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ESPN exec, local leaders explain why Myrtle Beach was chosen for Tip-Off Tournament

(WPDE)

As Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico last month, ESPN leaders quickly determined that their annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament was in trouble.

"The devastation was just enormous. And so it became very apparent within 48 hours that we were going to have a challenge, and we began developing a Plan B at that point," Vice President of College Sports Programming Pete Derzis said.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, tournament organizers explained that someone within the media company had a relationship with Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and reached out.

"He gave me a call and said, 'Look, we need to place the Tip-Off Tournament in another location. You think Myrtle Beach would be interested?' I said, 'Absolutely, tell me what we need to do,'" Rhodes explained.

Myrtle Beach and Coastal Carolina University offered the HTC Center, which was available Nov. 16, 17, and 19, the three days the tournament was scheduled to be held.

Derzis said the Grand Strand ultimately beat out Orlando and Atlantic City to become the emergency host.

RELATED: ESPN Tip-Off tournament expected to bring 'millions' of dollars to area

"For us, in the final analysis, it ended up being a pretty easy decision, because Myrtle Beach had all of the elements you look for in staging events," he explained.

However, he promised that the tournament will return to the Puerto Rico next year as long as the island is able to host it, as everyone who took the podium said the focus at this year's tournament will be benefiting the neighborhood that was supposed to be at the center of attention.

"This won't just be hoops, it will be hoops with hope," Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Dean declared.

He said organizers would explore several ways to help, from donating funds to purchase school buses and ambulances, food, or sending a team south to cook meals for relief workers.

"It's amazing the people that put their hand up and say, 'Hey, we want to help,'" Derzis said. "And, really, the message from me to this community and to the leadership in this community is thank you."

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