Inside Events: United States Basketball Association | Sports Destination Management

Inside Events: United States Basketball Association

Mar 27, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Mark Thompson, USBA Owner/President

The United States Basketball Association (USBA) was founded in 2005. Since then, the USBA has been the leader in grassroots basketball tournaments and camps for boys and girls of all ages across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. USBA has the stated goal of developing young people and equipping them with skills that will help them advance both on and off the court. Fair play, sportsmanship, solid teaching and hands-on instruction are all hallmarks of USBA programs. USBA believes the game of basketball has a direct impact on our young people’s lives.

Sports Destination Management: Does USBA put on tournaments or camps or both?

Mark Thompson: We do both. The biggest tournament draws teams from 41 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. We also do camps as well, but they are not as large.

SDM: Does USBA serve boys and girls?

Thompson: Yes – there’s definitely a need for kids to have something good to do, another avenue they can pursue. I am a former college coach, so I’ve been around the sport a long time. It’s been really rewarding and we’re really fortunate to have some legendary basketball coaches working with us.

All images courtesy of the USBA

SDM: What other programs does USBA offer?

Thompson: We have scholarships we give out to kids who are going to be freshmen in college – they have to have a certain GPA for that, so it gives them incentive to study.

SDM: What age groups do you serve?

Thompson: Our events are for kids from grade 2 to 12.

SDM: We’ve heard event owners say that travel play seems to top out around 8th grade because after that, kids often have the option of playing for their high school team. Do you see that?

Thompson: Yes – I would say that older kids’ families just don’t travel as much.

SDM: What do you look for when you’re evaluating new sites for events?

Thompson: First, there’s the market. We’re in most major markets so we need a place that will be a good draw. We need multiple court facilities because tournaments in the regular season can draw between 20 and 100 teams. At our national championship in July, 500 teams will be coming in.

While we really like multi-court facilities – and in the last five or six years, there has been a huge increase in the number of those being built – not all cities will have them, so we’ll use gyms in high schools and middle schools, as well as facilities in surrounding townships. We’ve also used church facilities as well as Division II and Division III colleges.

SDM: What else do you look for?

Thompson: Any facilities need to be in safe areas, and they should be clean and bright. We want a number of hotel and dining options, things like that.

SDM: What is the typical schedule of a tournament? And is it all travel teams?

Thompson: These are all travel teams. Normally, we start on Fridays, usually around 6 p.m. – we definitely want school to be over for the day. We play that evening and all day on Saturday, and we finish up on Sunday.  The exception to this will be our national championship, which runs Tuesday to Saturday.

SDM: Do you bid that out?

Thompson: Yes, and we try to get into a city for two or three years at a time.

SDM: What is the estimated economic impact for that tournament?

Thompson: The sports commissions of each city send us those numbers, and it's always around $12-$15 million based on their studies.

SDM: What have been some of your host cities?

Thompson: Atlanta, Charlotte, Hampton, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina – we work really well with the sports commission in Charleston and I’m looking forward to the 2022 championship there.

SDM: Is your travel season underway now?

Thomson: It is. High school basketball isn’t going on any longer, and our season runs until August.

SDM: If someone wants to reach out to you, how should they go about it?

Thompson: Normally someone will send me an email at; they can also contact us through our website.

We like to find out a little about the person, their venues and so on; we’re glad to provide them a schedule. They can start off hosting one of the smaller events to get the feeling of what it’s like to be working with us.

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