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.