Posted: Friday, 18 January 2013 11:53PM

Players, coaches, enjoy T of C experience

Montverde Academy head coach Kevin Boyle makes no bones about it.  "Our goal is to be the number one team in the nation," he says.  And his Eagles from the Orlando, Florida area travel all over the country in search of that national recognition, including a trip to Springfield for the Tournament of Champions.

After playing in the championship on the T of C on Saturday, Montverde will head to another Springfield--Massachusetts, home of the basketball Hall of Fame, to face Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nevada in a battle of nationall ranked number one teams.  Montverde is top-ranked by ESPN while Findlay is top-ranked by USA Today.

Everywhere the Eagles go, they attrack attention with fans asking for autographs and photos.  But despite all their travels across the country, Montverde realizes that the Springfield event is special.  According to Dakari Johnson, the team's 6-10 center who's headed for Kentucky, "we heard it's a great tournament for excitement and a great event to play in."

Head Coach Kevin Boyle has visited with other coaches across the country and found them all bragging about the Tournament of Champions for its "crowds, enthusiasm and hospitality."

It is a theme you hear often from all the coaches and players.  The fans, who make the T of C the highest attended high school event in the country, are constantly mentioned as a reason for the tournament's great reputation.

Among the fans taking in the first night of action was University of Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, who was in Springfield to watch Little Rock Hall stand-out Bobby Portis, a Razorback signee.  "The history of this event speaks for itself," Anderson said in explaining why fans keep turning out.  "The history of great players goes back many years for Arkansas fans to Todd Day and Anthony Peeler for Mizzou fans."  Anderson even remembers coming to the tournament not so long ago when he was head coach of Mizzou as well.

Unfortunately, the fans at this year's event did not get to see the top-rated player who was scheduled to appear at the T of C.  Julius Randle, the #2 rated player in the nation, is a 6-9 forward for Prestonwood Christian of Plano, Texas.   A broken foot is keeping him out of the tournament.  "I have several friends who've played in the tournament and I was really looking forward to being in it," Randle said.  "But I'm trying to take it easy and not come back too soon."

But the overall experience of just being here is appreciated both on-and-off the court.  Derrick Taylor, the head coach of St. John Bosco out of Bellflower, California says these kinds of trips serve as a bonding experience for his players and "it's great for our players to see other parts of the country and see how our team stacks up against other teams from different areas."

And of course, most of the teams will stop by Missouri's top tourist attraction while in Springfield.  It's the tournament's sponsor, Bass Pro Shops.  While there are now other Bass Pros across the country,  a player from Bullitt East in Mount Washington, Kentucky exclaimed, "this one is bigger and has more live animals than the one we have in Kentucky.  It's nice.  The people here are all nice.  And Missouri State is really nice."

So when it comes to public relations, the Tournament of Champions is definitely doing a lot for the Ozarks.

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