The annual “HoopsFest”, for many years one of the most acclaimed prep basketball events on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, returns this weekend but in a bit of a different form and in a new arena as well.
The “2023 South Mississippi Hoopsfest” features six contests, five boys and one girl’s game, beginning at 11 a.m., Saturday at the Biloxi High Sports Arena. There will be three different sessions featuring two games each. The first session sees Picayune vs. McGill-Toolen of Mobile (Ala.) at 11 followed by Harrison Central vs. Cottage Hill of Mobile at 12:30.
The second session has Ocean Springs vs. Forrest Hill of Jackson at 2:30 and then Gulfport vs. Terry at 4 p.m. The first two sessions are all boys’ games.
The third and final session begins at 6 p.m. and pits the host Biloxi Lady Indians vs. Pascagoula to tip the action off followed by the boys’ teams from the same two schools at 7:30.
It will mark the first and only regular-season meeting between PHS and BHS this year, after games between all four squads were canceled in mid-December due to weather issues.
The arena will be swept clean after each session before the next session begins. Tickets will be $8 per person for each session or an all-day pass will be available for $20 apiece.
This marks just the second time in the past almost 30 years that the “HoopsFest” won’t take place at The Mississippi Coast Coliseum, where the annual affair began in 1995.
Since its inception, “HoopsFest’ has been a staple in prep basketball circles throughout South Mississippi. The event was the brainchild of then Coast Coliseum assistant director Matt McDonnell, who is now the Executive Director of the same venue. Under his guidance, it went on to become one of the longest-running annual prep hoops events in the Gulf South region.
Throughout its history, HoopsFest has featured not only just boys and girls teams from across south Mississippi but throughout the rest of The Magnolia State as well as teams from neighboring Louisiana and Alabama also.
The 2003 HoopsFest was a two-day affair that included four prep games on Friday night and then three more on Saturday night as well as a Southern Mississippi-Houston Conference USA match-up sandwiched in between those two sessions on Saturday afternoon.
The 2006 HoopsFest was played at the then-new Bert Jenkins Gym on the Gulfport campus after the Coliseum was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. There was no HoopsFest in 2021 in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The event celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019 with a seven-game affair that also included a 3-point shot contest as well as a dunk contest.
In addition, the event has featured some upcoming prep stars on the hardwood that went on to play major college basketball as well as making their mark in the National Basketball Association including Devin Booker of Moss Point, Al Jefferson of Prentiss, Malik Newman of Jackson Callaway, Monta Ellis of Jackson Murrah, Jonathan Bender of Picayune and Ronald Dupree of Biloxi among others.
Also, now Southern Mississippi men’s head coach Jay Ladner coached in several HoopsFest games while he was the head coach at St. Stanislaus.