Fans of girls basketball in West Tennessee won’t have to go far to see quality competition this week.
The Chris Nelson Girls Basketball Team Camp began Monday at Bethel University, featuring 96 high schools and middle schools combined.
Teams from Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri are taking part with a total of 242 games on the schedule.
Nelson, recognized by many as one of the best women’s college basketball coaches in the nation, said this team camp has just gotten bigger.
“This shines such a big light on Carroll County and it’s great for the local economy to have all these teams here,” said Nelson.
There are many teams coming a long way to play in the camp.
“There are teams from Middle Tennessee who want to come here because they play a lot of teams from this area in substate, so they want to see what they are up against,” Nelson said.
McKenzie High School, the defending Class A girls’ state champ, is in the draw, as well as other area contenders like Gleason and Dresden. Huntingdon and Bruceton are participating, as well as Camden, Big Sandy, McEwen and Waverly.
Venues hosting this event include Bethel’s Crisp Arena and Baker Fieldhouse, McKenzie High School, Gleason’s main gym and Dudley Sanders Gymnasium, West Carroll’s main and auxiliary gyms, and Henry County High School.
“This is a good recruiting tool for Bethel but we also want to help promote girls basketball in this area,” Nelson said. “There is a lot of support for girls basketball in this area and we want to help make them better.”
Nelson also said that camps like these are a great networking resource for coaches to discuss coaching style, strategy, future scheduling and foment fellowship.
Twenty-six teams are staying in the dormitories on campus, which helps teams from, say, Eagleville, Huntland, Bowling Green, Ky. and others who can’t readily travel back and forth.
Nelson said one of the biggest challenges of the whole thing is finding enough officials to referee the contests. But Nelson has given some of his Lady Wildcat players a crash course in officiating should there be a shortage.
“It’s surreal how big this thing has gotten,” Nelson said. “But this is an opportunity for teams to get better in the off season. “