The state AAU 17-under basketball tournament will take place Friday through Sunday at Northeast High School and Eckerd College's MacArthur Gym. It is the first time the tournament has been held in Pinellas County. The tournament, whose host team is the Pinellas-based Suncoast All-Stars, is for players 17 and under but it may include 18-year-olds if they have one year of high school eligibility remaining.
Sixteen teams from around the state will compete in the double-elimination tournament, with action starting Friday at Northeast. The championship game is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Sunday at Northeast.
The Suncoast All-Stars, which consists of top players from Pinellas County, start Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Northeast against Manatee.
Five other area teams are playing. The Tampa Falcons open the tournament against Bradenton at 1:30 p.m. Friday and Clearwater plays Tampa Bay at MacArthur at 2 p.m. Friday.
Brandon plays Hernando at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at MacArthur. Brandon won the Region V Sunshine State Games eight-team tournament held last weekend at Leto High and features players from Plant City, Armwood, Bloomingdale, Clearwater Central Catholic and Brandon high schools.
Still, Suncoast is one of the top four seeds in the field and is considered a strong favorite to win the tournament. Other top teams include Orlando, Southwest Florida and Gainesville.
"I think we have the talent to do very well," said Suncoast coach Dave Redding. "We match up well size-wise and have plenty of depth."
Among the Suncoast players are Anthony Brown of Lakewood and Dametri Hill of Dixie Hollins. Brown and Hill both helped lead the Suncoast 19-under all-stars to a state championship last month and are considered two of the state's top college prospects next year. However, Hill will miss the first game because of a basketball camp he is attending.
Other players include Boca Ciega's Rodney Chatman, Gibbs' Antwan Smith and Largo's Bill Millman.
The tournament champion will represent Florida at a national tournament in July. It is possible that two teams could advance to the national tournament.
Admission to the tournament is $2 for adults and $1 for students and children.