City of Firsts Classic a showcase for basketball

December 23, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

When the holidays roll around, it seems the best high school basketball is always played somewhere else.

But that won't be the case this season, as Danville will host a new holiday event that will feature more than a dozen games.

Twenty-two boys and girls teams will ring in the new year at the Stuart Powell City of Firsts Basketball Classic, a basketball showcase that Danville boys coach Craig Pippen hopes will become a true classic.

"It's a good opportunity to promote your program and provide the community with some good basketball," Pippen said.

The Danville coach said he formed the idea for the event because he wanted to promote his own program and because he saw there were no holiday classics or tournaments hosted by local schools. He went to Danville athletics director Sam Harp with his idea, and that's when the ball started rolling.


"It didn't take long at all," Pippen said. "I sat down with coach Harp, and we both agreed it needed to be done.

"There's never been a basketball classic of this magnitude here. The potential for this is unlimited."

The result is a two-day schedule of 13 games Jan. 2-3, nine boys games and four girls games, in an event that draws on Danville's nickname as the "City of Firsts," a reference to the many historical firsts that have occurred in the city.

The card features some of the state's most recognizable teams, two teams from Dayton, Ohio, and two appearances each by the Danville and Boyle County boys.

Pippen said it didn't take long to line up teams for the event.

"I had an idea who I wanted to invite, and most people accepted," he said.

He also said it was important to him to include girls games in the plan.

"I think basketball here in Danville needs to be recognized, both girls and boys," he said.

That was good news for Danville girls coach Justin Schommer, whose team will open the event by playing defending 12th Region champion Mercer County.

"I think coach Pippen's idea was to promote both the boys and girls programs around the state," Schommer said. "This gives fans a chance to see good teams, and also lets our teams watch other players and learn to prepare better. It lets them see what they need to improve on by watching others play."

Several of those teams come from close to home, including Boyle's girls and boys. Pippen said he made it a priority to make Boyle a part of the classic to make it attractive to the entire community.

"In order for this to work, I knew we had to go after Boyle County and sell it to them," he said. "The City of Firsts represents the entire city."

In addition to the Mercer girls, the Casey boys are also in the field. Pippen said he'd like to include more local teams in coming years, citing Lincoln County as a team he'd like to land.

"I think it's important to have teams from close by to bring in the fan base, but as well, we wanted to go out and get people from around the state," Pippen said.

That's why the schedule includes well-known teams such as the Bourbon County, Elizabethtown, Glasgow, Lafayette, Paintsville and Paul Dunbar boys and the Jackson County and Woodford County girls.

"It's a nice opportunity for the city of Danville to see good boys and girls basketball teams come to town and gives people a chance to watch good players from around the state," Schommer said.

There are also the two Dayton schools, Chaminade Julienne and Stivers, who will play two games each.

Next season's classic is already set for Dec. 29-30, 2004, thanks to the resources of title sponsor Stuart Powell Ford/Mazda and other sponsors and with the help of Danny Cheek, who will serve as the classic's director, and a host of volunteers.

"It's a lot of work, but I've got a strong support staff," Pippen said.

Pippen said the payoff for his own program should be worth the effort.

"The City of Firsts, the summer program, the fundamentals camp: All these things add up," he said. "If you don't show passion about what you're doing, you're not going to play with passion.

"Danville is known for success in football, but there's no reason we can't be successful in basketball, too."

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