Before Vinsanity (Excerpt)

I enjoyed playing. I enjoyed my teammates. We were all very close. We all grew up together. I just wanted to try. If I could get through it, I had a high tolerance for pain.

 —Vince Carter


Socastee High School was no doubt the appropriate inroads for the Beach Ball Classic to penetrate the market. The gym was big enough to hold decent crowds while consistently selling out, providing a full atmosphere that by itself created a buzz. The location was also key during the early years because despite some of the teams who were coming to Myrtle Beach, a 100 percent neutral site might not have worked.

Dan D’Antoni knew at times he was relying on his own fans to fill the gym. He could work his connections with minimal red tape, bringing in a last-minute group of people when necessary to close any gaps in the stands, something that happened less than anyone could have expected. Still, when he needed to, a quick phone call or two usually did the trick. D’Antoni had significant control of all things Beach Ball, if for no other reason than that his office was just down the hall from where the tournament’s twelve games (1982–91), twenty-one games (1992) or twenty-two games (1993) were being played.

The decision to move the tournament to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in 1994, then, was not without its potential drawbacks.

“It was woven into the fabric of Socastee basketball. The reason it was done was Socastee basketball,” D’Antoni said. “Now it’s taken a different turn. But when it gathered its reputation, it was a part of Socastee basketball.…We worried about going from a small venue to a large venue. Would it take away from things? It did take away some of the intimacy of the venue. But it gave us a broader reach in the community.”

The tournament, which had expanded in 1992 by adding a secondary field to get more games without watering down the main event, no longer belonged simply to one high school. Moving north a few miles into the renovated Convention Center in the heart of the city gave the area’s power brokers a bigger stake in the Classic. The city agreed to essentially donate the use of the facility to the tournament organizers. The price might not have been monetary, but use of the new location did come with some increased pressure to recruit the right teams and players. A dud of a tournament wasn’t an option. And the first Beach Ball to take place in the Convention Center didn’t disappoint.

St. Patrick and Paterson Catholic, a pair of teams from New Jersey, came in that December ranked tenth and twelfth, respectively, in the nation. Eau Claire, the 1986 Classic champion, was No. 15, and Harlan, another of D’Antoni’s invitees from Kentucky, was No. 16.

In terms of individual talent, there was plenty of that to go around. Thirteen players entered the season with All-American honors from at least one publication. In-state product B.J. McKie, New Mexico Military Institute’s Taymo Domzalski, Thomson guard Vonteego Cummings and Providence’s Antawn Jamison were among those, with rising juniors Jermaine O’Neal from Eau Claire and Shaheen Holloway from St. Patrick also in the mix. Tim Thomas, another future NBA player, was there, too.

Without that collection of high school hoops royalty, more people might have been paying attention to what happened to Vince Carter.

“You’re in shock at first. You can’t believe that just happened,” said Charles Brinkerhoff, who coached the eventual North Carolina and NBA star at Mainland (Florida) High School. “I had a lot to say to the refs. I remember saying, ‘You allowed this to happen. You created this situation.’ Kids on any team will do what their coaches or the officials allow them to do. Whether the coach actually ordered it or not, I have no idea about that. But the officials were not calling any of the physicality. They were letting Vince get pushed and banged and hit. It escalated [to] that point.”


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