By Tim Rogers
Why? There are no consequences to winning or losing.
Chas Wolfe gets it and that’s why I will spend part of Saturday and Sunday at Walsh University’s Alumni Gymnasium.
In recent years showcases such as this weekend’s third annual Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout have been springing up like pimples on a teenager’s face. It seems as if you could attend one of these events every week to watch this team or that team from this state or that.
Few of those games interests me. Watching a St. Edward beat a Hargrave Military Academy or a Garfield Heights lose to a pseudo-school such as Deion Sanders’ Prime Prep in Texas (Google it), carries about as much weight with me as a Saturday morning shirts-and-skins game at the local YMCA.
Why? Because games of that nature on the high school level are meaningless. Basically, they are scrimmages. There are no consequences to winning or losing.
In reality, beyond any real or imagined “bragging rights” and the chance that playing “up” in competition will help a team improve, the games mean absolutely nothing. They are held more for the benefit of college coaches than anything else. I’m not saying that’s bad. It’s just that I am more interested in team play than individual. And, I would rather watch schools that could meet again in the regionals or the state.
What benefit is derived from losing by 40 points to a team from Chicago or New York, knowing full well that it probably isn’t a real high school team to begin with and knowing full well you’ll never see them again?
I have never seen a kid cry after losing a game in one of these events. I can’t tell you how many I’ve watched weep uncontrollably after losing a game in the district, regional or state semifinals and/or finals. That tells me that the kids really CARE about winning a state title and that winning or losing to a national power in a showcase event is just another game.
I am more interested in watching Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph play Mentor. Or Uniontown Lake play North Royalton. Or Canton Timken play St. Ignatius. Or North Canton Hoover play Garfield Heights.
Those games have meaning. Either there is great fan interest because of the familiarity between the schools (VASJ and Mentor) or there is a chance that those schools could meet again in a game of significance down the road.
That’s why the Dunk 4 Diabetes for my money is one of the premier events in Northeast Ohio. For the most part the schedule features local teams – excluding matchups such as Cleveland Central Catholic vs. Indiana power La Lumiere or Shaker Heights vs. Huntington (W. Va.) Prep – and that makes sense.
There are 21 teams at the D4D. Nineteen are from Ohio. Sixteen from the Northeast. La Lumiere and Huntington Prep are window dressing, as Al McGuire used to say.
Wolfe understands that. Of course, he likes to have a number of high-profile “prospects” on hand and that is understandable. Conveniently, several of the teams in the D4D – most notably, St. Edward, VASJ, Garfield Heights, Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Central Catholic – will bring players of that caliber to North Canton this weekend.
I was first exposed to events such as these when LeBron James was a senior at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. That season (2002-03) the Irish went to Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Chicago, Philadelphia, Greensboro, N.C., Trenton, N.J. and Los Angeles and it was my job to tag along.
It was fun. No, mostly it was a gas. It was like traveling with the Beatles.
But, that was because it was LeBron and his talented teammates. LeBron and the Irish were the best high school basketball team I have ever seen and probably the best I will ever see.
There are no LeBrons and no teams such as the 2002-03 Irish coming to North Canton this weekend. But, there are several teams capable of winning a state title and that intrigues me.
And, that’s why I appreciate Wolfe’s event.
Do I care to watch Prime Prep? Oak Hill Academy? Homeschool Christian Youth Association? The 22ft Academy of Shannon Forest Christian School, which will play 65 games (you can look it up) this season?
Few of them are real high school teams. I do not care to watch all-star teams of players gathered from different states, and in some cases, different countries. That is not what high school basketball should be. There is no pot at the end of the rainbow, so to speak.
I get more out of watching a Uniontown Lake play a North Royalton or a St. Ignatius taking on a Canton Timken. Those games have value because there is a chance those squads will meet down the line, when the games take on much more significance.
Beachwood, Lake, Cleveland Central, Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights, St. Ignatius, Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Mentor, St. Edward and Garfield Heights are all ranked in the latest state polls conducted by the Associated Press. Ten of those, including Timken and North Royalton, are included in the National Guard JJ Huddle Power Poll.
All will be on display Saturday and Sunday.
And, that’s why I’ll be there too.