The 2007 Deep South Classic basketball tournament, which released its field Tuesday, will feature 13 Gwinnett teams this year, including the reigning USA Today girls basketball national champion Collins Hill.
The Collins Hill girls return to the Deep South for the first time since 2003, when they won the tournament championship. The Eagles have won the past three Class AAAAA state championships as well as last season's national title.
A demanding national schedule with Connecticut signee Maya Moore, who graduated this spring, kept Collins Hill from scheduling a trip to the Deep South. But head coach Tracey Tipton's team is back in the Dec. 26-29 event, along with the tourney's 2006 champions, the South Gwinnett girls and the Milton boys. Milton is now coached by former Berkmar coach David Boyd, who led Berkmar to state titles in 2000 and 2001.
The tournament will be hosted again by Brookwood and South Gwinnett.
"It's amazing how many of these teams played well into the postseason last year and in compiling information on them for this season, it's obvious there will be some highly competitive matchups early," Deep South tournament director Les Witmer said. "There should be lots of interest in our Deep South Classic top prospects for 2007 that we put together for our college coaches and recruiters."
The 17th annual Deep South features five Gwinnett programs that will bring both boys and girls teams to the event - co-hosts Brookwood and South along with Collins Hill, Greater Atlanta Christian and Wesleyan. Also in the field are boys teams from Dacula, Peachtree Ridge and Shiloh.
Ten out-of-state teams have accepted invitations with the Nitro (W.Va.) girls making the longest trip. Regular participant Chattahoochee, the boys runner-up last season, also returns to the tourney. Teams also are coming from Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
Travel for out-of-town teams is more of an issue this year since the Deep South begins Dec. 26, the day after Christmas.
"It will be tricky setting up the brackets this year," Witmer said. "We attempt to have boys and girls teams from the same school play their first game in back-to-back time slots in the same gyms, have teams from the same region play in different parts of the brackets so if they do meet it would be in the finals, and do as much of the pairings as we can on known strengths. We also have to consider where teams are traveling from."