Pine Bluff, be proud.

Be proud of the efforts put forth to upgrade the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Be proud of the job well done by the team of men and women who put the King Cotton Holiday Classic together, and who worked to revive a sleeping monster. Be proud of the courtesy and hospitality seven teams from outside of this great city were shown. Be proud of yourselves for supporting this great event, cheering for young men who left it all on the court regardless of what school they played for or what town and state they came from.

You see, we all know what people say about Pine Bluff. We read it on social media, we hear it in casual conversations. Sure, Pine Bluff has issues that we have to address, but what city doesn’t?

In the past few years, we have seen upgrades to various areas of the city with the word Go Forward Pine Bluff, the Pine Bluff Small Business Association, and local business owners are doing. There is a general and sincere love for this city, and people want to see it thrive.

With the way the King Cotton Holiday Classic went, it is obvious that the people of Pine Bluff are willing to support things that are considered positive for the greater good of the city. That fact is one reason I agreed to “come home” and go to work for the Pine Bluff Commercial.

I have seen great community support with the block parties that Wil Jenkins has hosted, prayer walks, when tragedy has struck and the community rose up to help their fellow man and woman, and now with the King Cotton Holiday Classic.

Simply put, I refuse to believe what the naysayers say about Pine Bluff. I’ve seen too much good from people here. I’ve also traveled this state enough to see the bad parts of other cities which claim to be better.

I interviewed several coaches from teams that competed in the tournament and heard things such as “Pine Bluff is a first-class town,” “We have been treated better here than we have been in other tournament cities,” etc.

Sam Houston head coach Ralph Barreras said that he believes the King Cotton Holiday Tournament is better than other big name tournaments his team has played in.

“This is a first-class tournament. It has been great,” said Barreras. “We went to the Tournament of Champions in Chicago last year. It is a first-class tournament, and I think this one tops it. They have done everything right. The hospitality has been great. There has been great competition, and I can’t say enough good things about it. I am very impressed.”

Park (Buffalo, NY) head coach Rich Jacobs gave a similar review.

“It has been a privilege to come to the King Cotton,” said Jacobs. “This has been a great tournament, and it was a privilege to come play here. Thanks for allowing us to come and play here. We are thankful for how great we have been treated. We are thoroughly impressed with the way we have been treated here.”

Gulliver Prep (Miami, FL) head coach Manny Bloom is another head coach who had great things to say about the tournament.

“This has been a great tournament. We have played a tough schedule, and this will help us with that,” said Bloom. “It is a nice arena and everything has been great for us.”

Long Beach Poly (CA) head coach Shelton Diggs compared the King Cotton Holiday Classic to two other top tournaments.

“This is a very great tournament in a very great arena,” said Diggs. “This is a very great tournament, and I am so grateful that they invited us to it. When you talk about going out of state for tournaments this is one of the best we have been to. It is only going to get bigger and better. We have been to the City of Palms tournament in Florida that is pretty good and we have been to the Chic Fil A tournament that is pretty good, and this one compares to them. It is well run, the community is behind it, and I know it is only going to get bigger and better.”

Once again, Pine Bluff, be proud. You left a lasting impression on the players and coaches who traveled from across the country to spend a few days here in order to play a few basketball games. There hasn’t been a single negative comment made by any of them, and several of them noted they would like to return next year.

That in and of itself is huge for the image of Pine Bluff. Now, we just have to continue to work together to continue to resurrect this great city back into the prominence in which she was once known for.

Luke Matheson is The Commercial’s newest reporter and is also publisher of and