By Dave Wagner
After a one-year stop last weekend in Clovis, the AAU girls state basketball tournament will not be returning for 2004.
Coaches voted to bring the event to Albuquerque next year at a meeting held during the tourney. Thirty-eight teams came to Clovis for championships in six age divisions.
When it came time to consider next year’s site, 14 coaches voted for Albuquerque, 12 for Clovis and three for Hobbs. According to AAU girls basketball chair Jane Miner, two coaches for Clovis teams and one for a Portales squad weren’t present when the vote was taken.
Miner, who lives in Clovis, ironically presented to the coaches the proposal for Albuquerque in the place of Gene Pino, who also couldn’t make the meeting. Pino is the executive director of the APS Foundation, a fund-raising group for the Albuquerque Public School system, and is the chairman for the boys AAU basketball tournaments.
“I have schools fighting over next-in-line to host games, because this is such a good fund-raiser,” said Pino, who plans on using four yet-to-be-selected Albuquerque high schools in staging the event. “Clovis has done such a great job, but we’re very excited. We’re kind of hoping, because Albuquerque is centrally located, that we’ll get more central New Mexico teams involved.
“I noticed that some teams stayed home for the weekend, which is a shame,” Pino added.
Four teams, including two from El Paso, chose not to make the trip to Clovis just before the tournament. Pino noted that the trip to Albuquerque would be less of a haul for teams from El Paso, which traditionally competes for AAU state championships in New Mexico.
“They can just zip right up the freeway and be here,” Pino said. “And, in the boys tournament, our biggest growth has been in northern New Mexico. Teams from Farmington, Santa Fe, Espanola and Los Alamos — they’re catching the word.”
The AAU girls basketball tournament was held in Clovis for about 15 years before being switched to Los Lunas served four year
According to Clovis Industrial Development Corporation director Chase Gentry, a tournament of this size makes an economic impact of between $40,000 and $50,000 on the community.
Miner said the vote to go away from eastern New Mexico shouldn’t be seen as a slight to this year’s event.
“I think it was a great success. I had teams from Albuquerque who had never been to Clovis say it was a top-notch tournament,” Miner said. “Anything that will help make it grow, I’m for. I don’t know that anyone can put on as good a tournament as Clovis, even though the numbers might be larger in Albuquerque because people don’t want to travel.”