Some of the area’s best junior-varsity basketball squads will hit the hardwood Saturday for the 21st annual Donell Woods Memorial Tournament.
Play starts at 10 a.m. Games are set for Bradwell Institute, Lewis Fraiser Middle School and Snelson-Golden Middle School. Admission is free.
Woods was a 1957 graduate of the original Liberty County High during segregation. Later, Woods coached football at his alma mater from 1962 until the county’s schools were integrated in 1972. Woods then served as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at BI from 1972 until his death at 40 from lung cancer in 1980. He received the Hinesville Officials Association Official of the Year award and twice was named coach of the year by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. The football stadium at the new Liberty County High School bears his name.
Woods was the first cousin to current Lady Tiger basketball coach Faye Baker, who said the tournament was created in 1992 by then-Bradwell coach Willie Graham as a way to keep Woods’ legacy alive for future athletes.
Baker said her cousin was coaching at BI when she was a student. She said the tournament is dear to her heart, honoring the man who was a mentor for many local athletes.
The Baker and Woods families created a committee that raises funds for the annual event to offset the costs of the
officials and other expenses.
The tournament will feature eight boys’ and girls’ junior varsity squads from Glynn Academy, Richmond Hill, McIntosh County Academy, Burke County Johnson, Jenkins, Ware County Wayne County and Statesboro.
“I’m looking forward to it because we have some different schools coming in than we normally had in the past,” Baker said. “It’s going to be very exciting. It’s always good to allow the young kids to showcase their talents, and this is one day where we feature them.”
Lady Tiger junior-varsity coach Dana King said his girls have been working hard in preparation of the tournament.
“We have a lot of work we need to do, but they are learning and each game, I see progress,” he said. “We need to pick up the intensity in practice and carry that over to the game. I am looking for them to play together a as a team, and we will use this opportunity to come together. We have a lot of individuals with good talent, but we need to bring it together … if we do that during this tournament, I think we can win the tournament. We won the tournament three years in a row and then lost it two years in a row, so we have to break that losing streak.”
Baker said the tournament also provides her a glimpse of the girls who might be coming into the varsity unit.
“I’ll be looking to see how the girls execute on the floor and their knowledge,” she said. “Coach King does an excellent job, and he pretty much feeds right into what we do. Whatever we are doing at the varsity level, he is pretty much doing at the junior varsity level so they get a lot of repetition on what we do. In a lot of cases, the more-skilled players will just need some tweaking when they get on varsity. We are looking at who has potential … and hopefully help us out at the varsity level next year.”