Andy Invitational starts today

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The 42nd Andalusia Invitational Basketball Tournament tips off this afternoon, celebrating a rich history of athleticism and tradition at Andalusia High School.

The tournament, which initially started as a Christmas basketball tournament and then turned into an invitational, has produced athletes that have been at center stage in the sports world in recent years. Most notably, NBA players Robert Horry and Wesley Person played in the tournament, for Andalusia and Brantley, respectively.

Since its inception in 1967, Andalusia has won the invitational championship 21 times.

The Bulldogs’ longest invitational winning streak took place from 1979 to 1984, when they won it six times in a row.

Andalusia coach Richard Robertson said the invitational started small, but grew over the years.

“It first started off with four teams rather than eight,” Robertson said. “I have gone 10 to 12 teams. More teams mean more money.

“This year, we only have seven and a lot to do with that is this week is the graduation exam for those that have not passed it. So, a lot of schools could not come on that account of trying to play three days.”

Admission to the invitational is $5 per person per day.

The invitational is the longest running basketball tournament in south Alabama and there have been years where as many as three participants went on to advance to the state tournament at the end of the season.

“This is traditional and I don’t want to change it,” Robertson said. “This has been a good barometer of our showing. I don’t know how strong it’s going to be this year, but in years past we have had as many three or four teams that have played in it that go on to the state tournament.

“Andalusia, Florala and Red Level have been at the same tournament in the same year out of this county,” he said. “We also had it here when Brantley came around when they were in the tournament. A lot of folks would think that when we won it a lot winning it six years in a row, but if Enterprise wins it this year, they’ll tie us. We haven’t won it the last five years.”

Robertson said the invitational is a good opportunity for his team to gauge where they are as far as the season goes.

“It helps the program in that you can go up against other teams,” he said. “We’re allowed three tournaments prior to the postseason. When we get an invitation, it’s usually at a big tournament.

“We’ve been invited to two tournaments this year — one in Huntsville and Panama City,” he said. “This kind of tournament can give the young players a barometer of how things are going to be in the season. At the end of the season if you’re playing for the area championship, if you lose, you’re out.”

Going into the latter half of the season, every team has the goal of winning area games to advance to the regional tournament in Troy.

“We’ve got to be consistent because we’re going to be playing good teams,” Robertson said. “You got to win seven or eight ball games to win it to go anywhere. If you lose you’re out.

“The invitational is a good gauge to show you what you’ve got to do,” he said. “We have had all six teams in the county at one time. We’re just trying to play right now for development. Our area play starts in January. When we come back from Christmas, if you don’t get in the postseason, your season is over in one month.”

Robertson added that the invitational is set up to be “player friendly.”

“We want support,” he said. “Everything we do is player friendly. We want development of the student.

“This is an educational process,” he said.

Tip off is at 4:30 p.m. today with Enterprise and Elba. Pleasant Home and Opp tip off at 6 p.m. followed by Andalusia and Florala at 7:30 p.m.