EL PASO, Texas – Since its inception 60 years ago the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational has taken pride in hosting one of the top basketball tournaments in the country. The Sun Bowl Association and WestStar are pleased to announce the teams coming to El Paso for the WestStar Don Haskins Invitational, which will be held, Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 21-22, in the Don Haskins Center.
The tournament committee is bringing in teams that have all recently won their conference championships. Joining the UTEP Miners in the Don Haskins Center this year will be Bradley University, Sam Houston State and North Carolina Central.
“We take great pride in bringing a competitive field to the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational,” said tournament director Barry Kobren. “This year is no exception with teams that will all be competing for an NCAA tournament bid next March. If past success is any indication, we will have a battle to see who wins the championship trophy.”
“WestStar is proud to continue its sponsorship of this long term El Paso competitive college basketball tournament” said David Osborn, President & COO of WestStar.
Bradley is making its first visit to the Sun Bowl Invitational. The Braves have had tremendous success under Coach Brian Wardle. In his first six seasons on the BU sideline, Wardle has built Bradley into a perennial Missouri Valley Conference contender, capped by winning back-to-back championships in 2019 and 2020. Bradley has a history with UTEP having faced them in a memorable NCAA tournament game in 1986. Bradley was led by its all-time leading scorer, Hersey Hawkins, while UTEP’s team featured Jeep Jackson and Tim Hardaway.
Sam Houston State will be making its third appearance in the Sun Bowl Invitational having been to El Paso in 2010 and 2015. The BearKats are led by head coach Jason Hooten, who has done nothing but win since he took over in 2010. He has averaged 20 wins a season and led the Kats to postseason play 5 times over a 6-year period. Sam Houston won the Southland Conference in 2019 and participated in the NIT. The BearKats begin their first season in the Western Athletic Conference this year.
North Carolina Central is making its first appearance in the Sun Bowl Invitational and is led by Coach Levelle Moton, who completed his eleventh season at the helm. In 2019, the Eagles accomplished something that had not been done before in school history as it clinched a third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance by winning the MEAC Tournament for a third-straight year. NC Central has appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019. This year the Eagle’s basketball team was also featured on ESPN. Chris Paul and Stephen A. Smith produced The Undefeated presents “Why Not Us” an eight-episode documentary series examining the distinct culture, experiences and challenges of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) athletic program.
The WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational values its relationship with the HBCU’s as this is the 17th time in 22 years that it will feature an HBCU team. The Sun Bowl Association believes this honors the legacy of the Tournament’s namesake, Coach Haskins.
The UTEP Miners under the direction of first-year head coach Joe Golding, bring back leading scorer Souley Boum, who averaged 18.8 points per game to rank third in C-USA in 2020-21 and earn a spot on the 2021 All C-USA third team.
Also back in the fold is Jamal Bieniemy, who paced the team with 4.0 assists per contest to rate sixth in the league. UTEP’s deep backcourt will also feature Christian Agnew (6.1 ppg) and Keonte Kennedy (8.6 ppg. 5.9 rpg). Veteran Tydus Verhoeven also returns for the Orange and Blue. The 6-9 forward led the Miners in field-goal percentage (62.7), offensive rebounds (47) and blocked shots (27). There are a bevy of newcomers for Golding, including Bonke Maring (Blinn College), Jorell Saterfield (Ranger College), freshman post Kevin Kalu, freshman point guard from France Kezza Giffa, Georgetown transfer Jamari Sibley and Oregon transfer Alfred Hollins.
“We have another competitive tournament lined-up for college basketball fans to enjoy,” said Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas. “This tournament has become a tradition and the history of teams and players that have come through El Paso is tremendous. Our basketball committee, which is led by Barry Kobren, continues to seek out and work towards bringing quality teams to the Don Haskins Center.”
For more information on the 2021 WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational please go to www.sunbowl.org.