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The National Christian HomeSchool Basketball Tournament returns to southwest Missouri March 10 to the 14. As KSMU’s Samantha Nichols reports, it’s the sixth consecutive year that Springfield will serve as the host city.
That’s the sound of the Lighthouse Christian Eagles boys’ basketball team, one of Springfield's homeschool athletic programs, preparing for a number of big games. They have their state tournament, regionals, and the National Christian HomeSchool Basketball Championships. The national tournament, now in its 23rd year, claims to be the largest homeschool sporting event in the world. And Eagle’s Head Coach Brent Davis says that with over 300 teams participating, the event’s presence will be hard to miss.
“There will be approximately 3,500 players and then, being a homeschool event, the families travel. There will be a lot of travelers. So I think the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that total attendance of the event is in excess of 10,000 people,” said Davis.
Susan Wade, the public relations manager for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it is difficult to estimate the amount of money an event can bring in, but notes that people who come to town for a convention generally spend between $125 and $150 per day. She explained that a sports group usually spends less, but still anticipates the event to provide a large economic boost.
Teams are seeded at the national tournament based off of their performance at regionals. There are five regional tournaments hosted throughout the country. Success at one of those tournaments determines a team’s divisional placement. Davis believes the Eagles will have a solid tournament.
“Realistically, we are a division two team. But, if we get hot at the right moment and upset somebody at regionals, we could sneak into division one which would be the top 32 teams,” said Davis.
The national tournament is said to attract college basketball recruiters. Davis noted at least two former Eagles, Kylie Williamson, a senior at Drury, and Kristen Moore, a freshman at Evangel, who came out of the homeschool basketball program.
As for current Eagles like Conner Pilkington, a junior point guard, the distinctly Christian identity of the tournament is a great experience.
“We pray before every game. We get in a circle around the center and we just pray and you can tell that everyone has their Christian attitude on the floor, all the time. A great group of kids come out of the Christian homeschool organization,” said Pilkington.
Many Christian denominations are represented both throughout the team and the tournament as a whole. Considering the event’s size and hype, the national tournament in Springfield is sure to be a slam dunk.
For KSMU News, I’m Samantha Nichols.