In its 16th year, Real Deal in the Rock has become one of the nation's most respected basketball tournaments.
Starting tomorrow, this year's group of teams wanting the best competition, the best facilities and the best treatment will be in the capital city.
It takes more than a team effort to bring 130 teams together, it takes a community. This weekend, action will be seen on 12 different courts, including the featured site Southwest High School in Little Rock, which has a seating capacity of 3,000.
On Friday night, Southwest will be turned into two courts and then on Saturday into three. So for $18, basketball fans can get their fill and never leave their seat. However, the daily admission is good at all facilities.
Starting with Dr. Jimmy Tucker and the city of Little Rock, including your newspaper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, civic-minded businesses have stepped up to keep the great teams coming back. The divisions start at 10-under and go up to 17-under, where tomorrow's college stars can be seen.
Bill Ingram, who is now the Arkansas Baptist College athletic director, started this event because as one of the founders of the Arkansas Wings, he had seen the good and bad of summer basketball. He wanted to bring only the good parts together for one weekend in his home state.
The tournament originally was played in Northwest Arkansas, but it outgrew the area.
It also gave Ingram a weekend where he was bringing money into his program instead of spending it in another state.
Mike Conley Jr.
This weekend's tournament will bring more than a million dollars to the local economy. That income is much needed after suffering through the long pandemic that kept people at home.
The next four national recruiting classes could produce more players from Arkansas than any period in history.
The current class has at least 14 players who should play in college next year, and many of them are spending this weekend vying for a home state championship.
And yes, that will be Corliss Williamson you see at the tournament. His son Creed plays for the Hawks.
Come early, stay late and don't miss some of the best basketball action in the country.
And all those names in bold previously played in the Real Deal in the Rock. The next NBA greats probably are here this weekend.
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With the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that college players should be paid, amateurism on the college level is going to be over.
The NCAA was told it was not above the law and that it was breaking the law in not allowing student-athletes to be paid.
What the NCAA needs to do is gracefully diminish its role while at the same time finding a way to keep the basketball NCAA Tournaments.
The NCAA was never perfect, but it was all there was. The organization did have some success protecting smaller athletic programs from being eaten up by the larger ones.
It was just so powerful that it took the Supreme Court to take away its muscle.
Still, the NCAA Tournaments, men's and women's, are almost perfect sporting events.
Just exactly how the NCAA stays a viable part of the college sports world may depend on its ability to find a way to keep the tournaments, even if it means paying the players.
They organization even pulled it off just a year after voluntarily suspending all college sports because of the coronavirus pandemic.