NCAA, Olympic qualifying has Victoria in hoops heaven

It’s all hoops all the time. Just like the old times when basketball ruled in Victoria in the 1980s.

It began with the Toronto Raptors training camp in 2017. The capital sets to resume its rejuvenated basketball hosting role next week with the Victoria Invitational women’s NCAA tournament on Ken and Kathy Shields Court in CARSA gym. That is a prelude to the men’s Olympic qualifying tournament for Tokyo 2020 next June at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

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“You can feel the Island basketball community is invigorated,” said two-time Olympian Howard Kelsey.

“It’s the perfect storm.”

The Olympic qualifying draw is next Wednesday in Switzerland, where the five national teams to join Canada at the Memorial Centre in June will be drawn from the seeded pots. Victoria is hosting one of four qualifying tournaments for Tokyo 2020.

Then comes the women’s Victoria Invitational from Nov. 28 to 30.

“Last year [when held in Vancouver], this was the top women’s NCAA tournament outside the Final Four,” said Kelsey, among the organizers.

“It’s safe to say it will be this year, too.”

Among the eight-team field is NCAA third-ranked Stanford,10th-ranked Mississippi State and 17th-ranked Syracuse.

“We’ve had an excellent response. It’s all coming together,” said Kelsey.

“We want to make Victoria a hub for major events across several sports. This is an unprecedented opportunity to further cement Victoria as a first choice destination for all types of elite events.”

Tickets for the women’s NCAA tournament are at vikestickets.universitytickets.com. Ticketing information for the men’s Olympic qualifier will be announced after the draw next week.

The Canada Basketball alumni meeting takes place at UVic next week, as well. It was pre-planned before the major hosting announcements. Kelsey is being inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame during the alumni banquet, along with fellow-Olympian Joanne Sargent from Salmon Arm as the Class of 2019.

“That is just plain serendipity,” said Kelsey, who was UVic athletic co-ordinator from 1983 to 1990 under athletic director Ken Shields.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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