Proper hoops sites rare

The location of Saturday's Class AAAAA

basketball quarterfinals doesn't make too much sense, particularly in a time where money is tight and high school travel is supposed to be limited.

Why have eight teams from metro Atlanta drive out I-20 to West Georgia?

I'm sure the school's new coliseum is nice, but plenty of people here would rather not make such a drive to play another metro Atlanta team. And truthfully, the Georgia High School Association would rather have the Class AAAAA North quarterfinals somewhere closer to Atlanta, too.

"I think that makes a lot of sense (to have the tourney in metro Atlanta)," GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said Wednesday. "We obviously couldn't use the Gwinnett Arena even if the space was available because we couldn't allow teams access to the same venue for two weeks and then not allow others. We'd hear screams about that.

"But if we have an arena up there that meets our needs, it makes a lot of sense."

There lies the GHSA's problem. Its seating requirements for the quarterfinals - a minimum of 5,000 seats for AAAAA (although they prefer closer to 7,000) and 3,500 for most other classifications - make the options for sites limited.

West Georgia, unlike many colleges in the AAAAA North area, offered its facility. Some sites like The Forum in Rome and the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton are still involved, but they also are far from metro Atlanta, where all 39 high schools in AAAAA North are located.

Georgia Tech has hosted the tourney in recent years, but Georgia hasn't. Georgia State is used on occasion and Kennesaw State is an option, although a deal has never been reached between the GHSA and that venue.

Those colleges' basketball teams cite the need to have late-season practices in those gyms, while even things like PE classes take precedent over an outside event, like the GHSA tournament. Swearngin said he understands the colleges' perspective, even if it doesn't help his organization much.

So for those of you who don't like the drive to Carrollton, just know that the GHSA didn't necessarily want it so far away.

"(Gyms) in North Georgia are difficult to come by and not a lot of those that are willing to work with us," Swearngin said.

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