Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 | 2:18 p.m.
To be the best, you have to beat the best.
That's Foothill High boys basketball coach Kevin Soares' theory entering this week's Bishop Gorman Holiday Classic. The 32-team event, which starts Thursday afternoon and finishes Saturday, features more than its share of nationally respected opponents.
It also includes six local teams — Desert Pines, Gorman, Faith Lutheran, Foothill, Silverado and Spring Valley — who are using the event to help prepare for the remainder of the season.
Clark County School District budget cuts eliminated roughly five games and one tournament from each team's schedule this winter. That means a marquee event like the Gorman tournament gives teams an unique combination — quality competition and, more importantly, court time.
"It's great exposure for the kids," Soares said. "We are just trying to get better. We are using this to get in some good competition. We are looking at the big picture, which is preparing to win our region and make a run at the state tournament."
The tournament, which each day will be attended by college coaches from more than a dozen schools, is widely considered as one of the elite holiday tournaments on the West coast, Gorman coach Grant Rice said.
Rice said defending national champion North Carolina would have a coach scouting Thursday's games and he anticipates every school from the Pacific-10 Conference would be represented.
Rice said having local schools involved helps improve basketball in the Las Vegas Valley.
"Kevin Soares is the best," Rice said. "He wants to play the best possible competition and won't back down from anyone."
Rice said the top teams in the event include Hoover High of San Diego, La Verne Lutheran of California, Bishop McNamara of Maryland and Richwood High of Louisiana, which opens at 1 p.m. Thursday against Foothill. Christian Life Center of Houston, which stayed close to No. 1 Findlay Prep of Henderson on Tuesday, is also entered.
The top player is junior Angelo Chol, a 6-foot-8 forward from Hoover High who is one of the nation's most-coveted recruits for the 2011 class.
Gorman, like the other local teams, is using the tournament to gain experience for the long haul. The defending state champions have 14 players on their roster, and Rice is experimenting with several combinations.
"We have to establish some chemistry," Rice said. "We are so deep this year. Our bench guys are pretty talented."
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.