Each year around this time, Santa Claus leaves an early Christmas present under the tree for hoops fans in Albany.
The annual U Save It Basketball Classic tips off Friday at Albany High.
Twelve teams make up the 2013 field, including the four Dougherty County schools, Lee County, and Early County.
This tournament is one of the best in the state each year, bringing in some of Georgia's best teams to compete with those from the Albany area.
Coaches say the tournament is a great measuring stick for their programs.
"It kind of gets us in touch of who we really are, going into the thick of our region schedule," says Albany High head coach Archie Chatmon. "It lets us know what we are good at, what we're not, and where we need to go to work. There's no better place to find that out than this tournament."
This season, the Classic is going back to the shootout format, where each team plays two to three games, instead of the classic bracket format.
Chatmon says that encourages more teams to join the field.
But coaches also say having highly intense, competitive games on a back-to-back-to-back basis can create a postseason feel that will help later on.
"You're playing games back to back and it shows your perseverance in terms of the team, and how well you gel under adversity," says Monroe head coach Marquis Davis. "It really does remind you of a region tournament or a state tournament."
The tournament kicks off Friday from Albany High.
2013 U SAVE IT BASKETBALL CLASSIC SCHEDULE
Friday, December 20
Lee Co. vs. Early Co.- 4:00 p.m.
Westover vs. Manchester- 5:30 p.m.
Dougherty vs. Statesboro- 7:00 p.m.
Albany vs. Cedar Grove- 8:30 p.m.
Monroe vs. North Clayton- 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 21
Albany vs. North Clayton- 1:00 p.m.
Lee Co. vs. Cedar Grove- 2:30 p.m.
Early Co. vs. Statesboro- 4:00 p.m.
Monroe vs. Manchester- 5:30 p.m.
Westover vs. Randolph-Clay- 7:00 p.m.
Dougherty vs. Lovejoy- 8:30 p.m.
Monday, December 23
Albany vs. Randolph-Clay- 1:00 p.m.
Monroe vs. Lovejoy- 2:30 p.m.
Dougherty vs. Early Co.- 4:00 p.m.
Westover vs. Cedar Grove- 5:30 p.m.
North Clayton vs. Statesboro- 7:00 p.m.
Lee Co. vs. Manchester- 8:30 p.m.
Copyright 2013 WALB. All rights reserved.
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