|The evolution of the Hugh Campbell Classic|
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Jul 12, 2012
This great country of ours is now 39 years old, and one of the sporting extravaganzas that has been there from almost the beginning, is the Hugh Campbell Basketball Classic.
Named after former educator, the late Hugh Campbell, the classic has certainly grown into arguably the single most exciting annual sporting event in the country. The highly anticipated basketball tournament, featuring the best senior boys’ basketball teams in The Bahamas, has been held every year since its inception in 1982, with the exception of the strike shortened season in 1986. The tournament is held around mid-February, and the championship games usually feature Grand Bahama schools taking on the host New Providence schools. That rivalry in the championship game has been realized all but two years of the classic.
As a result of that Freeport-Nassau rivalry, the Hugh Campbell classic has been one of the most popular sporting events in the country. Thousands of fans flock to the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium during tournament time to witness first-hand the best high school basketball talent in the country. In addition, the championship game is carried live on national TV and radio, and is covered by every media house in the country. College scouts come down from the United States in search of potential recruits for the basketball programs.
As The Bahamas celebrates another year of existence as an independent country, it’s important to recognize events that contributed toward nation building, and the Hugh Campbell classic is no exception. Originally with a base at the A.F. Adderley school, the classic blossomed from a seven-team local experiment in 1982, to more than 30 teams today. Today, A.F. Adderley is still the host school of the tournament, but it has since out-grown that location and now all of the games are held at the Kendal Isaacs gym. The tournament itself was born out of the joint concept of A.F. Adderley teachers Doug Collins and Alsworth ‘Whitey’ Pickstock.
With crowds in the thousands, a substantial amount of funds are generated from the classic, but with it being a school tournament, it is understood that the event is primarily used as a fundraiser for school activities and projects. It was even rumored that that was the reason why perennial powerhouse St. Augustine’s College ceased its participation and support. Be that as it may, public and corporate support has continued to grow.
Shell Bahamas Ltd. started out as a major sponsor of the week-long tournament. Since then, corporate citizens such as Dominos Pizza, Coca-Cola and Gatorade have come on board.
The tournament has expanded beyond just competitive basketball games. Today, a three-point competition, slam dunk competition, cheerleading competition, and even a pageant make up the overall scope of Hugh Campbell.
As for the competition itself, Grand Bahamian schools have won 18 of the 30 championships, including eight straight and 12 out of 13 at one point, but the classic has been dominated by New Providence schools in recent years, as teams from the capital have won eight of the past 11.
The ‘winningest’ school in the history of the classic is the Tabernacle Baptist Academy Falcons, as they have taken six titles back to the nation’s second city. The Catholic High Crusaders, also out of Grand Bahama, follow with five, and the New Providence based C.I. Gibson Rattlers and the now defunct Hawksbill High Hawks, out of Grand Bahama, have four titles each.
In terms of most successful coaches in the history of the tournament, Norris Bain has been there for all six Tabernacle titles, Kevin ‘KJ’ Johnson has four with the Rattlers, and Jimmy Clarke is the only coach in tournament history to win titles with more than one school, as he has three with the Hawksbill Hawks and guided the C.R. Walker Knights to the title in 1997.
A number of former players have gone on to experience productive collegiate and professional careers, including former NBA player Dexter Cambridge. Cambridge won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 1988, for the host A.F. Adderley Tigers.
Bahamians from all walks of life look forward to the Hugh Campbell classic each year. The championship game alone is usually attended by more than 1,000 fans. The classic is expected to be a mainstay of the sporting landscape of the country for many years to come, and could very well be the jumpstart so many of our young players need to reap the rewards of the game of basketball.