Diamond Head tourney field nearly filled


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

It falls upon a familiar Hawaii men's basketball nemesis to decide the imminent completion of the inaugural Diamond Head Classic field.

Georgia and its new coach, former Nevada head man Mark Fox, have a standing offer to fill the eighth and final spot in Hawaii's new signature holiday basketball tournament.

Sources previously penciled in the Bulldogs for the three-game tourney played Dec. 22, 23, and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center. But UGA is still sorting out its schedule after the hire of Fox on April 3 to replace Dennis Felton.

Hawaii junior forward Roderick Flemings should be a tournament participant for his senior season after he apparently pulled out of the early-entry field for the 2009 NBA Draft.

Flemings was absent from the NBA's official listing released yesterday. He and UH coach Bob Nash couldn't be reached for comment.

Despite Georgia's stasis, organizers of the Diamond Head Classic officially announced the other seven teams in its field yesterday.

Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference and SMU of Conference USA were revealed as participants of the tournament, joining USC, UNLV, Saint Mary's (Calif.), College of Charleston and host Hawaii. Those five schools were previously reported as participants.

Tournament executive director David Matlin said ESPN Regional Television, which owns and operates the event, would prefer a team from the East Coast or south region to fill UGA's spot. It would keep with the tourney's theme of broadening nationwide appeal.

“;We're speaking with Georgia. They've had a coaching change, and speaking with other schools to possibly fill the slot ... in case Georgia's not able to come this year,”; Matlin said. “;Our preference would be East Coast, slash south.”;

The tourney will feature national TV coverage on the ESPN family of networks and its dates will serve as bookends to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.

Matlin estimated a 25-hour total of national TV coverage for the state.

Sheraton Hotels Waikiki was named the official hotel of the tournament. Outrigger Hotels was the longtime title sponsor of the Rainbow Classic, Hawaii's previous signature holiday tourney.