Big-time high school basketball is coming back to Charlotte in December.
The first Wild Wing Cafe High School Hoops Classic will run Dec. 27-30 at Ardrey Kell High School. The event is being put on by local organizer Jeff Hood, who formerly ran a successful post-Christmas tournament, sponsored by Lowe’s and then Bojangles’, from 2000-08.
This year’s field includes Montverde Academy, the reigning USA Today national champion, plus New York public school champ Abraham Lincoln and Atlanta’s Westlake High School, the alma mater of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. All told, there will be nine players ranked among ESPN’s top 100 in their classes.
Two local girls teams, Ardrey Kell and Northside Christian, will participate. Six local boys teams will play: Olympic, Charlotte Christian, Ardrey Kell, Victory Christian, Vance and Northside Christian.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit Hoodie’s House of Hope, a 3-year-old nonprofit that aims to help underserved youth in Mecklenburg County.
In 2008, Hood’s event was named the nation’s best post-Christmas tournament by USA Today. Hood said his goal was to make this current event more successful than his previous one.
“I’m competitive,” Hood said after a news conference Monday morning in uptown Charlotte. “I want this to be No. 1 again. But it’s not solely about that. I think there’s a need for this tournament in this community. When we ran it previously, there was an excitement level there and an attendance level that we were really pleased with. The tournament became a measuring stick for some of our local kids, and like before, we want to help some of our local/regional kids get into (college).”
Hood said 27 former local high school players earned college scholarships directly from playing in his events.
This year’s tournament will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 27. There won’t be any games on Dec. 29, a Sunday, but teams and coaches will participate in a local event to help feed homeless and needy Charlotteans.
Local coaches said they were excited to see the event return to Charlotte.
“I wish it would’ve never left,” said Ty Baumgardner, head coach at reigning N.C. 4A champ Olympic. “Jeff does a great job running a first-class tournament. That’s the big thing. A lot of tournaments are out there aren’t run like this one, and it’s right here in our own backyard. You don’t have to travel and it’s a chance for a kid’s friends and family to see him play. A lot of times, when you travel, it’s limited in who can see you play. I can’t wait.”
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