MLK Basketball Classic all set for Mondayby Andy Morales on Jan. 18, 2013, under Sports
Monday: January 21, 2012
University of Arizona – McKale Memorial Center
$7 Students / $10 Adults
11 am: Desert Christian VS. Empire (Girls)
12:30 pm: Canyon Del Oro VS. Cholla (Boys)
2 pm: Salpointe Catholic VS. Flowing Wells (Girls)
3:30 pm: Palo Verde VS. Santa Rita (Boys)
5 pm: Tucson High VS. Dobson (Girls)
6:30 pm: Sabino VS. Catalina Foothills (Boys)
8:00 pm: Nogales VS. Amphi (Boys)
McKale Center was the home of Fred Snowden, the first African-American basketball coach to head up a major university and the first to win a major conference championship so it is only fitting that the arena that helped break down racial barriers has been hosting the MLK Basketball Classic since 2007.
Since then, young men and women such as Sybil Dosty (Salpointe), Jerryd Bayless (Arizona), Brendon Lavendar (Arizona), Brooke Jackson (Arizona), Rachelle Federico (Flowing Wells/Cal), Christine Clark (Tucson/Harvard), Tim Derksen (Amphi/San Francisco), Jan Maehlen (Ironwood Ridge/Pepperdine) and Aley Rohde (Arizona) have played in the classic as part of a way to express their athletic skill but also as a way to honor the memory and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When I heard about this game I felt honored because MLK was someone we all look up to,” said Cholla senior Julio Duarte. “Obviously, being in McKale Center just makes it that much for exciting.”
Tucson High teammates Jazmyne Redmond and Kyli McCorkle-Olbin agree with Duarte’s assessment of the importance of the game, “It’s my senior year so I might never get another chance to play in a game as important as this,” said Redmond.
“We are excited and nervous but it’s an honor just to play in an invitational named after MLK,” added McCorkle-Olbin.
Tucson High head coach Annette Gutierrez is in her first year of coaching at the school so she, like many of the players who will take the court on Monday, will probably be a little nervous but those nerves will go away once the first whistle blows.
The Badgers (16-3, 9-2) will be lacing it up against Division I power Mesa Dobson (15-4, 11-1) in a very important game heading down the stretch for both teams. That game alone shows how important this event is from a competitive aspect.
Herman House is the Athletic Director for the Tucson Unified School District and he thanked University of Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne and his staff for making the event possible because, not only was it a way to help honor MLK, the games scheduled are real games that will represent competition befitting McKale Center.
“Something about playing in this event brings out the best in teams,” explained Amphitheater junior Yusuf Shehata. “The competitive level last year was great against Salpointe and this year we will be playing against Nogales and they will be forcing us to play at the highest level also.”
Santa Rita coach Joe Hickle is also in his first year and he brought along senior guard Keimon Sims to talk about the event. Sims transferred in from Ohio where every game is packed with fans so it was a surprise to see that is not always true in Tucson but his new team will take on rival Palo Verde on Monday.
“It feels great to be able to play in this game,” explained Sims. “Coach has us practicing the same way and we are taking it as just a regular game and, from what I’ve been told, we are having a pretty decent year compared to last year. It’s been exciting and fun.”
Santa Rita had one win last year but have built an 8-11 record up to this point this year.
Duarte says his teammates have been talking abut this game all week but he will give them advice to “play hard and stay focused” because it’s really not that much different once the game starts.
Second-year Cholla coach Masai Dean believes one of the benefits of this event is that it will be something that his players will remember for the rest of their lives and Amphi coach Ben Hurley has been back for his third trip so he agrees with Dean that, for many of the players, this will be their only time playing on a Division I court so it will be something to treasure for their families.
Each school will honor an individual from their school or community who serves an example to the teachings of MLK. In addition, scholarships will be awarded to student-athletes according to Dr. Ed Ackerley, the president of Coaches for Charity.
Besides working with TUSD on the MLK Classic, Coaches for Charity also presents the “Kickoff Classic” for football, a golf tournament and the “Cougar Classic.”
The Cougar Classic is a basketball tournament for 5th-7th graders from the Sunnyside and Tucson school districts. Dale Lopez began the event 31 years ago.