PINE BLUFF -- The King Cotton is making a comeback.
The nonprofit organization Go Forward Pine Bluff announced the return of the King Cotton Holiday Classic during a news conference Wednesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Once recognized as the nation's premier invitational high school boys basketball tournament, the tournament will return to the court after an 18-year hiatus.
The eight-team boys tournament will feature state championship contenders from California, Texas, Florida, New York, Louisiana and Mississippi. Jacksonville and host Pine Bluff will represent Arkansas.
The tournament will be held Dec. 27-29.
Tournament director Samuel Glover said the search to find quality teams to play in the revived tournament began more than a year ago.
"I reached out in my extensive network of coaches from different areas of the country, and it boiled down to good ole research," Glover said. "The response was great. The only difficulty was that some of these coaches are younger, and they had no idea what the King Cotton was."
The King Cotton was the first of its kind.
The brainchild of Travis Creed, a bank executive from Pine Bluff, the King Cotton made its debut at the convention center Dec. 16, 1983. Powerhouse programs and future NBA stars were a staple of the event for the next 17 years.
While there were other national invitational tournaments being played in Las Vegas and South Carolina in 1983, the King Cotton was the first to pay the teams' expenses.
ESPN gave the King Cotton and high school basketball national exposure. On Dec. 28, 1987, the network televised the championship game, making it the first high school basketball game to receive prime-time billing.
More than 7,600 fans attended the 1991 championship game between Russellville, which featured Corliss Williamson, and St. Joseph Notre Dame High School (Alameda, Calif.), which was led by Jason Kidd. That game ended with Williamson blocking Kidd's last-second shot to ensure Russellville's one-point victory.
After several years of dwindling attendance, the tournament came to an end in 1999.
Creed, 78, said he is pleased to see his creation revived.
"I had hoped and prayed that it would come back, but I had really lost faith that it was going to happen," Creed said. "I don't think anybody is as excited as I am. At my age, it's hard to get excited about anything anymore, but I am excited."
Glover said he wanted the tournament to have "a national feel" about it.
"We wanted to cultivate the border states first," Glover said. "But the plan was always to go to both coasts and find teams for that national feel."
Because of the tournament, the basketball arena will get a face-lift. Convention center officials said the arena will receive a new video scoreboard and message boards on the front of the scorer's table. There will also be upgrades to the restrooms, dressing rooms and concession stands. A new exterior marquee and fresh paint also will be a part of the renovation.
King Cotton Holiday Classic
WHAT Basketball tournament featuring eight high school boys teams from seven states
WHEN Dec. 27-29
WHERE Pine Bluff Convention Center
Sports on 09/13/2018
KING COTTON PARTICIPANTS
NOTEWORTHY; Ranked No. 1 in Mississippi, No. 35 nationally by MaxPreps.com. Reached final four in state the past four years.
Houston Math Science & Tech
NOTEWORTHY; Ranked No. 16 in Texas, No. 92 nationally by MaxPreps.com. Power forward Marlon Jackson averaged 13.1 points and 4.0 rebounds last season.
Landry Walker High, New Orleans
NOTEWORTHY; Lost in the 6A state championship game. Ranked No. 8 in Louisiana. Reached state finals the past three years.
Gulliver Prep, Miami
NOTEWORTHY; Jamal Mashburn Jr. averaged 27.4 points and 4.9 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore. Tony Sanders averaged 13.3 points a game last season as a sophomore.
The Park School of Buffalo, Snyder, N.Y.
NOTEWORTHY; Ranked No. 4 in New York and No. 102 nationally by MaxPreps last season. Won its final 10 games of the 2017-2018 season. Daniel Scott led the Pioneers with 16.7 points per game last season. Guard Noah Hutchins averaged 13.0 points and 6.6 assists last season.
Polytechnic, Long Beach, Calif.
NOTEWORTHY; State quarterfinalist last season.
NOTEWORTHY; Reached the second round of the Class 6A state tournament last season.
NOTEWORTHY; Reached the semifinals of the Class 6A state tournament last season.
Print Headline: Cotton revived in Pine Bluff