COLUMN By DICK VanOLINDA The York Dispatch
High school basketball season may still be five months away, but some of the top female players on the East Coast will display their skills in York this weekend.
The Blue Chip Basketball USA Invitational, the largest girls’ tournament in the country, will make its debut in this area at the Toyota Arena.
The event, which will feature 248 teams from all over the East Coast along with teams from Spain, Canada and Singapore, will start on Thursday and close on Sunday.
Each team in the four divisions (Under 14, Under 15, Under 16, Under 17) will play six games.
“This is a very good tournament,” said Red Lion head girls’ basketball coach Don Dimoff, who has been taking club teams to spring and summer basketball tournaments for 12 years. Dimoff’s high school teams have won 405 games and the last two District 3 Class AAAA titles.
“With six games (one on Thursday, two on Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday), everyone on your team gets some exposure. This is the tournament where (former Red Lion star) Meggan Quinn first started to get her exposure.”
Dimoff’s team competed in the Blue Chip Invitational when the event took place at Penn State.
The NCAA, though, ruled in 2011 that a college can no longer host an AAU tournament because having the competition on its campus gives that college an unfair recruiting advantage.
The York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which landed the tournament, expects nearly 3,000 athletes, along with their coaches, families and friends. The bureau projects that the event will generate an estimated $4 million worth of income for the region.
“When we went to State College, that was always good for team bonding,” Dimoff said. “But having it in our backyard will be nice because we won’t have to travel.”
Along with Dimoff’s Red Lion team, five other teams with local ties are entered in the tournament, according to the Blue Chip website: two Keystone Force teams, York Unity, York Thunder and Bulldog Pride.
Kevin Bankos, who has directed the York Catholic girls’ team to a sparkling 182-17 record and two state AA championships, will be coaching one of the Force teams. The website also lists the names of 93 college coaches who are planning to attend the tournament, but, based on past experience, more than that number are likely to be on hand. Some very high-profile coaches may also attend.
The admission prices are: four-day adult ticket, $30; daily adult ticket, $10; student/senior four-day ticket, $20; and student-senior daily ticket, $6.
Dimoff said the tournament will serve as a barometer for his players, most of whom will have an opportunity to play junior varsity or varsity in the upcoming high school season.
“We’ll use the tournament experience to find out what we need to do to improve as a team, and what each individual needs to do to improve,” he said. “One thing we want to do is make sure we’re getting better each time we play.”
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com or 505-5407.