IMG Academy’s nationally ranked boys basketball team won’t have to travel very far to play in the GEICO Nationals in three weeks.
The tournament, launched in 2009 to help determine boys and girls mythical national champions, has relocated from New York City to Fort Myers and will be played March 31 to April 3 at Florida Southwestern’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena, it was announced recently.
However, no tickets will be sold to the general public.
A 10-team boys field and four-team girls bracket will be unveiled some time during the next week. The Ascenders (21-2) will likely be joined by defending national champion Montverde Academy (20-1) — a four-time Culligan City of Palms Classic champion and four-time GEICO winner, as well — and other top programs like Oak Hill Academy in the single-elimination tournament, which will be televised in its entirety on ESPN’s various platforms.
“It’s tremendous to have GEICO Nationals back in 2021,” said Rashid Ghazi, the executive director of the tournament, “and to host it in Florida, where the (Florida High School Athletic Association) has always been a big supporter of the event.”
The girls field is expected to include Orlando Lake Highland Prep (19-0), the Class 4A state champion and MaxPreps’ No. 1-ranked team nationally.
“It’s comfortable for us,” IMG coach Sean McAloon said. “Since I’ve been the coach here, we’ve been down that way a lot. We can almost approach this like a regular tournament, because we’re so used to (Fort Myers).
“I don’t know if it gives us an advantage. But if you forget something, it’s only two hours away.”
Ghazi said that only players’ parents, staff and limited media will be allowed to attend, for the same reason the 2020 City of Palms was canceled.
“We want to maximize player safety during the tournament. and felt the best way to do that was to limit the number of people in the gym,” he said.
The Fort Myers Tip-Off was held as scheduled last Nov. 26-27 at FSW, with organizers scrambling but ultimately assembling a stellar field: No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, No. 11 Kansas, Auburn and Saint Joseph’s. FSW currently allows up to 50% capacity (about 1,500), but that tournament admitted only 400 fans per session.
IMG Academy (boys) and New Hope Academy (Maryland) won the 2019 GEICO Nationals, played at Christ The King High School in Queens, New York. The 2020 event was canceled shortly after the start of the pandemic.
The event previously made stops in North Bethesda, Maryland (2009-13), when it was called the “National High School Invitational,” and Madison Square Garden (for the finals in 2014-16), with Dick’s Sporting Goods as a title sponsor.