Washington proud of T of C growth

By WEEK Producer

November 24, 2012 Updated Nov 26, 2012 at 10:37 AM CDT

WASHINGTON, Ill. -- The annual Tournament of Champions continues to score big points for Washington.

Now in its seventh year, the Thanksgiving week hoop-fest has expanded play to five days and now features 24 teams.

The Director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce calls it a nice bounce for the local economy.

"We're using small business restaurants and some of the local grocery stores to fill our hospitality room and to buy our concessions," said Chevie Ruder. "People are coming in, traveling for the day, so they're filling up with gas at our gas stations and stopping to eat."

The tournament is also responsible for about 500 nights of room reservations at area hotels. Among its 19 corporate sponsors are State Farm and the Uftring Auto Group.

It's a way for this city of just over 15,000 to showcase itself.

"The common theme that runs through the week every year is that people say, wow, we really enjoy your community. Everybody is so hospitable when they come into town," said Tournament Director Roger Holzhauer.

It's not just the local economy that benefits from the Tournament of Champions. On Friday, University of Illinois coach John Groce was there scouting, because the talent on display is top notch.

"We have 14 kids in the NBA and this is only the seventh year of the tournament," Holzhauer said. "You start doing the math with college and everything and that's pretty impressive."

In fact, just two years ago, Anthony Davis played in Washington's Tournament Of Champions. In June, New Orleans made Davis the first overall pick in the NBA draft.

It's competition like that that compelled head coach Ron Ahrens to bring his Mooseheart Red Ramblers downstate from Aurora.

"We knew that the quality of basketball here would help us improve through the year," explained Ahrens. "We figured even if we went 0-3 it was going to help us later in the season. That's exactly why we came."

Regardless of which teams bring home a trophy, the bigger winner is the City of Washington.