Some of the top one-on-one basketball players from Southern California found their way down to Embarcadero Marina Park South Basketball Courts 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 San Diego qualifier’s field of 64 contestants, only the top player, Sheldon Bailey, earned a spot in the finals on The Rock. Red Bull King of the Rock is the only official sporting ever held on Alcatraz.
It was a typically beautiful day in San Diego, with sunny skies and a light breeze providing for perfect basketball conditions. A full field of 64 players came to the courts to compete for the chance to move on to the finals on Alcatraz Island. This year’s field of players was very competitive, giving the first and second rounds the intensity level of a semi-final. Some of the past San Diego champions were on hand trying to earn a spot back on The Rock, including Josh Snow, who took first place in the 2010 San Diego Qualifier, and last year’s runner up, Dontae Burnett. Both players had a solid showing, winning the field’s respect on the court, but were ultimately edged out of the final matchups.
As the day wore on, the field narrowed down to the final two players, Chet Johnson from Long Beach, and Sheldon Bailey from Los Angeles. Bailey was no stranger to Red Bull King of the Rock, having come in second at the Los Angeles qualifier the last two years. Each player closely matched the other shot for shot, albeit through a different strategy, and it was difficult to predict who would emerge as the winner. Bailey used his all of his 6’7” height and massive power to score inside in the paint, earning comparisons from the crowd to a young Shaquille O’Neal. Johnson’s strategy was all smarts and nimble grace: spinning, using his speed, and hitting crucial three-pointers from the outside. Both strategies made for an exciting and intense finale for the crowd, displaying some of the best one-on-one basketball in the competition to date. At the final buzzer, Sheldon had narrowly edged out Chet Johnson by a single point, which was enough to make him champion of San Diego and secure him a trip to the finals on Alcatraz. It was a heartfelt win for Sheldon Bailey, who has fought hard to earn the title he’s come so close to for the last two years. He is finally a champion and will use this momentum to seek the big win on The Rock.
“I have been in some battles in this tournament, and I am just really happy to come out with the win. That was the best thing for me, nothing else,” said Sheldon Bailey. “Being in the top 8 last year, I feel that I have a really good chance to win this year at 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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