By Tony Briscoe
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
Believe it or not, a championship basketball team will grace the Jack Breslin Student Events Center floor this year—but unfortunately for Michigan State University fans, the only guaranteed champions will be high school players.
Last week, the university came to terms with the Michigan High School Athletic Association for a six-year contract extension to hold the basketball finals for all athletic classes in the Breslin Center through 2017.
MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts said the Breslin Center is a great venue for the basketball finals for a number of reasons, including its geography and architecture.
“It’s certainly a great location east to west and it’s a basketball-pure facility,” said Roberts. “It was built with basketball in mind. The spectators are close, have good views, people make a lot of noise and it’s a good atmosphere.”
The Breslin Center, which seats 15,085, also has a long history with the high school championships that Roberts said made it a practical choice.
“We have a history at Michigan State that is unmatched in comparison with any other venue,” said Roberts. “We spent some years at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor and even three years at the Palace of Auburn Hills, but Michigan State University, more often than not, has been the home of the MHSAA boys tournament, and in recent years the girls tournament.”
The Breslin Center has hosted the boys finals and semifinals, while the girls semifinals and championship games just returned last year.
In addition, Roberts said Jenison Fieldhouse will continue to host March Magic Hoopfest, a collection of basketball festivities that accompany the boys basketball semifinals and championship games from March 24-26.
“It’s an really an interactive fan (festival) for kids and adults of all ages,” said Greater Lansing Sports Authority Director Mike Price. “We’re going to have a ton of fun, unique venues inside which include a full-court shot, a three-point shooting competition, a skills challenge area (and) a slam-dunk competition, with some lower hoops…to give everyone a chance to feel like Dominique Wilkins.”
Price said there will also be wheel chair and youth basketball games, plus a youth basketball clinic featured on the two center courts in the fieldhouse.
On top of being great fun for the whole community, March Magic Hoopfest and the boys and girls finals will have a great economic impact for East Lansing as well. According to Price, studies in past years have shown the boys finals alone have generated approximately a $2.2 million in revenue for East Lansing and surrounding communities.
More importantly, Price said that East Lansing has become a basketball capital for the state of Michigan, creating a great environment for student athletics.
“I think if you’re a high school basketball player or junior high basketball player, you look at it as the road to the Breslin Center as the road to the championship. We want our community to be associated with championship level events..and we want (athletes) to aspire to come to our region.”
March 17-18–Girls Semifinals
March 19–Girls Finals
March 24-25–Boys Semifinals
March 26–Boys Finals