PINE BLUFF, Ark — The newly renovated Pine Bluff Convention Center will soon have its seats filled with basketball fans from around the country.
Go Forward Pine Bluff held an event to announce 20 teams competing in the annual King Cotton Holiday Classic, the nationally recognized high school basketball tournament sponsored by Simmons Bank arena.
The event was canceled last year during the pandemic.
"I'm overjoyed that this tournament is being revived again. COVID pushed us back for a moment, but it's coming back," said Mayor Shirley Washington at the announcement.
Organizers are preparing for the annual event that brings high schools from across the nation to the Pine Bluff convention center.
"It was the first high school tournament to be played on ESPN and national TV, and that makes it a gem for Pine Bluff," said Ryan Watley with Go Forward Pine Bluff.
Watley said one of the top priorities for the event is safety.
"That is kind of goal number one and so we'll have Pine Bluff and Jefferson County's finest on sight. In addition, we'll do security checks just like everyone else at any other venue that you enter. People come to have a good time when the focus is right," said Watley.
Mayor Washington echoes the importance of having events like the tournament for the city.
"When we bring the King Cotton Classic back, what it says to us is greatness is in our DNA. No matter how they try to push us back, kick us to the side or keep us down, Pine Bluff will rise," said Washington.
For the first time since the early ’90s, the lineup will include a women’s division.
This year, King Cotton will be held from Dec. 27-29. Tickets will be available at KingCottonClassic.org starting Nov. 15.
- Beaumont United High School Timberwolves (Beaumont, Texas)
- Calvary Baptist Academy Cavaliers (Shreveport, La.)
- Cane Ridge High School Ravens (Nashville, Tenn.)
- Cardinal Ritter College Prep Lions (St. Louis, Mo.)
- Christian Brothers High School Cadets (St. Louis, Mo.)
- De La Salle Institute Meteors (Chicago, Ill.)
- Goosecreek Memorial High School Patriots (Baytown, Texas)
- Hightower High School Hurricanes (Missouri City, Texas)
- Huntington High School Raiders (Shreveport, La.)
- Magnolia High School Panthers (Magnolia, Ark.)
- North Little Rock High School Charging Wildcats (North Little Rock, Ark.)
- Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School Patriots (Little Rock, Ark.)
- Pine Bluff High School Zebras (Pine Bluff, Ark.)
- Raymond High School Rangers (Raymond, Miss.)
- Watson Chapel High School Wildcats (Pine Bluff, Ark.)
- White Hall High School Bulldogs (White Hall, Ark.)
- Huntington High School Raiders, Girls’ Varsity (Shreveport, La.)
- Hutchinson School for Girls Sting (Memphis, Tenn.)
- Sylvan Hills High School Bears, Girls’ Varsity (Sherwood, Ark.)
- Watson Chapel High School, Girls’ Varsity (Pine Bluff, Ark.)