Commissioner Bernadette McGlade (Second left) with members of the St. Louis Championship Team.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

What a tremendous success for a first time and newly built venue to host a major post season college basketball Division I tournament! And it also marked a Brooklyn product to be competing near his old high school and residence.

Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn went up or opened last fall as the New Jersey Nets moved its National Basketball Association franchise across two rivers to a much larger venue.

An idea came about by the management and owners to stage other events, including more basketball ones, in this new venue. One idea was college basketball attractions.

Atlantic 10 Commisioner Bernadette McGlade negotiated with officials of the Barclays Center to host a post season tournament with the winner automatically qualifying for the very prestigious NCAA tournament. This latter event is what most college players strive for.

It was a four-day/evening event with teams coming from the Atlantic 10 Conference. Everything went smoothly with the players and fans bussed from their college to the Center to watch first class basketball in a first class arena. The players had nothing but praise for the spacious facilities.

It was a pleasure for the fans and spectators to cheer for their favorite team. College students, parents and friends of the competing players plus high school students and kids from the neighborhood packed the stands.

They cheered for Chaz Williams, a point guard, who can also put the ball in the hoop for the Masschusetts Minutemen during their games. But they were disappointed when UMass were eliminated and did not compete in the finals.

Chaz had praise for the new venue, located maybe close to three miles from his former school, Bishop Ford, a member of the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association.

His play in college induced the pro scouts to keep him on the list for consideration even though he stands only 5’9.’’ But his height maybe in the way.

When coach Derek Kellogg needs a score, he knows who can start it and finish it. This player is Chaz, the same that he did when he was at Bishop Ford. He can do almost anything on the court except rebound. He can drive inside or shoot from the outside, including from long range out. And he can run the show from a backcourt position setting up his teammates. And he can play tremendous defense including making those steals. He became the ‘go to’ player while at UMass and has one more year left at college.

All eyes were focused on him in the tournament. In a quarter final game when UMass defeated Temple, 79-74, he scored 28 points and assisted five times. When his coach needed him to score, he counted a great deal on him.

However, against a stronger VCU team, it was a different game, as the Rams defeated UMass, 71-62, to send the losers packing. Chaz committed four fouls and five turnovers but still managed to score 18 points to disappoint the fans.

In the championship game, St. Louis took the title with a 62-56 win over VCU, thus earning a NCAA berth.

The tournament was an extreme success on all fronts. And the committee agreed that they would continue to do the same next year.

St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (center) during a match against Virginia Commonwealth University at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

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