Column: High school hoops need a home

Georgia high school basketball is probably as good as it's ever been.

The nation's No. 1 girls player, Maya Moore, is from the Peach State and she plays on the nation's No. 1 team. The nationally ranked Norcross boys can play with anybody in the country, and the Columbia boys are in the same class. That only scratches the surface of Georgia talent.

It's just too bad that the state tournament held for these kids doesn't always do them justice. This year's Class AAAAA tournament could have been in trouble, until the Macon Centreplex stepped in to host the second round and quarterfinal games for the Georgia High School Association.

Some people want to blame the GHSA for not always finding nice sites to host the state basketball tourney, but the organization is in a tough situation. Only so many facilities in north Georgia are big enough to host state tournaments, and some don't seem too interested in hosting Georgia's marquee high school basketball event.

Georgia and Georgia Tech could have the state's top basketball talent (and their younger siblings) on their campus for the high school tourney every year, but neither has jumped up eagerly wanting to host the tourney. Tech hosted the finals and other rounds for years, but conflicting schedules has made it tough in recent years. UGA hasn't hosted a state basketball game in my 10 years at the paper.

"I have to understand it from the perspective of some of our major universities," GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said. "That's the end of their conference season and they don't want to disrupt their practice schedule ... It's an unusual circumstance (to not have options for a host).

"We wish we could be like other states, where they have universities bidding for (the high school tourney). Unfortunately that's not the case."

Instead the GHSA faces a yearly scramble to almost beg for a host site in north Georgia, where the bulk of the AAAAA and AAAA schools lie. Scheduling conflicts pop up and other sites simply don't want to host the two or three consecutive days. Swearngin said he's concerned with the future in AAAAA and AAAA, and a lack of locations up this way could force the early rounds in the higher classes back to Macon every year. Or possibly to a local high school gym.

The early rounds need major help, but the saving grace seems to be the Arena at Gwinnett Center, which hosts the AAAAA and AAAA Final Four to rave reviews.

"I think (we'll be in Gwinnett for awhile)," Swearngin said. "We're very pleased with the Gwinnett Arena. The facility, the desire of the people in Gwinnett to have us and in AAAAA and AAAA all but two regions are in metro Atlanta. So it makes sense."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.