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Portsmouth Invitational tips off… with a song

Portsmouth Invitational

The scout tables at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament loom large at the end of the court as over 75 sets of eyes from numerous levels of professional basketball watch the players every move.

The 61st Annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament tipped off Wednesday night in front of a near capacity crowd, both in the stands and at the scout tables as representatives of every NBA club and a number of others were in attendance. Before they put up a shot, there was an impromptu a cappella version of the National Anthem, sung by the entire gym.

The opening contest between the Norfolk Sports Club and K&D Roundscaping began with a moment of silence for two long-time supporters of the PIT, Yale Dolsey and Marty Blake. Dolsey passed away in January at the age of 89 and was a key player in the development of the PIT over the years. At the time of his death, Dolsey was in the process of hand-picking the next crop of 64 collegiate seniors that would be given the privilege to compete at Churchland High School, the site of the PIT. Blake, who passed away last Sunday at age 86, began scouting in 1954 and eventually became the head scout for the NBA, a position he held for over 35 years. Blake was a big supporter of the tournament for many years.

Following the moment of silence, the traditional playing of the National Anthem was interrupted by a faulty recording. As they scrambled to fix it and the crowd grew restless, it was suggested that the crowd sing instead, resulting in a very classy gymnasium-wide version. As the PIT directors discussed the moment after the day’s activities had concluded, the consensus was kudos for quick thinking and turning a potential embarrassing moment into a memorable one.

As the first contest got underway, the atmosphere was filled with the need to push, as that table of eyes at end of the court was watching their every move. The guys in the PIT are there to give the scouts one more look a them and anything they can bring to the table in Portsmouth to boost their stock is going to be left on that table. A player was overheard saying, “I get one shot at this, if they have to carry me out on a stretcher, so be it…” That’s the way the PIT games are played, fast and furious. No one walks the ball up the court and there’s little need for a shot clock as moving the ball around looking for an open shot isn’t part of the game plan, making open shots and opportunities is.

The PIT isn’t just for the players and their families though, as the tournament attracts numerous local families to the competition. One such young fan, ‘Ronnie’, sporting a USA Basketball jersey with the name ‘James’ on the back, was seen running up and down the set of bleachers with his program in tow, seeking autographs from the many NBA representatives. When asked, Ronnie replied, “I try to fill up the page with an autograph from each team and as many players as I can, this is my third year.” As he dashed off for another round during the half-time break of game two, his father, Ronnie, Sr., said, “He loves basketball and where else can I take him to see this level of competition?”

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament: Day One Results:
K&D Roundscaping – Norfolk Sports Club, 91:67
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Portsmouth Partnership – Mike Duman Auto Sales, 90:89
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