Vaught's Views: Classic puts focus on hoops

January 04, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Before the first red, white and blue basketball ever went through a hoop, Craig Pippen knew there were more things he wanted to do for the 2005 Stuart Powell City of Firsts Basketball Classic at Danville High School.

"This year was almost like an experiment in some ways," said Pippen, the head boys basketball coach at Danville. "We wanted to see how everything worked, or didn't work. We could have done a lot more, and will do a lot more in future years."

Yet the first City of Firsts classic did what Pippen wanted - it brought attention to high school basketball here.

This 13-game, two-day affair did put the focus on hoops here and gave area basketball fans - and a lot of coaches with upcoming games against teams in the event - a chance to see 22 different teams play.

The Mercer County girls beat Danville 73-40 to open the event Friday. The Scotties not only are the top-rated team in the 12th Region, but are considered one of the state's best teams. They annually receive invitations to some of the state's best tournaments and have already played Sacred Heart, Rockcastle County and Henderson County, all highly ranked teams, this season.


Mercer coach Chris Souder likes what he saw of the City of Firsts.

"I think this is great. When we came in, they had gifts for us. They fed the players after the game. It was a good atmosphere and looks to me like this could turn into an awesome event," said Souder, a former Danville girls coach.

He said the girls field that included Henry Clay, Campbell County, Woodford County and Jackson County all playing Saturday was impressive.

Souder liked being able to stay so close to home to play in a special event that made it convenient for his team's fans to see the game. He also had several players that came back Saturday to watch the Henry Clay-Campbell and Woodford-Jackson games.

Classic expenses are about $5,000 for everything from paying officials to giving players T-shirts to feeding the teams to naming a most valuable player on each team in each game. Stuart Powell's sponsorship offset many of the expenses and Pippen said both Popeyes and Wal-Mart also helped support the classic. Teams that played just one game got two percent of the event's net gate receipts while teams that played two games got five percent.

"We hope the sponsors we have are pleased and that we can add more," Pippen said. "This year we didn't have to pay any teams to come. Next year we are looking at maybe bringing in some big-name teams from out of state that may cost us some more money. But I would like to get some even bigger name teams here for fans to see."

That would suit Souder. Pippen wants to go after Sacred Heart, last year's girls state champion, and Lexington Catholic for next year's classic.

"I wouldn't mind either playing an out-of-state team or a Lexington Catholic," Souder said. "I think playing a high caliber opponent helps you and would be great for this event."

Pippen said he's already been contacted by Lincoln County officials about participating in the 2005 event.

The Danville coach first wants to make sure that the Boyle County boys and girls both commit to next year's event. The Boyle boys played Lafayette Friday and Bourbon County Saturday while the Boyle girls faced Tates Creek Friday.

"I just think it makes for a better event if we keep Boyle County involved," Pippen said. "We want the local connection, too. That's why we had Casey County this year. We hope we get Lincoln County next year. I'm glad Mercer County wants to come back."

Souder thinks the timing of the City of Firsts Classic was perfect. It came after most teams had finished holiday tournaments and before classes resume this week. He also liked the concept of just playing one game like most of the teams did.

"It's incredibly hard to find a concept that works because so many places have tournaments now," Souder said. "But this is an idea that looks like it has a lot of potential. Even using the red, white and blue basketball was a good concept because it made the game seem a little more special and different from other games.

"Danville is a great spot to have something like this. It has a lot to offer in the way of hotels and restaurants and a lot of people can get out to watch the games. I know we would like to participate every year. We liked being here and want to be here again."

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