The Ohio Valley Hoops Classic (OVHC) tips off Friday night at the Patriot Center on the campus of Southern State Community College (SSCC) featuring top-flight basketball teams and players, both from here and around the region.
The OVHC began in 2014 when organizer Bennie Carroll seized the opportunity to create an elite early season basketball classic following the ending of a similar event in the Clinton County area.
“I coached at Wilmington High School in the 1990’s and I am also a basketball junkie. I have traveled all over the state going to similar tournaments and I have always thought this area was a great area to hold an event like this. There are a lot of good teams and top tier players in the surrounding area. I also wanted to give local basketball fans the opportunity to see top tier teams and talent that they would normally not get to see,” said Carroll.
Eleven games are on tap, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, when Lynchburg-Clay takes on Ripley in a battle of Southern Hills Athletic Conference teams, and ending with a 9 p.m. contest on Saturday night with a Frontier Athletic Conference battle between Hillsboro and McClain.
In between are games featuring some elite teams and players. Princeton’s Darius Bazley is the number nine rated senior in the nation according to ESPN’s top 100. The Vikings take on Xenia at 9 p.m. on Friday. Xenia features Samari Curtis who has offers from UC and Xavier.
When asked if it was a challenge to get the top teams to participate in the event Carroll told The Times-Gazette, “We don’t get every team we go after but, we have consistently brought in top teams and players for the event. We start out with a list of the top players and teams from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and we start making calls.”
On Saturday afternoon the defending state runner-up in Kentucky, Cooper High School, battles Hilliard Bradley. Both teams feature Division I college prospects and both are capable of a deep tournament run in March.
At 7:30 Cincinnati Moeller, the odds on favorite to capture the Ohio Division I championship, squares off against Eastmoor Academy, a state Final Four team a year ago. Moeller’s Jaxson Hayes has signed to play for Texas next season and Eastmoor’s Taevion Kinsey is considered by many as the most athletic player in the state.
Also on Saturday afternoon, local rivals East Clinton and Fairfield square off at 4:30. And, on Friday the Wilmington Hurricane take on Campbell County, Kentucky at 7:30.
Carroll said he enjoys all parts of the OVHC and is especially excited with the talent that the spectacle brings to the area. “This is a rare opportunity to see such great talent in the local community,” Carroll said. “Spectators will get to see elite players and teams that they would not typically get to see. There are several players this year that are currently being recruited throughout all levels of college basketball and there are at least two, in my opinion, future NBA players that will be on the floor this weekend at Southern State.”
One fan each game will have an opportunity to win big prizes in the halftime shootout. Prizes include a 2017 Jeep Renegade from Doug Marine Motors, a 2018 Ford Escape from Bill Marine Ford, a 2018 Falcon 24BH Camper Trailer from Sherwood Auto and Camper Sales, a John Deere Zero Turn 60 inch cut mower sponsored by Five Points Implement, or $10,000 in cash.
Carroll expressed concern about the future of the OVHC. “For us to continue to have the Hoops Classic we need more people to come out and support it,” he told The Times-Gazette. “This is not a cheap endeavor. There is a lot of money that goes into organizing the event, and to ensure that we can continue we need more people to attend. If people want to keep it at Southern State we need them to show up and support it. However, I am optimistic for this year because of the local match-ups that we have. I think the local community will come and show support for their teams and that will help us tremendously.”
Additionally, R+L Carriers, one of the Presenting Sponsors of the event, is inviting fans and participants to tour their Hometown Showcase Hauler, which will be parked outside the Patriot Center for the two-day event. In addition to learning about career and shipping opportunities, visitors will have a chance to win promotional items as well as keep up with College Game Day on one of 11 TV screens. The Hometown Showcase travels to high schools and colleges across the country delivering career and scholarship opportunities to students.
Carroll also thanked the sponsors and host of the event, saying, “I would like to really thank Southern State for hosting the Hoops Classic, they have been great to work with. I also want to thank Big Ernie’s Pizza for supplying food for the teams and R&L Carriers as the main sponsor for the event.”
Tickets are available at Hillsboro, McClain, Fairfield, East Clinton, Lynchburg-Clay, and Wilmington. Tickets are also available at the gate.
Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89. Parts of this story are from a press release from the OVHC.