St. James tourney will be missed

February 10, 2003|by MARK KELLER

Elsewhere on this page is a story about the St. James Invitational Tournament, or in this case, the lack of the SJIT this season.

I don't have quite the memories of the SJIT as former St. James athletic director Chick Meehan, who attended every SJIT but one - and he missed that year merely because his mother had passed away.

I had heard of the tournament and read the game reports over the years, but I had never attended one until I covered it for the first time in 1997.


That was the year Tracy McGrady, who was entertaining the idea of jumping from high school to the NBA, was the tournament's main attraction.

McGrady was the tournament's outstanding player that year and, as most of you know, he has gone on to become one of the top players in the world.

Of course, there will be no St. James Invitational this year. The tournament was folded by school administration five months ago for a variety of reasons, including the increased costs involved in running the three-day weekend.

That's understandable. In this day and age, when LeBron James is on the front page of every sports section in the country and the lead story on SportsCenter, the top high school teams are seeking more and more in appearance fees.

And they're getting it, albeit from tournaments in much larger markets than Hagerstown - and from corporate sponsors like Nike.

So, until a large corporate sponsor steps up and underwrites a tournament like the SJIT, we'll probably never see anything like it in this area again for a long, long time.

There's been talk of a tournament featuring local teams to be held at Hagerstown Community College. Four Eastern Panhandle teams are reportedly looking into hosting a tournament featuring four out-of-area teams at Shepherd College.

But unless those teams are of the same caliber as Oak Hill, Montrose Christian or Thomas Johnson, it simply won't be the same.

And even if they got those teams, it still wouldn't be completely the same.

There wouldn't be that close-to-the-action feel you got at St. James.

There wouldn't be the high school atmosphere in the larger college arenas that you got in Alumni Hall.

Heck, there wouldn't even be the great food that you didn't mind waiting a few minutes in line for.

Unfortunately, those days are lost. So cherish those SJIT memories.

They'll have to last you for a while.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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