USC, OU, Seton Hall, Iowa in new hoops tourney

SAN DIEGO — The group that puts on the Holiday Bowl is branching out with a college basketball tournament that will feature an inaugural field of Southern California, Oklahoma, Seton Hall and Iowa during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Rady Children’s Invitational will be played Nov. 23-24 at UC San Diego’s 4,000-seat Lion Tree Arena and televised by Fox Sports.

The idea for the hoops tourney came about after the Holiday Bowl promoted a football game between Notre Dame and Navy in San Diego in 2018.

“We can do a lot more than just the Holiday Bowl,” Mark Neville, CEO of Sports San Diego, said Tuesday. “One of the things that we’ve been kicking around was doing a basketball tournament. For us it was a natural because our mission is to drive tourism, economic benefits, civic pride and exposure for San Diego. If we’re going to go in, we want to go big.”

Neville said Purdue, which spent several weeks ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 and is currently No. 5, has been signed for the 2024 tournament.

Steve Fisher, the former San Diego State and Michigan coach, is serving as an ambassador for the tournament and is helping to line up teams for future fields.

Fisher said his first trip to San Diego was for the 1975 Final Four, when UCLA won the title in John Wooden’s final game as coach.

“I ran to the lobby when I got here and called my wife, Angie, and told her, ‘If there is a slice of heaven on Earth, I found it. We’re going to save enough money to vacation here,'” Fisher said at a news conference at a restaurant on San Diego Bay.

“Lo and behold I’ve lived here 24 years and this is home for me. So to have this venue to start with, and all these other amenities we have to offer, no pun intended, it’s a slam dunk that this event will be one of the most spectacular ones in the country as it grows in its stature being part of the exempt events in our college basketball world,” Fisher said.

Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego is one of the largest children’s hospitals on the West Coast.

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