The Pace Patriots are trading a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” for a weekend getaway to paradise.
During the past four seasons, the Patriots have made a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando for an after-Christmas tournament at the Wide World of Sports complex.
This year, the Patriots are mixing things up in a big way.
The team will fly out of Atlanta today to Nassau, Bahamas, to take part in the first Sand Jam Basketball Tournament at the Atlantis Resort. The tournament comes on the heels of the collegiate tournament, Battle 4 Atlantis, which was won by Villanova.
“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Pace coach Carl Pippin said. “Every year we’ve gone down to Disney World and played at a tournament there. KSA Events is the company that handles that event, and we’ve developed a pretty good relationship with (KSA Events president) Kelly Hayes. Our guys, their behavior at these tournaments and in public, it made quite an impression on them.
“When we finished the tournament last year, she reached out and said they were starting something new in the Bahamas and were only asking certain teams to come. I don’t think it had anything to do with us returning a lot of kids or potentially being good this year. I think it had a lot more to do with our kids character and how they handle themselves when we go to these tournaments.”
Pippin said Pace worked with KSA Events on getting the cost of the trip to a price similar to their annual trip to Disney, and when that figure was reached, the Patriots jumped on the offer.
The tournament will get underway tonight and will continue through Saturday. Pace will play two games on Friday, against Ralson Valley of Colorado and Chartiers Valley of Pennsylvania. On Saturday, the Patriots will conclude tournament play against Tottenville of Staten Island, N.Y..
In addition to the tournament, the team will be have enough downtime to experience the amenities that Atlantis has to offer.
“We’ll be staying at Coral Towers,” Pippin said. “The tournament includes three meals a day. They get to go swimming with dolphins, get to go to the water park. It’s really going to be a special trip for these guys. The senior class, I’ve been watching them play since they were in third and fourth grade. It just all came together, and it couldn’t have happened for a more deserving group.”
While Pippin said he has emphasized to his players to have fun and enjoy the moment, his biggest goal for this trip is developing chemistry and a cohesive bond between teammates.
“We had a meeting this morning, brought them in and we sat down and went through the rules,” Pippin said. “One of the things I told them is I don’t want them to misunderstand what I’m saying. I have two goals, and one is more important than the other. We need to come together, create a bond, develop chemistry, learn more about each other. I’m going to mix the rooms up, we’re not going to have guys that are friends already staying with each other. You can either sit and stare at the wall all weekend or you can get to know each other.
“That chemistry and that bond, that’s priority one. The second thing is I want to compete and get better. To me, it’s absolutely irrational and ignorant to think you will take a group of kids to another country, a place like this, and not have distractions. I understand that, but when we’re out there, I want us to compete and get better at basketball.”