Following the debut of ‘big basketball’ in Northern Ireland last year with the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, event host The Sport Changes Life Foundation has announced the return of the basketball tournament with eight American college basketball teams lined up to play in Belfast’s SSE Arena from November 29 to December 1, 2018.

Featuring twice as many teams and an extra day of game play this year with more dribbles and dunks – and double the number of winners – the SSE Arena will come to life as world-class basketball players from across the United States go head-to-head to claim the coveted Belfast Classic Cups at the tournament’s end.

Attended by nearly ten thousand spectators throughout its two days in 2017, including local basketball players and their families and spectators curious about the sport, this year tournament organisers expect even more fans to come from across the island of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales to participate in this unique event and be inspired by the level of game play on display.

Drawing on the Sport Changes Life Foundation’s goal of inspiring young people through sport, the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic is hosted locally by the charity with the aim of inspiring young people to pursue their dreams to their fullest extent, whether they aspire to be sporting superstars, entrepreneurs or scientists.

“The whole point of this event is to show young people that if they work hard enough to reach their goals, anything is possible,” said Gareth Maguire, CEO, Sport Changes Life. “We believe in the power of sport to develop teamwork, self-confidence and discipline among young people, and these attributes can be applied to any young person’s life, whether they are on or off the court.” added Marc Mulholland, Executive Director, Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic.

Sport Changes Life has worked locally for over a decade to empower young people through sport with its many youth-facing initiatives including its eHOOPS programme as well as its popular Victory Scholars programme which hand-selects American postgraduate students to study on the island of Ireland whilst also representing their university teams in basketball and coaching the sport at a grassroots level in their local communities.

In addition to these community initiatives, organisers also hope that witnessing this level of tournament game play firsthand will act as proof of what can be achieved within the sport, while also building civic pride for local supporters hosting the teams in Northern Ireland.

“Many of the young players who will take to the court during this year’s Belfast Classic come from backgrounds very similar to the young people who will be in attendance at this year’s games and who we support through our community initiatives,” added Gareth Maguire. “We hope these players will leave the Belfast Classic this year with a renewed drive to be forces of inspiration within their local communities.”

The Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic is the only tournament authorised by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) outside of the United States and as such will present a level of game play and production second to none in Europe.

“We are confident that the Belfast Classic can be enjoyed by all guests, not just those familiar with the sport,” added Marc Mulholland. “In addition to a fast-paced game full of action and excitement, guests can also take advantage of in-game entertainment from the teams’ cheer squads, bands and supporters from America as well as our own on-court entertainment from performers and groups during breaks in game play.  You can also enjoy the Fan Fair which will take place alongside the tournament games, offering hands-on opportunities for visitors between tournament games.”

A unique addition to this year’s tournament will also be a youth-focused tournament day. Launching at 4.30pm on Thursday November 29, event organisers are expecting to see a surge in youth groups, sport clubs and after-school groups taking advantage of the affordable ticket prices and kid-friendly entertainment on display at the Belfast Classic’s first day of game play. Friday morning’s games, starting at 10.30am, will also welcome school groups to the SSE Arena Belfast to cheer on their favourite teams, while families are expected to come out in full force on Saturday December 1 from 1pm for the tournament’s final consolation and championship games.

The Belfast Classic promises to be a fantastic day out for families for less than the cost of a cinema trip.

Family tickets including two adults and two children are available for £25 per session (including two games per session), while all-tournament tickets are the ideal purchase for any basketball mad spectators, granting access to all eight tournament games for only £30 per person. General Admission tickets are £10 per session.

Full Ticket information can be found at belfastbasketballclassic.com

Schools, clubs and youth group bookings are also available for over 20 people by emailing bookings@belfastbasketballclassic.com

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