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HomeNewsArchivesParadise Jam to Be Bigger, Better Than Ever, Organizers Say

Paradise Jam to Be Bigger, Better Than Ever, Organizers Say

Back in the territory for its 10th year, the annual Paradise Jam Basketball Tournament promises to be one of the best ever, with some of the nation’s top-ranked college teams slated to play, tournament organizers said Thursday during a press conference held at the Marriot Frenchman’s Reef Resort.
Headlining on the men’s side are the University of Tennessee, Boston College and Purdue; while the women’s side features Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Rutgers, with its newly inducted Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.
As a special treat for the hometown fans, the University of the Virgin Islands men’s basketball team will participate in the tournament for the first time, playing Puerto Rico’s Metropolitan University, organizers revealed. In a special promotion, UVI is offering complimentary tickets to former UVI student athletes and Hall of Famers, who will be honored at halftime.
UVI Athletic Director Peter Sauer hopes that the community will come out to support the team for a game he said would bring them unprecedented exposure. UVI hits the court at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.
The team is currently in St. Martin for their first tournament of the season, which Sauer said he hopes they will take in four wins. "That way we can really show off," he joked. "But I hope the gym is packed for the event. We’re hoping to have 3,000 people — really have it filled."
Tourney organizer Nels Hawkinson talked about how Paradise Jam, now held at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center, has become one of the marquee events in the nation, second only to Hawaii’s Maui Invitational.
Last year’s champion, the University of Connecticut, has already signed up for the 2012 tournament, he said, adding that UConn coach Jim Calhoun loved the event so much — particularly the island and its people — that he grabbed the first opportunity he had to book his team a spot.
Organizers could not help but reminisce Thursday over how the tournament started, from its beginning in the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School gym to the grand event it is now.
Former Kean High Principal St. Claire Wilkinson talked about his first meeting with Hawkinson. "My secretary came in and said, ‘There’s a tourist here to see you,’ and at first I was nervous because I thought one of my students had harassed a tourist outside," Wilkinson joked.
The two got to talking about Hawkinson’s vision for the tournament, which included bringing nationally recognized teams and thousands of people to the Virgin Islands.
"I thought, ‘Is this guy for real? How can I trust him?’" Wilkinson said. "But then I realized that you can’t just dismiss everybody that comes in with a good idea. Ten years ago, Nels peeked into the future and saw the things we are doing right now."
Speaking of which, Hawkinson said some of this year’s games will be broadcast on FOX College Sports and FOX, bringing the tournament and the Virgin Islands to a national and international audience.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the Paradise Jam brings in a 10-1 return on investment annually, with both the teams and their fans staying for one to two weeks and spending on everything from food to transportation.
Tourism also partners with local hotels to offer incentives packages for the games and is working this year on a special event with Purdue that will showcase the islands to the university’s alumni. "It’s more than just a game. It’s about the people and our relationship," she said.
With promotional packages and specials running before, during and after the tournament, the total advertising value for the Virgin Islands is above $3 million, said Craig Jonas, marketing consultant for the tourney’s organizer.
The marketing efforts and stellar lineup has also boosted ticket sales, according to Hawkinson, who expects to draw 50 percent more people than last year.
The men’s games will run from November 20-23, while the women’s games are scheduled for November 26-28.
Former UVI student athletes and Hall of Famers can arrange their complimentary tickets by calling 693-1102.
Advance tournament passes can now be purchased at http://www.paradisejam.com/pages/w_ticket.htm.

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Back in the territory for its 10th year, the annual Paradise Jam Basketball Tournament promises to be one of the best ever, with some of the nation's top-ranked college teams slated to play, tournament organizers said Thursday during a press conference held at the Marriot Frenchman's Reef Resort.
Headlining on the men's side are the University of Tennessee, Boston College and Purdue; while the women's side features Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Rutgers, with its newly inducted Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.
As a special treat for the hometown fans, the University of the Virgin Islands men's basketball team will participate in the tournament for the first time, playing Puerto Rico's Metropolitan University, organizers revealed. In a special promotion, UVI is offering complimentary tickets to former UVI student athletes and Hall of Famers, who will be honored at halftime.
UVI Athletic Director Peter Sauer hopes that the community will come out to support the team for a game he said would bring them unprecedented exposure. UVI hits the court at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.
The team is currently in St. Martin for their first tournament of the season, which Sauer said he hopes they will take in four wins. "That way we can really show off," he joked. "But I hope the gym is packed for the event. We're hoping to have 3,000 people -- really have it filled."
Tourney organizer Nels Hawkinson talked about how Paradise Jam, now held at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center, has become one of the marquee events in the nation, second only to Hawaii's Maui Invitational.
Last year's champion, the University of Connecticut, has already signed up for the 2012 tournament, he said, adding that UConn coach Jim Calhoun loved the event so much -- particularly the island and its people -- that he grabbed the first opportunity he had to book his team a spot.
Organizers could not help but reminisce Thursday over how the tournament started, from its beginning in the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School gym to the grand event it is now.
Former Kean High Principal St. Claire Wilkinson talked about his first meeting with Hawkinson. "My secretary came in and said, 'There's a tourist here to see you,' and at first I was nervous because I thought one of my students had harassed a tourist outside," Wilkinson joked.
The two got to talking about Hawkinson's vision for the tournament, which included bringing nationally recognized teams and thousands of people to the Virgin Islands.
"I thought, 'Is this guy for real? How can I trust him?'" Wilkinson said. "But then I realized that you can't just dismiss everybody that comes in with a good idea. Ten years ago, Nels peeked into the future and saw the things we are doing right now."
Speaking of which, Hawkinson said some of this year's games will be broadcast on FOX College Sports and FOX, bringing the tournament and the Virgin Islands to a national and international audience.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the Paradise Jam brings in a 10-1 return on investment annually, with both the teams and their fans staying for one to two weeks and spending on everything from food to transportation.
Tourism also partners with local hotels to offer incentives packages for the games and is working this year on a special event with Purdue that will showcase the islands to the university's alumni. "It's more than just a game. It's about the people and our relationship," she said.
With promotional packages and specials running before, during and after the tournament, the total advertising value for the Virgin Islands is above $3 million, said Craig Jonas, marketing consultant for the tourney's organizer.
The marketing efforts and stellar lineup has also boosted ticket sales, according to Hawkinson, who expects to draw 50 percent more people than last year.
The men's games will run from November 20-23, while the women's games are scheduled for November 26-28.
Former UVI student athletes and Hall of Famers can arrange their complimentary tickets by calling 693-1102.
Advance tournament passes can now be purchased at http://www.paradisejam.com/pages/w_ticket.htm.