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Paradise Jam Ready to Roll on St. Thomas

With two pre-games already done on the mainland and numerous community events ongoing in the territory, the 12th annual Paradise Jam basketball tournament is ready to kick into high gear Friday on its home court at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.

Men’s squads began landing Wednesday at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, with players from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) the first off the plane. Along with Mississippi, teams from Drake, Marquette, Norfolk State, Texas Christian, Virginia and Winthrop will be playing in the men’s bracket this year. Hometown favorites the UVI Buccaneers will also be playing a team from Puerto Rico at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We always take an out-of-country tournament every year, and we’re very excited to be able to play in the Paradise Jam this year,” said Ole Miss senior forward Terrance Henry, who mentioned that the team will be paying close attention to Drake in their first game.

“Everybody’s been talking about Marquette, though, and we’d love to play them in the second round,” Henry said. Like many of his teammates, Henry said that while he’s excited to be in the territory for the first time, he still looks at the tournament as a business trip, with the goal of winning three games, taking the championship, and heading back home to win the NCAA tournament.

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“I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t win,” Henry said.

While Basketball Travelers President Nels Hawkinson also tipped his hat to Marquette, he also mentioned Ole Miss as team to watch out for.

“Ole Miss, coached by Andy Kennedy, has done a great job,” said Hawkinson, whose company runs the Paradise Jam tournament. “They may not be the lead favorite, but are one of the top favorites to win, coming from a very strong SEC (South Eastern Conference) conference, so we’re looking forward to great things from Ole Miss.”

The heavy favorite, Marquette, kicked off Paradise Jam this year with a pre-game on the mainland Monday against Norfolk State, which was followed by a face-off Tuesday between Virginia and Winthrop. Hawkinson said in an interview with the Source that the pre-games, a new addition to Paradise Jam, were held to give the tournament more exposure.

Hawkinson said all the men’s teams will be on island by Thursday, in time for a pre-tournament party at Paradise Point. The players will also be treated to a catamaran trip on their off-day, with some snorkeling in the territory’s blue waters.

“We definitely have to give shout-outs to the Department of Tourism, and Gov. (John) deJongh Jr., who have been unbelievable partners throughout this whole thing,” Hawkinson said. “They have really understood how sports tourism is important to the Virgin Islands, bringing in millions of dollars to the territory that trickle down to everyone else.”

Marquette is also a headliner in the women’s tournament, which is broken up into two divisions that will tip off on Nov. 24. Also featured this year are Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, Old Dominion, Prairie View A&M, Seton Hall and Washington State.

“In the Island Division of the women’s tournament, the favorite is Louisiana Tech, which is the second most historical program in women’s basketball history,” Hawkinson said. “There has only been two teams to win over a thousand games, one being Tennessee and the other being Louisiana Tech. They’ve won two national titles and seven national championships – they’re incredible.”

Marquette, which Hawkinson said is the favorite over Michigan in the Reef Division, is the first team in Paradise Jam history to bring both its men’s and women’s teams to play at the same time.

The tournament’s Sunday games, along with the consolation and championships, will be broadcast on Fox College Sports, with regional coverage on Fox Sports Network, Root Sports and Comcast. Games that are not aired will be streamed live online, organizers said.

Hawkinson added Wednesday that he expects the tournament’s viewership to exceed previous years’, due to a bump caused by the ongoing National Basketball Association lockout.

“One person’s problem is another person’s gold,” Hawkinson said. “I really feel bad for the fans who love the NBA, but what that means for Paradise Jam is that people are looking for stuff to watch and because you’ve got avid sports fans out there, it will increase our viewership, and that’s great for tourism and great for all of us here.”

For more information on the tournament or to purchase tickets, go online at www.ParadiseJam.com.

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With two pre-games already done on the mainland and numerous community events ongoing in the territory, the 12th annual Paradise Jam basketball tournament is ready to kick into high gear Friday on its home court at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.

Men’s squads began landing Wednesday at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, with players from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) the first off the plane. Along with Mississippi, teams from Drake, Marquette, Norfolk State, Texas Christian, Virginia and Winthrop will be playing in the men’s bracket this year. Hometown favorites the UVI Buccaneers will also be playing a team from Puerto Rico at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We always take an out-of-country tournament every year, and we’re very excited to be able to play in the Paradise Jam this year,” said Ole Miss senior forward Terrance Henry, who mentioned that the team will be paying close attention to Drake in their first game.

“Everybody’s been talking about Marquette, though, and we’d love to play them in the second round,” Henry said. Like many of his teammates, Henry said that while he’s excited to be in the territory for the first time, he still looks at the tournament as a business trip, with the goal of winning three games, taking the championship, and heading back home to win the NCAA tournament.

“I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t win,” Henry said.

While Basketball Travelers President Nels Hawkinson also tipped his hat to Marquette, he also mentioned Ole Miss as team to watch out for.

“Ole Miss, coached by Andy Kennedy, has done a great job,” said Hawkinson, whose company runs the Paradise Jam tournament. “They may not be the lead favorite, but are one of the top favorites to win, coming from a very strong SEC (South Eastern Conference) conference, so we’re looking forward to great things from Ole Miss.”

The heavy favorite, Marquette, kicked off Paradise Jam this year with a pre-game on the mainland Monday against Norfolk State, which was followed by a face-off Tuesday between Virginia and Winthrop. Hawkinson said in an interview with the Source that the pre-games, a new addition to Paradise Jam, were held to give the tournament more exposure.

Hawkinson said all the men’s teams will be on island by Thursday, in time for a pre-tournament party at Paradise Point. The players will also be treated to a catamaran trip on their off-day, with some snorkeling in the territory’s blue waters.

“We definitely have to give shout-outs to the Department of Tourism, and Gov. (John) deJongh Jr., who have been unbelievable partners throughout this whole thing,” Hawkinson said. “They have really understood how sports tourism is important to the Virgin Islands, bringing in millions of dollars to the territory that trickle down to everyone else.”

Marquette is also a headliner in the women’s tournament, which is broken up into two divisions that will tip off on Nov. 24. Also featured this year are Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, Old Dominion, Prairie View A&M, Seton Hall and Washington State.

“In the Island Division of the women’s tournament, the favorite is Louisiana Tech, which is the second most historical program in women’s basketball history,” Hawkinson said. “There has only been two teams to win over a thousand games, one being Tennessee and the other being Louisiana Tech. They’ve won two national titles and seven national championships – they’re incredible.”

Marquette, which Hawkinson said is the favorite over Michigan in the Reef Division, is the first team in Paradise Jam history to bring both its men’s and women’s teams to play at the same time.

The tournament’s Sunday games, along with the consolation and championships, will be broadcast on Fox College Sports, with regional coverage on Fox Sports Network, Root Sports and Comcast. Games that are not aired will be streamed live online, organizers said.

Hawkinson added Wednesday that he expects the tournament’s viewership to exceed previous years’, due to a bump caused by the ongoing National Basketball Association lockout.

“One person’s problem is another person’s gold,” Hawkinson said. “I really feel bad for the fans who love the NBA, but what that means for Paradise Jam is that people are looking for stuff to watch and because you’ve got avid sports fans out there, it will increase our viewership, and that’s great for tourism and great for all of us here.”

For more information on the tournament or to purchase tickets, go online at www.ParadiseJam.com.