Omaha Central could have an early Christmas at one of the top national boys basketball tournaments.
The Eagles, who have won the past three Class A state titles and are regarded as one of the nation's best teams for the coming season, have been invited to the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., from Dec. 18 to 22.
Before the school can accept, it is seeking a waiver from the Nebraska School Activities Association at its board meeting Thursday. All but four of the 16 teams in the tournament's national bracket play Dec. 22, which is the first day of the NSAA's no-practice/no-play Christmas moratorium.
“It's a really, really high quality tournament,'' Eagles coach Eric Behrens said Tuesday. “I don't know if we could be playing on the last day, but we have to make sure we could do that before we commit.”
The NSAA board last season unanimously approved waivers for South Sioux City's boys and Omaha Concordia's boys and girls to use the last day of the 2011 moratorium to travel to tournaments.
Central was 31st in the final 2011-12 Powerade Fab 50 national rankings on ESPN's website. “With a strong schedule (Central) should start out close to or inside the top 20” in 2012-13, a comment read.
The Eagles, who have a 36-game winning streak, also are set to play another national power, Oak Hill Academy (Va.), Feb. 9 at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island.
“Florida would be four national-level games for us, and with Oak Hill, we'd have five,'' Behrens said.
Central already has been released from playing in the season-opening Omaha Public Schools tournament, freeing up a tournament date for the Florida event. It will remain in the Metro Conference's post-Christmas holiday tournament, which it won last year.
Behrens said the only way Central would add another game against a regional or national team would be if the school could financially benefit. Last season, six or seven of Central's eight home games sold out.
“Our gym's not all that big, but home games are a money-maker for us,'' he said. “We'd have to give up a home date probably for another game.”
Among the national powers that played in Fort Myers last year were Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and Montverde Academy of Florida, which beat Central in 2007 at the now-defunct Omaha Shootout. The champion was Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian.
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