Some of the top one-on-one basketball players from Arizona and beyond headed to Scottsdale on Saturday to test their skills at the Red Bull King of the Rock qualifier. This one-on-one basketball tournament is comprised of qualifiers all over the globe, with the top 64 players advancing to the finals held in The Yard on the island of Alcatraz on September 22. Out of the Arizona qualifier’s field of 64 contestants, it was a Déjà vu qualifier final round (same matchup as 2010) and only the top player, Michael Purdie, earned a spot in the finals on The Rock. Red Bull King of the Rock is the only official sporting ever held on the Alcatraz.
Clear, sunny skies set the scene for an early Saturday morning start at Indian School Park, Scottsdale’s most popular courts. Players started lining up to register as early as 6am in the morning, eager to secure one of the 64 coveted spots in the competition, and a full field was assembled by the 9am start time. The temperature climbed to a “mellow” 100 degrees by 10am and a beautiful day emerged, enjoyed by both the players and their posse of spectators lining the courts.
A third-year participant to Red Bull King of the Rock was Phoenix native Michael Purdie. The 6’5” 22 year-old had previously been pitted against his older brother Gary Smith in the finals two years ago in Phoenix, but had lost. Purdie played ball at Central Arizona College, Pima Community College and is currently part of San Diego’s NBA Developmental league. It was a long day for Purdie, and he faced several tough opponents, including the final game, in which he once again faced his brother Gary Smith. The two local favorites and brothers battled through a highly aggressive and very physical final showdown - “we bring out the best in each other” Purdie said. Purdie was able to get his shots to fall in the clutch and narrowly edged out his older brother 14-13, leading to the victory and a ticket to The Rock.
This will be Purdie’s third trip to the rock as he traveled in the previous years with his brother. “My strategy today was if it’s dropping let it go, if not, go to the rack” said Michael Purdie. “I’ll have a different strategy for Alcatraz.”
In 2010, Red Bull King of the Rock went down in history as the first official sporting event ever to be held on Alcatraz and the first time basketball had been played on The Rock since the inmates left the island over 50 years ago. Now in its third year, the global one-on-one basketball tournament will return with the most competitive field to date. Bigger and better than ever, Red Bull King of the Rock has expanded to qualifiers in 25 countries, including 32 in the United States. From these qualifiers, 64 finalists will head to the island to put it all on the line in The Yard on Alcatraz on September 22. International qualifiers will take place in the following countries: Dominican Republic, Georgia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jamaica, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Canada and Ukraine.
Both the qualifiers and finals will incorporate a regular one-on-one basketball set-up where players go head-to-head on an outdoor court using a single elimination tournament bracket. There are only two options: win and continue on, or lose and go home. Games will last five minutes and be subject to regulation hoops rules and scoring (two and three pointers). Winners will move to the next court to face another player, so while pure hoops ability is essential, strategy and endurance will also play a major role in overall victory. Players have to be tough to make it to The Rock, but must also play smart, as five fouls equals an automatic loss. Qualifiers will contain four intense half-court games going on simultaneously, until all eyes are on the final game.
Red Bull King of the Rock is open to amateurs and pros alike, however players must be 16 years of age or older to participate. Participants under the age of 18 will need to have a parent or guardian present to sign a waiver at the qualifier. Registration is first come first served at each qualifier, so players should arrive early to grab one of the coveted 64 spots.
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