The Saint Thomas More Preparatory boys basketball team is headed south to face some national competition this holiday season in the St. Pius X Christmas Classic in Atlanta, Ga.
Even though it is nearly a decade old, the Saint Thomas More Preparatory boys basketball program is still in what would be considered its infancy.
And with second-year Head Coach Dean Burrows at the helm, the Ravens have rebuilding in mind and are taking a long trip this holiday season to speed up that process.
STM will travel to and play in the St. Pius X Christmas Classic in Atlanta, Ga., from Monday, Dec. 27, to Wednesday, Dec. 29, playing three games in the eight-team tournament, which the team paid for itself through a series of fundraising events.
The idea to travel so far for a Christmas tournament, Burrows said, came from his time as an assistant coach at Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Fla., when his teams would visit this event every year.
“I’m trying to build something here,” he said. “One of the things I wanted to do is get these guys involved in a Christmas tournament and try to get some of their skills noticed.”
The Ravens will go head-to-head with teams from Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and South Carolina, but it’s not the team’s record coming out of the three-day stint that Burrows is worried about.
“It’s a good bonding experience for the guys,” he said. “The wins and losses, they’ll remember those to an extent, but the moments they have off the court is something they’re going to remember more.”
Burrows said he hopes to create some deep team chemistry on the trip, and outside of basketball the guys will be taking part in some educational bonding activities, like a trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Home and Museum.
And even though the emphasis isn’t on winning, the coach said he isn’t expecting the Ravens to come out of the tournament empty handed.
It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for STM and Burrows said a strong showing against unfamiliar competition could go a long way in righting the ship the rest of the year.
“The goal is to go down there and get some experience against national competition on a larger scale,” he said. “Hopefully we come back with a minimum of one win, maybe two or three, you never know. And then going into the heart of our conference schedule, hopefully, we can draw on that experience.”
Senior forward Tyler Simpkiss agreed with his coach, adding that the young Raven roster could benefit greatly from this kind of experience.
“The tournament is going to help them build up into the team,” Simpkiss said of the young players. “We’ll definitely come back a better team.”
His teammate, senior guard Kevin O’Shea, took it one step further and said a tournament like this could even help the program for years to come.
“We can get some exposure to better teams,” O’Shea said. “These are teams from all around the country and getting to play them will be big in us building this program.”
This will be the first time the Ravens will experience something like this, and Burrows said it most certainly would not be the last in his plans to make STM a boys basketball power in the state.
“Hopefully this will attract some kids who are serious about wanting to play basketball, as well as get a good education first and foremost,” he said. “They can take a look at what we’re doing here and jump onboard.”
To follow the Ravens' progress at the tournament, visit their team blog at http://stmpbasketball.blogspot.com.
WHO Saint Thomas More Preparatory (2-3, 1-2) at Pinecrest Academy
WHEN 3:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 27
WHERE St. Pius X Catholic School, Atlanta, Ga.
Email Brian Citino at email@example.com