The UK is set for its first-ever NCAA tournament with the Belfast Basketball Classic.

Marist, Dartmouth, LIU Brooklyn, Albany, Milwaukee, Buffalo. San Francisco and Stephen F Austin make up the field over three days, starting on Thursday, with the latter two days screened via the BBC website.

A massive undertaking, admits its founding father Gareth Maguire, the former Belfast Star and Ireland guard whose Sport Changes Life foundation has done much to take basketball into Northern Ireland’s divided communities.

But it is an event which could move across the Irish Sea in future years, he reveals.

“We’ve spoken about doing this in partnership with the British Basketball League in London,” he said. “We want to do that.”


Listen to our conversation with Gareth Maguire in the latest MVP Cast


And this tournament, which holds a multi-team exempt status which grants participants extra games, opens up more opportunities for NCAA hoops to move outside its current niche, the Commissioner of the MAAC Conference, Rich Ensor, told MVP.

“I do think it will grow,” he said. “We’ve talked about London and we’ll have meetings this week with groups who are interested. It’s a little like the NFL and NBA have done. Bringing our project to select cities. There’s an audience, including a lot of Americans living in the UK who’d like the chance to come to games.

“There is a good upside. And the plus is you can manage the expenses. We’ve had teams host a couple of games already to help raise money for the travel and then the local fans and ticket sales augment the operational costs in the area. It’s not easy but it is manageable.”

For tickets head to

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