There is a national flavor to the first Scenic City Showcase basketball event that starts Friday at East Hamilton High School.
The Showcase was scheduled to open Thursday, but inclement weather closed schools and forced event directors to delay games until Friday. (See revised schedule below).
The Rock, a private Christian school in Gainesville, Fla., was nationally ranked by USA Today earlier this season and recently participated in the Mike Miller Classic in Mitchell, S.D., losing two of three games, including one to top-ranked Sioux Falls Roosevelt, 76-72.
Also included in the out-of-town contingent are prep powers Faith Baptist Christian Academy (21-3), the sixth-ranked team in Georgia, and Central Park Baptist, the 16th-ranked team in Florida. Central Park was also ranked in the early season USA Today poll.
Host East Hamilton, Hamilton Heights, McCallie and Cleveland also are included in the round-robin event.
Boys and girls teams will compete in simultaneous games in East Hamilton’s middle school and high school gyms.
“This is a great opportunity for our local teams to play against top-tier programs,” East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said Wednesday. “A couple of the teams coming in here have been nationally ranked and are still ranked in their own state.”
The Rock features 7-foot center Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon and a recent University of Kansas signee. He is joined by eight other Division I prospects with offers from schools like Florida, Massachusetts, Auburn, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, among others.
Central Park, out of Birmingham, Ala., is coming off its 11th National Association of Christian Athletics.
In its most recent game, Faith Baptist, located in Ludowici, Ga., defeated Varsity Opponent, 105-84. The team is led by J.J. Frazier, who has signed with Georgia.
The Central Park girls pulled out of the Showcase and were replaced by South Carolina-ALI, East Hamilton girls coach Derek Morris said.
Morris is one of three Showcase directors, along with Stone and Stone’s father, Duke, headmaster at Hamilton Heights. Michael Stone played at Hamilton Heights and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2001. He also was a three-time Academic All-American at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.
James Stone, Duke's older brother, is an assistant to coach Bill Eller at Hamilton Heights.
“I really don’t know anything about (S.C.-ALI),” Morris wrote in an e-mail. “I looked online but couldn’t find anything. I guess I will find out Friday when we play them.”
Still, Morris recognizes the positives of playing good competition over a three-day period in the overall big picture of a long basketball season.
“Playing games three nights in a row against teams we don’t know that much about is good practice for playoffs next month,” he said. “We are really excited about this opportunity. Our girls have been talking about this for a couple of weeks and you can feel the energy and buss this showcase has created amongst our team.”
The Elder Stone’s connections from a long coaching career, including those cultivated during a stint in Central Florida in the 1990s, helped get the idea of East Hamilton hosting a showcase event.
“Hamilton Heights’ girls have started traveling around the southeast and playing some of the better teams, and their boys are trying to make that leap more onto the national level,” Michael Stone said. “And we don’t host a district or region tournament this year and believe we have a great facility to host tournaments and believe we’re a natural fit for the Showcase.
“We wanted to bring this caliber of teams into Chattanooga. We wanted our teams want to play our brand of basketball and use it as a gauge to see where we stand on this level.”
Showcase officials started scheduling teams late last month, all the while working hard to line up the finances for putting on the now two-day event. While teams were lined up, area businesses stepped up with support, especially the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee.
“We felt confident about doing this and decided to take the plunge and things have worked out pretty well,” Stone said.
Well, as it turned out there was one concern – bad wintry weather.
Rain, which has caused flooding in the Chattanooga area, began mixing with snow on Thursday afternoon and evening as temperatures were to fall into the 30s, with winds between 15 and 20 mph. There was little or no accumulation in the area.
Drier, sunnier conditions are in the weekend forecast.
The revised schedule:
Scenic City Showcase
At East Hamilton High School
Lancaster Christian girls vs. SC-ALI, MSG
Lancaster Christian boys vs. Faith Baptist, HSG
Hamilton Heights girls vs. The Rock, MSG
Cleveland boys vs. Central Park, HSG
Cleveland girls vs. Central Park, MSG
Hamilton Heights boys vs. The Rock, HSG
East Hamilton girls vs. SC-ALI, MSG
East Hamilton boys vs. Faith Baptist, HSG
Saturday, Jan. 19
East Hamilton girls vs. The Rock, MSG
Hamilton Heights boys vs. Central Park, HSG
Hamilton Heights girls vs. Central Park, MSG
East Hamilton boys vs. The Rock, HSG
GPS girls vs. The Rock, MSG
Hamilton Heights boys vs. Faith Baptist, HSG
East Hamilton girls vs. Central Park, MSG
McCallie boys vs. The Rock, HSG
Hamilton Heights girls vs. SC-ALI, MSG
East Hamilton boys vs. Central Park, HSG
Legend: MSG – Middle School Gym; HSG – High School Gym
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)