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By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville High School head boys basketball coach Greg Carter knows what it's like to play games inside Mississippi State's Humphrey Coliseum.
During his career with the Bulldogs from 1988-91, Carter got plenty of chances to play at the arena.
Now the high school team he coaches gets that experience.
The Yellowjackets will host a three-day tournament at Humphrey Coliseum on Dec. 28-30. The event is called the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at the Hump Christmas Tournament.
It's the first time SHS has hosted a holiday tournament and Carter is excited about what it can become.
"This has a chance to turn into something big," Carter said.
Carter and athletic director Stan Miller came up with the idea to have a holiday tournament in Starkville after a Mobile (Ala.) tournament the Jackets were supposed to play in last December was canceled due to a lack of funding.
"Dr. Miller mentioned that it would be nice if we had our own tournament so we started brain-storming, putting together ideas and we came up with having one at Humphrey Coliseum," Carter said.
Once Carter and Miller decided to go ahead with the idea, they had to work to make sure all of the pieces were ready to put together such an event.
They approached the administration at Mississippi State to see if the Humphrey Coliseum was available during that time and how much the rent would be.
"Mississippi State can't have a whole lot to do with this, but I can't say enough about Mississippi State's (athletic director) Scott Stricklin, Jay Logan and Duncan McKenzie for what those gentlemen have done to help make this as easy a transition as possible out there."
The Lady Bulldogs of coach Sharon Fanning-Otis will be out of town that week and the Bulldogs of coach Rick Stansbury won't need their home court until the Saturday following the prep tournament, which will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"The schedule worked out and the timing was great," Carter said.
Carter and Miller plan to bring in out-of-state teams from Alabama (Birmingham), Louisiana (Monroe), Arkansas (Strong) and Tennessee (Memphis). Along with Starkville, area schools involved with the tournament will be West Oktibbeha, Columbus and Aberdeen. Meridian will also attend.
"We wanted to make this a premier tournament," Miller said. "What we tried to do is pick teams from different places. It's a great situation.
"I've got five other schools that want to be in the tournament next year already with one out of Florida, one out of Nashville and two or three out of Alabama. I think it's going to grow."
Former SHS player Travis Outlaw of the New Jersey Nets is the major sponsor and is why his name is attached to the tournament name. Miller said there will be banners up in Humphrey Coliseum recognizing Outlaw and his contribution.
"There's no telling what Travis has done for this community with the Boys and Girls club and helping our cheerleaders. He does everything in the world."
Other sponsors that will be involved are Aaron's, Bojangles and Applebee's. Miller is also using two local hotels to house two out-of-town teams each.
"We're providing meal and room accommodations," Miller said. "The basketball booster club will coordinate this thing and I'm working with them on that. Greg is working on the bracket."
Every team is guaranteed three games in a round-robin format. The action on the first two days will begin at approximately 3 p.m. with the final day starting at 10 a.m. so the schedule can be concluded for teams to make the return trip home. Ticket prices are projected to cost $7 each.
Miller believes the tournament has a chance to boost Starkville's economy during a time of the year that tends to be slow.
"It's a feather in the cap of the district, but also the community," Miller said. "We're bringing in some excellent fans."