College basketball games usually end in Jacksonville in late February annually.
That could change in 2015, if Jacksonville College and Jacksonville Independent School District (JISD) officials are successful in carrying out a plan that at the very least shows a tremendous sense of cooperation and forward thinking between two of Cherokee County's largest educational entities.
T. Lynn Nabi, academic dean at JC and Dr. Joe Wardell, JISD superintendent, both confirmed Wednesday that JC and JISD plan on partnering to present a bid to host the NJCAA Region 14 mens and womens basketball championship tournaments, which would take place in early March 2015.
The venue that would be the focal point for the tournaments is the JISD Gymnasium (formally Smith Events Center at Lon Morris College) which JISD has recently refurbished after submitting what turned out to be the winning bid to purchase the facility, as well as several additional LMC properties earlier this year.
The arena, which seats approximately 4,000, has been given a head-to-toe makeover to bring it up to speed as the building will be the new home court for Jacksonville High School basketball teams.
The bid would have to be submitted to the Region 14 regional directors by Dec. 1 of this year in order to be considered - the 2014 tournaments, which help decide what Region 14 teams will represent the league at the NJCAA national tournaments, will be staged at UT-Tyler's Herrington-Patriot Center March 4-8, 2014.
Wardell indicated that the decision to bid on the tournaments was not a fly-by-night arrangement and was one that has been in the back of the minds of both JISD and JC school officials for a while now.
"We have already done a lot things to make the JISD Gymnasium a multi-purpose facility that can be used to host many more events other than just Jacksonville High School basketball games," Wardell said. "For example, when we renovated the building we kept the shot clocks, which would be needed for college basketball games, and when the court was redone we made sure to include the various lines and markings that are required for college games."
Wardell went on to mention that if Jacksonville wins the bid, the economic benefits of hosting the tournaments should provide a shot in the arm for many of the town's businesses and will have an overall positive impact that reaches far beyond JISD and JC.
"Our local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and shopping centers will all benefit by having this large number of schools and their fans in Jacksonville for four or five days," he said. "It would be a significant boost to our local economy with the amount of dollars that would be spent right here in Jacksonville."
Nabi went on record as saying that he believes the resources that JISD and JC bring to the table should make the Jacksonville bid even more attractive.
"We're excited about Region 14's new bid process and are excited about working with the JISD administrators on organizing a first class operation": he said. "JISD administration has been so supportive in helping us secure this site for this future event."
NJCAA Region 14 will field 14 men's basketball teams in the 2014-15 season and 11 women's clubs — Bossier Parish (La.) Community College and Coastal Bend College in Beeville have added womens teams that will be playing in the conference for the first time this season.
Ninety to 95-percent of the teams usually qualify for the circuit's championship tournaments.