High school tournaments bring Couzens and Weisbrod to MSG

Paul Biancardi and Mike Couzens at the 2014 DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament.

ESPN’s Mike Couzens has been anxiously eyeing his play-by-play assignment for the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. With the tournament moving to New York City, the White Plains, N.Y. native will be accomplishing a career goal: Calling a game at Madison Square Garden.

“To me, Madison Square Garden is the most well-known basketball facility in the world and it happens to be in my back yard,” Couzens said. “I have sat in stands for probably 20 games at MSG and watched countless other games on television. As a proud New York native, to call a game from the historic venue will be an exciting moment.”

Couzens, a 2010 Syracuse graduate, is calling the entire boys DICK’S Nationals tournament alongside ESPN national recruiting director Paul Biancardi, which includes seven games in three days. The tournament began with the quarterfinals on Thursday and continues today on ESPN2 at 2:30 pm with semifinals from Christ the King High School in Queens, N.Y. before moving to Madison Square Garden for the finals on Saturday, April 5 (ESPN, noon). Montverde Academy (Fla.), the No. 1 team in the USA Today Super 25 rankings, highlights the remaining teams in the field, all of which are ranked in the Top 10 of the Super 25. Despite the teams’ top billing, the structure of high school hoops creates challenges for Couzens.

“There is very little game tape or official stats on the high school level,” said Couzens, who also calls college basketball games for ESPN. “I have to do the legwork myself to fully prepare. So, I meet and interact with a number of coaches and players in the weeks leading up the tournament. In the future, if I happen to call a college game of a player I covered in high school, it gives me an edge in that preparation.”

DICK’S Nationals is the second ESPN assignment which has brought Couzens back to New York City. Last August, the Elite 24 basketball tournament was played under the Brooklyn Bridge and Couzens called the action.

“It was one of the top experiences in my young broadcasting career,” Couzens said. “The unique venue combined with it being in my home state made it extremely memorable.”

On Saturday, when Couzens walks into Madison Square Garden, takes his seat at midcourt and prepares to call a game to a national audience, it will surely provide an experience just as a memorable.

Even a Chicago native like Brooke Weisbrod can appreciate MSG
The DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament also features four top high school girls teams, including No. 10 Riverdale Baptist School (Md.) and No. 19 Miami Senior High School (Fla.) from the USA Today Super 25. ESPN analyst Brooke Weisbrod calls the tournament alongside Eamon McAnaney, including the finals at Madison Square Garden tomorrow (ESPN2, 10 a.m.).

Brooke Weisbrod (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Brooke Weisbrod (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Front Row caught up with Weisbrod prior to the tournament:

What are you most looking forward to in the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament?
It’s a terrific platform to show the elite talent in girls high school basketball and a chance for the next generation to shine in front of a national audience. Then, with the finals at Madison Square Garden, it provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of these players.

Will this be the first opportunity for you to call a game at Madison Square Garden?
I have been lucky enough to be an analyst for the Maggie Dixon Classic a few times which is held at MSG. As a fan, I’ve been lucky enough to sit in the stands for the Big East Conference tournament. Plus, growing up a Chicago Bulls fan, the arena brings back memories of Michael Jordan and his performances there. It is a very special place.

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