After months of anticipation, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic kicked off today in style at Belfast’s SSE Arena. Eight collegiate American basketball teams have now arrived in Northern Ireland to compete in the Belfast Classic Tournament. Now in its second year, the three-day tournament brought to Northern Ireland through a partnership with the Sport Changes Life Foundation, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Metro Athletic Conference (MAAC), is the only NCAA competitive collegiate basketball tournament to take place in Europe.
Day one of the Belfast Classic saw thousands of basketball fans and enthusiasts travel to Belfast’s SSE Arena from across the island of Ireland and further afield including the United Kingdom and the United States. Split into two brackets, Samson and Goliath, the Samson bracket began their title race today, with Marist College and Dartmouth College going head to head for their place in the championship game, which will be played on Friday 30th November at 7.30pm. Setting an excellent standard for this tournament’s game play, the Marist College Red Foxes pulled off a solid win over Dartmouth College with a final score of 76-58.
In addition to treating fans to an exciting tournament premiere game, the team from Marist, among others competitors in the tournament, also took time this week to give back to the community. Speaking on his team’s visit to De La Salle College on Wednesday which helped to inspire young students into pursuing their dreams and maybe even picking up a basketball, Forward Ryan Funk said, “It was really fun to go and meet the kids… some of our teammates got 50 or 60 Instagram followers from all of those kids, so I think they were really inspired [by our visit].”
Bringing the first round of Samson bracket games and the first day of the tournament to a close were Long Island University Brooklyn and University at Albany who took to the court in front of a full house of eager young fans. The fast-paced, neck-and-neck game saw Long Island University steal the victory, beating Albany by 3 points in an 80 – 77 game which came down to the final seconds.
Following their exciting victory, Long Island University Head Coach Derek Kellogg said, “We’ve been working to try to get the pace of the game a little faster and a little more chaotic. That didn’t really happen much in the first half, but I was happy to see - we kept at it a little bit and made some shots and I feel we loosened them up in the second half. We were very fortunate obviously to come away with a win. Both teams played hard and the guys kept competing, and good things happen once in a while.”
Marc Mulholland, Executive Director of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic added, “Today was a great first day for the Tournament. Each of the four teams that played today were a credit to their coaches, colleges and families as they demonstrated some excellent ball skills, teamwork and fast-paced play which is great for the local fans to enjoy! We are delighted to have been able to bring the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic back to Northern Ireland for the second year and couldn’t be more pleased with the continued growth of the sport throughout the island of Ireland.”
The second day of the tournament will commence tomorrow, Friday 30th November 2018, with teams from the Goliath Bracket; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University at Buffalo University of San Francisco and Stephen F. Austin State University taking to the court, with gameplay beginning at 10.30am. The Samson Bracket consolation game will take place at 5.00pm between Dartmouth College and University at Albany and the bracket gameplay will culminate in a Championship game between Marist College and Long Island University at 7.30pm, resulting in the first of the Belfast Classic Cups being claimed.
The event will offer a fun day out for families and friends of all ages and is the perfect sporting occasion for youth groups, schools and sporting clubs to enjoy. The Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic will offer loads of fun and entertainment throughout the tournament complemented by the interactive Fan Zone located within the Odyssey Pavilion which offers basketball-themed games and activities, exhibitions by skilled players, and opportunities to get involved in supporting your favourite teams.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey said, “It is great to see the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic tournament return to Belfast for its second year after its huge success last year. We are delighted to be able to welcome double the amount of college basketball teams to Belfast this year for the tournament as well as welcoming many visitors to Northern Ireland from Europe and beyond, who are here to spectate and cheer on the fantastic teams participating in the Belfast Classic.
“The atmosphere in the SSE Arena today has been electric and I am very excited to feel it intensify as the weekend develops and the championship games for each bracket approach. This tournament proves that Belfast continues to build upon its reputation for hosting world class sporting events and I want to wish all of the teams the best of luck throughout the remainder of the weekend.”
Tickets are still available for Friday and Saturday’s Tournament games from the SSE Arena box office or online at www.belfastbasketballclassic.com
For media enquiries on the upcoming Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic please contact Massive PR – Brittany Breslin (Brittany@massivepr.tv / 07786 964 645), Bryony Chapman (Bryony@massivepr.tv / 07834593111) or Julie McCabe (Julie@massivepr.tv / 07801 989 950)
About the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic presented by Sport Changes Life and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is back for its second year and has doubled in size, with eight US college men’s basketball teams scheduled to play over three days of gameplay at the SSE Arena Belfast (University at Albany; University at Buffalo; Dartmouth College; LIU Brooklyn; Marist College; University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; University of San Francisco; and Stephen F. Austin State University. Held in conjunction with the MAAC, Sport Changes Life, Rory McIlroy’s Foundation – the Rory Foundation – Aer Lingus, Belfast City Council, Velocity World Wide, Basketball Ireland and The SSE Arena, Belfast, the Belfast Classic take place from 29th November – 1st December with teams playing in two brackets, Samson and Goliath. The event is powered by Darius, Velocity Worldwide’s customer engagement technology to create an experience like no other for the fans attending the unique event.
About Sport Changes Life Foundation: The primary goal of SCL is to provide an opportunity for raising the aspirations of young people on both sides of the Atlantic so that they can live out their dreams and guide them as sport changes their lives. Sport Changes Life is a sports foundation built on inspiration, hope and victory and works in disadvantaged communities to help young people find a path to a brighter future with the help of their international student athletes, the Victory Scholars. In February 2016, SCL formally partnered with The Rory Foundation as both foundations strive together to help change the lives of young people on the island of Ireland and beyond.
About the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: With 11 institutions strongly bound by the sound principles of quality and integrity in academics and excellence in athletics, the MAAC- is in its 38th year of competition during the 2018 - 2019 academic year. Current conference members include: Canisius College, Fairfield University, Iona College, Manhattan College, Marist College, Monmouth University, Niagara University, Quinnipiac University, Rider University, St Peter’s University and Siena College.
About the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where basketball was invented, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame promotes and preserves the game of basketball at every level – professional, collegiate and high school, for both men and women on the global stage.