

A press release from the school said the decision not to hold the tournament was made "with regret, as Saint James is proud to have hosted such a competitive tournament."

Saint James athletic director Paul Salit said there was not one overriding factor that the tournament would not be played, but several reasons contributed to the decision.

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"It came down to a number of things, among them was the perception that the tournament brought in a lot of money," Salit said. "As the tournament got bigger, the cost of it outdid the amount that we brought in."

Other factors Salit cited were the tremendous workload placed on the administration and staff over the tournament weekend and a concern that the school put such an emphasis on an event for the boys athletic program but did not have a comparable event for the girls program.

"There may be an idea that we're scaling back the athletic program, but that's not the case," Salit said. "We feel this is a way to enhance all of our teams, not just the one.

"This was really not a hasty decision. We had a lot of meetings, did a lot of research."

The SJIT had grown from a modest regional tournament in 1974 to one of the top high school basketball showcases on the east coast, attracting some of the best teams and players in the nation on a yearly basis.

The tournament has seen some incredible talent over the last 29 years, players who have gone on to major college programs and some to the pro ranks.

Tracey McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Dennis Scott, Ron Mercer, Terence Morris, Jason Capel, Lawrence Moten and Randolph Childress are just a few of the stars who have played in the SJIT.

The late cancellation of the tournament has sent some coaches and athletic directors scrambling to find games to fill the now vacant three-day block on their schedule.

"My only concern was all the teams that had made commitments to play," Thomas Johnson coach and athletic director Tom Dickman said. "I wish they would have kept their commitment. To cancel it this late doesn't sit well with me."

Dickman's disappointment in the cancellation was two-fold. His team won the tournament last year in its seventh appearance.

Now, the Patriots will not get a chance to defend their title.

"We had some good experiences there and some tough ones, too," Dickman said. "The kids always liked playing there. I think it was a big deal for Hagerstown, too. It's a shame that it had to end."

Bruce Kelley, the St. John's at Prospect Hall coach and athletic director, said he has a good news/bad news scenerio.

"We look forward to the St. James tournament," Kelley said. "Make no mistake. We thought it was a good opportunity to show people in the area just how good we are. It's been a big part of our season for a long time."

Kelley then pointed to the 2003-2004 season when SJPH will compete in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, a high-powered conference featuring several independant powers in the state.

"That will give us an opportunity to play against top-level talent," he said.

But, for this year, there's a void.

"We're looking for games," Kelley said. "If you know of anyone looking for a game, have them give me a call at the school (301-662-4210)."

Staff writer Al Ditzel

contributed to this story.

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