The Ministry of Youth of Sports said Vice President Joseph N. Boakai Sr. has been selected to serve as ‘Guest of Honor’ in the 2016 Upcountry Basketball Tournament in Ganta, Nimba Country, which runs from Thursday, November 10 to Sunday, November 13.
The four-day basketball festival will be held for the second time (in over two decades) at the Ganta United Methodist School – it has been held twice in Gbarnga, Bong County after its re-launch in 2012. The Upcountry Basketball is known as the “The McGowan Basketball Tournament,” in honor of Mr. Herald
Emmet McGowan, a former American Peace Corp volunteer, who dedicated 20 years of service to the development of basketball in the country.
Organizing Chairman and Assistant Sports Minister Murvee Gray said about 15 high schools from five counties are expected to participate in the tournament.
Min. Gray said some of the participating schools are defending champions and host, Ganta United Methodist School, St. Mary’s, Bishop Carroll and LASS from Nimba County.
Bong County’s participating schools include 2014 winner St. Martins, Gboveh High, and William V.S. Tubman-Gray; while from Lofa County are Zorzor Central High and LTI; with C. H. Dewey from Bomi County; and Brumskine High School from Grand Bassa County.
Min. Gray said Vice President Boakai will deliver a “special statement on integrity and sportsmanship” and thereafter do a jump ball to officially start the tournament.
Every basketball game begins with a jump ball, when two players stand on either side of a referee, and the referee or a Guest of Honor then throws the ball up between them.
Once the ball reaches the highest part of its arc, it is then free to be touched by either of the two players to tip it to his teammates, from where the game commences.
In 2012, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) in partnership with the Liberia Basketball Federation re-launched the Up-Country Basketball Tournament.
The re-launch of the tournament is in a bid to revamp basketball as part of its (MYS) overall national sports revitalization agenda.
The up-country basketball competition is a sporting festival initiated in the 1970s to help promote the game among high school students in the central region, which at the time comprised of Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
Former national basketball star Caleb Dormah coordinated the re-launch and has been guaranteed the involvement of the Liberia Basketball Referees Association.
Prior to the wars, the champions included Margibi-based Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Bong County’s St. Martin and Nimba’s Ganta United Methodist School.
Credible reports said Vice President Boakai would be the lone sponsor of the tournament and each school is expected to receive unspecified amount of Liberian dollars.
The reports said the Vice President’s gesture is predicated upon his earlier support to county teams immediately after the 2015/2016 County Meet where he donated L$132,000 to each of the 15 counties, totaling L$1,980,000, in appreciation for their participation in the 2015/2016 County Meet, owing to the “level of sportsmanship showed by counties” during the preliminary and finals.