Back to its roots
Deep South Classic cuts field back to 16

When the Deep South Classic started back in 1991, the tournament fielded 16 teams and Eddie Martin was the head coach at Brookwood.

Since then, the tournament has grown to 32 teams in recent years and Martin won three state championships with Norcross.

Both will go back to their roots today when the tournament tips off for the 18th year. The Deep South is back to 16 teams with a Gwinnett flavor and Martin will back in the Broncos' gym, this time as head coach for Greater Atlanta Christian.

"We've got some very, very strong teams," said Les Witmer, who is in his seventh year as tournament director. "We're always proud of the competition of teams we have here."

The GAC program will be making its 10th appearance in the tournament, the most by any school that isn't one of the hosts. The No. 2 Spartans (6-2) open with first-time Deep South participant Grayson (5-4), which has already won more games this year than it did all last season.

Other local schools include host Brookwood, Peachtree Ridge and Buford. Loganville, North Cobb and first time participants South Cobb and South Forsyth will be in the tournament as well.

And if a recent trend holds up, one of the 16 teams playing in the tournament will win a state championship. That's been the case the last 10 years, including last year's tournament champions in Wesleyan's boys and girls teams.

"The competition should be really good on both sides of the brackets with the boys and girls," Witmer said.

One thing noticeably different about the tournament is there are no out-of-state teams like in years past. The tournament committee decided after last year that it would go back to a 16-team tourney for the first time since 1997. The tournament is played every year the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. With the holidays falling in the middle of the week, it made it difficult to schedule the traditional four-day, 32-team tournament.

With the economy taking a hit and sponsorships difficult to get this year, it also ended up being a smart move. The Deep South Classic has supplemented out-of-state teams in years past for travel and lodging. This year, that would have been difficult to do.

So this year the tournament fields a strong in-state tournament with some of the top programs from Gwinnett.

"I think we're going to have competitive games right out the bat," Witmer said.

One thing the tournament will continue to do is keep recruiters and fans updated with what's going on at the tournament. College coaches can check out the tournament's top players by accessing the recruiting Web page, while fans check out game-by-game summaries.

"I think we've been very fortunate with the level of competition and I think coaches and recruiters like that," Witmer said.

Some of the top players in the tournament include Buford's Blanche Alverson, an Auburn signee, GAC's Trent Wiedeman and Taylor Metzger and Peachtree Ridge's Khalid Mutakabbir

Two of the top teams in Class AA girls basketball are in the tournament. No. 3 Buford and No. 8 GAC are on opposite sides of the bracket and could meet in Tuesday's championship game. Buford is the early season favorite to win it all, but hasn't had much success against GAC in recent years. The two will meet twice this season during Region 6-AA play.

SideBar: Deep South Classic

at Brookwood High School



Gold Gym

2 p.m. - Northwest Whitfield girls vs. Peachtree Ridge

3:45 p.m. - South Cobb boys vs. Peachtree Ridge

5:30 p.m. - Grayson girls vs. GAC

7:15 p.m. - Grayson boys vs. GAC

Maroon Gym

2 p.m. - North Cobb girls vs. Buford

3:45 p.m. - North Cobb boys vs. South Forsyth

5:30 p.m. - Loganville girls vs. Brookwood

7:15 p.m. - Loganville boys vs. Brookwood

Tickets: One-day pass $7, three-day pass $20

Web Site: www.deepsouthclassic.com