Yeah Mon! NCAA Hoops has come to Jamaica.
By Bill Roth
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA -- In Jamaica, the locals enjoy a laid-back vibe, incredible tropical scenery with lush mountains and turquoise waters. The economy is heavily based on tourism, the music is reggae and the food? Oh wow, the jerk chicken at Scotchie's is everything you'd expect.
"Well, football (soccer) and cricket have always been our primary sports," Donnie Dawson, the country's Deputy Director of Tourism said. "But this, THIS is big for our country."
"This," is a college basketball tournament, the inaugural Jamaica Classic which has brought NCAA college teams to this island nation which sits 560 miles south of Miami smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean Sea for the first time.
The country has some basketball history. Patrick Ewing was born in Kingston, and is Jamaica's greatest hoops legend. But other than that?
"Basketball has great potential here," Dawson said. "Having these teams here is huge for young people in Jamaica. For boys in our country to see this sport in person, to see an actual game up-close, is invaluable."
This afternoon at 2 p.m. ET when Tulane tips-off against Colorado State, it will mark the first-ever NCAA game in this country. Florida State vs. Fordham and Miami-Ohio vs. LIU- Brooklyn follow.
The games will be played inside the new Montego Bay Convention Centre which has been transformed into a sparkling arena for the three day event this weekend.
"It's a great trip for our team, and a way to introduce college basketball to Jamaica," Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy said. The long-time former NBA coach is in his second season at Tulane and while the Montego Bay Convention Centre isn't the Staples Center, there's a sense of excitement filling the tropical air here. "Beautiful court. Friendly people. It's a fun idea."
The teams will all participate in a "Give Back" basketball clinic for area youth tomorrow between sessions.
Surf, Sand, and Hoops. It makes for a nice weekend for everyone.
And for the first time in this country's history, those familiar reggae drum beats will be joined by the sound of a bouncing ball.
NCAA Basketball has come to Jamaica.
You can watch the Jamaica Classic this weekend on CBS Sports Network. Former Auburn Tiger Daymeon Fishback and I will have the call from Montego Bay. To learn more about this event see: www.jamaicaclassic.com.