Unique Oregon court could be key for high school hoops event

It's jarring to the senses. It has elicited scores of complaints from TV viewers, and its unique design has garnered at least as much criticism than praise. Yet, those distractions and detractors aside, the new basketball court -- known as the Kilkenny Floor -- at the University of Oregon's brand-spanking new, $200 million Matthew Knight Arena is already being eyed as a potential boon for high school hoops.

Just as the court's uniqueness has been seen as a hindrance to collegiate teams, it's also seen as a potential draw for national-calibre high school hoops teams from outside the state of Oregon. With the arena less than a month old, the Portland Oregonian is reporting that South Eugene (Ore.) High boys basketball coach Dave Hancock is already in the process of planning a national tournament modeled on the annual Les Schwab Invitational, which already draws a handful of top teams to the Portland area on an annual basis.

"[Playing at Knight Arena], more than anything, is the whole key to it," Hancock told the Oregonian. "I think that's a great selling point for them to back it. You could bring in some drawing cards with kids that are NCAA-type athletes. If a kid has been to Matt Knight Arena, and Oregon talks to them down the road because they're interested in them, that kid will remember it."

There's a benefit for Oregon, too, with the early exposure to the school's facilities potentially providing a recruiting advantage for the Ducks, a scenario which the school may or may not have anticipated when it agreed to install the unique court.

"Everybody is real excited about it," Hancock told the Oregonian. "They go, 'Oh, that would be really good.' I know locally, they would love to see those kids play.

"A lot of kids went there and saw it, and were pretty impressed by it. I think we all want to paint trees on our floor and get a half-court with no line."

Whether or not the tournament goes ahead as Hancock currently envisions is another question, though the coach seems to be on to something. Given Nike's role in the building and development of the court -- and in Oregon athletics altogether -- it seems almost natural that the shoe company might step forward to play some role in the future event as well.

Even if the shoe giant stays away, there is plenty there to attract top teams, not least of all a unique court with which fans are still growing accustomed.

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