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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — After a four-year absence, the Osan Pacificwide Invitational basketball tournament is back with a few twists.

For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1987, high school teams have entered, organizers said. The Osan American boys and girls teams are among a field of seven men’s and six women’s teams.

The tournament is the first major event at Osan’s new sports and fitness center, which opened last spring. The venue will also host an exhibition Wednesday night featuring the Ambassadors of Basketball, a Harlem Globetrotters-style touring team.

“There’s going to be a lot of basketball,” Osan Defenders assistant coach Dietrick Glover, one of the tournament’s organizers, said Friday, referring to a schedule boasting at least 48 games, possibly 50, over a six-day period.

It will be one of the tournament’s smallest fields since its early years. As many as 20 teams participated in the 1990s.

Organizers attributed the low attendance to the four-year layoff while the new gymnasium was being built.

“We want to just get the word out, that we’re back, and re-establish the tournament’s credibility,” said tournament director Tony Mason, who heads the Osan fitness center.

Only two teams from outside Korea will make the journey to Osan — a combined men’s team from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base and Yokota Air Base in Japan, and a women’s open team from Okinawa, the Kadena Queens.

Mason said he and Gerrard Barnes, director of Andersen’s Coral Reef Sports & Fitness Center, spent long hours trying to get a team from Guam to Osan, and that’s been complicated by the devastation of Super Typhoon Pongsona, which belted the island a week ago.

“I really wanted somebody from off-peninsula,” Mason said. “We worked hard to make that happen.”

The tournament is considered the first stop on the three-leg Pacificwide interservice basketball Triple Crown circuit. The Martin Luther King Invitational takes place in January at Okinawa’s Camp Foster, followed by the March Madness Invitational at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.

The Osan Invitational becomes the second Triple Crown event to welcome high school teams, a prospect that pleased Osan American’s coaches.

“We’re excited,” said boys coach Greg Rosenberger, who’s hoping to get his club seasoned for tournament play. “We don’t expect to do anything other than improve as a result of the level of competition.”

Lady Cougars coach Bruce Barker agreed.

“All the playing time you can get, the better off you’ll be,” he said.

The tournament begins at noon Monday, after an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

Round-robin play runs through 11 a.m. Friday, followed by a modified double-elimination tournament, with the championship games slated for 3 p.m. Saturday for women and 5 p.m. for men. “If necessary” games would follow at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

The Ambassadors show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. Other special events Saturday include a two-ball contest at noon and a slam dunk competition at 1 p.m.


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