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Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, center, stands among the many dignitaries who were part of the big announcement of two major college basketball games to be played at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in December. Photo- Hannah Wilkins, CVB

College Basketball Returns To Huntsville- Auburn Men And Tennessee Lady Vols To Play At VBC

HUNTSVILLE- Huntsville will welcome two college basketball games to be held at the Von Braun Center Dec. 6 and 13. Akima, a leader in the defense industry, is the title sponsor for both games.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the Rocket City will be host to a top 25 matchup in woman’s basketball as the Tennessee Lady Volunteers will face the Lady Blue Raiders from Middle Tennessee (MTSU). One week later, Wednesday, Dec. 13, men’s basketball will be held as the Auburn Tigers return to the Von Braun Center for the first time in 20 years to face the University of North Carolina-Ashville Bulldogs in the annual Rocket City Classic.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle helped make the announcement during a recent press conference at the Mars Music Hall inside the Von Braun Center. He said, “Thanks to Akima for their tremendous support as we welcome Auburn and their fans back to the Von Braun Center and bring a top-notch women’s basketball game to Huntsville for the first time.”

“We are committed to supporting the communities where our employees live and work, and we look forward to two great games this fall that will showcase the best of the Rocket City,” said Bill Monet, President and DEO of Akima.

Auburn is coming off a season that saw the Tigers advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament compiling a 21-13 record under head coach Bruce Pearl. The Tigers return to Huntsville since they last played against Grambling on Nov. 29, 2003, in a game the Tigers ran away with posting a 105-56 score.

“I am excited to bring our team to participate in the Rocket City and engage with the Auburn family throughout North Alabama, where we have some of the most loyal and passionate Auburn fans in the country,” said Pearl.

Auburn will bring junior guard Denver Jones (6-4, 190) who is from nearby New Market where he played at Buckhorn High as a sophomore before making his way to Memphis where he played at Memphis Day Academy. The past two seasons he played at Florida International where he was named USA Conference First Team All-Conference last season scoring 20 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Also coming back home for the Tigers’ program is staff assistant Bryant Smith who played for Auburn 1996-1999 and went on a 14-year career in professional basketball playing overseas. The Huntsville native played at Butler High and was a First Team All-State selection for the Rebels. He’s also an inductee to the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.

UNC-Ashville was 27-8 last season before falling to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Lady Vols posted a 25-12 record and went 13-3 in SEC play last season advancing to the SEC Tournament championship game and the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. The Lady Blue Raiders racked up an impressive 28-5 record a year ago in route to the Conference USA Championship and the NCAA Tournament.

The two contests came together through a partnership with Nations of Coaches, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Huntsville Sports Commission and Knight Eady of Birmingham. Nations of Coaches is a non-profit supporting college basketball coaches and student-athletes with character building programs that focus on them as a person who plays basketball, not just a basketball player.

“We are proud to see Huntsville continue its growth as a sports destination and bring two major college basketball games to the Von Braun Center this season,” added Mayor Battle.

In addition to two exciting games, new hospitality suites and courtside tickets will be available for both games. Tickets for the Rocket City Classic are on sale now via Ticketmaster and the Von Braun Center box office. The matchup between the two women’s teams will go on sale Sept. 4 at 10:00 a.m. with tickets starting at $20.

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