Augusta's basketball fans will get the chance to see live action for the first time this weekend when 61 high school basketball teams from across Georgia and South Carolina descend on the area to begin preseason play.
Evans, Glenn Hills and Richmond Academy will play host to the GA-lina Hoops Preview, which will feature 23 girls and 23 boys teams in a full day's worth of games Saturday. At the same time, North Augusta's Riverview Park will hold the Palmetto Shootout with 16 boys teams from South Carolina competing in two- quarter scrimmages.
"There's going to be some quality teams coming in," Evans boys basketball coach Kevin Kenny said. "It's a great way to tip off high school basketball season around here."
The GA-lina Hoops Preview is a first-year event brought together by the GA/lina Sports Group, led by director of operations Sam Ward and Westside graduate and former NBA player William Avery.
"Augusta sees some of the top basketball talent in the country with the Peach Jam and Nike Nationals," Ward said. "We want to do the same for high school basketball with this."
Dublin's boys basketball team, the defending Class AA state champions, will be one of 16 teams to play at Glenn Hills. Keenan's boys, who reached the South Carolina Class AA state semifinals last year, will play at Class AAAA state semifinalist Richmond Academy. Laney's girls, who finished one game shy of the Class AA state finals last year, will also play at Richmond Academy against Dutch Fork.
In North Augusta, defending Class AAAA state champion Goose Creek and Class AAA state runner-up Greer will be a part of a field that will play two-quarter scrimmages in a 16-team tournament.
Strom Thurmond, Aiken and South Aiken will be the local teams in attendance, and the event will also be a homecoming of sorts for three coaches. Former Aiken boys basketball coach Thomas Ryan, now coaching at Dorman High, former South Aiken coach Donnie Holland, now at Nation Ford, and former Silver Bluff coach John Combs, now at Ridge View, will bring their teams to the tournament.
Ryan will face his former team when Dorman plays Aiken in the first round Saturday at 12:40 p.m.
"It's an exciting time for all coaches right now, but for me it's even better because it's a chance to come home," Ryan said. "I try to come back as much as I can, but I've never done something like this. It'll be interesting."
Georgia teams can begin regular season play as early as Saturday, while South Carolina schools won't begin the regular season until Nov. 30 at the earliest.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.