Cultural show highlights Falcons’ Thanksgiving Basketball Classic

PLAITING OF THE MAYPOLE – Visiting members of the teams out of the United States are pictured participating in the school’s rendition of the Plaiting of the Maypole during the opening ceremony of the Tabernacle Falcons Thanksgiving Basketball Classic opening ceremony.  (PHOTOS: SHAYNE STUBBS)

Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy’s cultural brilliance was once again on display during the official opening ceremony of the 20th Tabernacle Falcons Thanksgiving Basketball Classic on Wednesday morning at the St.Georges Gymnasium.

The Falcons displayed the talent that has made them prominent in the National Arts Festival, and the 20th anniversary of the tournament sparked a trip down memory lane for Principal Edward Johnson; tournament director Norris Bain; as well as Dale Burns  who partnered with Bain to bring the tournament to fruition; and Tabernacle Baptist alumni Jimmy Mackey who served as the guest speaker. 

Once the participating boys and girls teams were introduced, Principal Johnson officially welcomed the teams and dignitaries. Since 1998, Johnson has been able to witness the steady growth of the tournament. He admitted he was unsure how the tournament would pan out when Bain first expressed the idea, with the thought that the visiting students would much rather enjoy their thanksgiving holiday. 

“Boy was I wrong. This tournament has grown tremendously. We are at the point where we’re having difficulty finding hotel accommodations for everyone. There’s even a long waiting list to attend this tournament. And, I must say the idea behind the idea of this tournament on behalf of Dale Burns from Tennessee and Norris Bain from Tabernacle Academy, was sheer brilliance. 

“This tournament as grown much more beyond a basketball tournament. This tournament has become more of a cultural exchange as we see so many of our friends return again and again.”

The partnership between Bain and Burns came into being through a mutual friend of theirs by the name of Jeff Myer, an assistant coach at the University of Indiana at the time. Myers put Bain in contact with Barnes as the former Falcons’ coach had hopes of his team participating in the widely popular Arby’s Classic, held yearly in Bristol, Tennessee. Burns was the Arby’s Classic’s tournament director. 

The Falcons then became regular participants in the Arby’s Classic for 20 years. Barnes introduced the idea to Bain of hosting a local thanksgiving tournament here in Grand Bahama. 

Bain expressed ongoing satisfaction with how the event has evolved.

“Like Mr. Johnson said, I didn’t know how it was going to turn out but Dale said go ahead, I’ll get you the teams and we’ll pull the event off. So we started this tournament in 1999 and brought in at that time, Science Hill. We brought also Brainerd and Robert High.

“Perhaps one of the greatest basketball games I ever watched took place at the YMCA between Science Hill and Tabernacle Baptist. It went to double overtime and the final score was 102-101, won by Science Hill. We often still talk about that basketball game. The media from Science Hill was here and they radio broadcasted the games back to Johnson City. 

“This tournament has certainly grown to this level largely because of the input and help of Dale Burns who has ensured that we get the quality teams,” said Bain.

While the friendship forged with Bain and spirit of competition has kept Burns connected to the tournament, the latter acknowledged that the hospitality shown to him during his visits make every trip memorable for him.

“I think the most important thing, I tell the people that come down here with me - I tell them this every year - it’s the people. The people in The Bahamas are the greatest people in the world. I also tell them when you come down here, what I want to make sure you do is treat them with the same respect that they treat you with. I always tell the teams that. 

“They put a lot into this (tournament), and you can see the pride in what they do. It’s really a special thing.”

Mackey became popular as an athlete for the Falcons for his unique leaping ability. The former Falcon, who now owns his own fitness center in New Providence - MacFit360 - moved on to playing collegiate basketball and ultimately pro basketball in Europe in 2004. 

Mackey eventually put his basketball career on hold to focus on receiving an advanced degree in sports management and massage therapy. His dream of offering something unique in the field of fitness in the country gave birth to what has become one of the most popular fitness and performance centers in New Providence. 

The 2017 National Icon Award winner, who grew up on the streets of Kemp Road in the nation’s capital before moving to Grand Bahama, shared with the athletes how his rough upbringing propelled him to the life he now knows. Married with two children, a business owner with numerous certifications, Mackey urged the athletes to never take the moments of their youth for granted. 

“Really take heed of these moments. Enjoy these moments because after this, the real world happens.

“Some days you’re going to be up, some days you’re going to be down. But, you just have to turn to each other as a team and say ‘let’s go guys.’ This is tournament weekend, enjoy it. 

“I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for what you (administration and teachers) have done for me and I’ll never forget the opportunity you’ve given me. Some day I want to officially put MacFit360 as an official sponsor for this tournament,” he concluded. 

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