On Friday, the Charlotte Hoops Challenge returns for a seventh season. The tournament is the brainchild of South Mecklenburg High girls’ basketball coach Cristie Mitchell and Rocky River boys’ coach Jermaine Walker.
At least two national publications have called the “CHC,” as its also known, one of the nation’s best high school basketball tournaments this year. It’ll be played at Rocky River High Friday and Saturday. Mitchell and Walker started the event in 2010 - when they coached at former Waddell High in Charlotte - because their teams weren’t getting invited to similar regional showcases during the holidays.
Mitchell and Walker were friends with Dave Telep, who was then a Raleigh-based national recruiting analyst for ESPN. Telep, who now works for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, told them to consider an earlier holiday weekend for hosting a tournament.
“Dave suggested Thanksgiving,” Mitchell said, “because no one was doing anything early in the season.”
The tournament took off in its third year, in 2012, when current Minnesota Timberwolves star Andrew Wiggins was in high school at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep School. Walker was friends with Wiggins’ high school coach and mentioned the tournament. Huntington Prep had room on its schedule and accepted an invitation. The same year, Hornets owner Michael Jordan attended to watch his nephew, who played for Davidson Day.
“Ball Is Life (a national high school site) came and ESPN did, too,” Walker said of 2012 tournament. “They come every year now. It’s been more successful than we could’ve hoped.”
▪ This year’s tournament features four state champions - Charlotte Catholic boys, Concord Robinson boys and Providence Day’s boys and girls. Conrad (Fla.) Academy, also in the field, is coached by former United Faith coach Shaun Wiseman. Conrad features 6-foot-10 power forward Austin Wiley, who signed with Auburn. ESPN ranks him No. 17 in the 2017 recruiting class.
Charlotte Hoops Challenge at Rocky River High
(Rankings are from Observer Sweet 16 poll)
Friday: Charlotte Latin vs. No. 12 Butler (Girls), 10 a.m.; Burlington School vs. Charlotte Christian (Girls), 11:30 a.m.; United Faith vs. Concord First Assembly (Boys), 1; New Hampstead vs. York Prep (Boys), 2:30; No. 9 Ardrey Kell vs. Burlington School (Boys), 4; No. 7 Independence vs. Conrad Academy (Boys), 5:30; No. 7 Providence Day vs. No. 2 South Mecklenburg (Girls), 7; No. 4 Providence Day vs. No. 16 Rocky River (Boys), 8:30
Saturday: No. 9 Ardrey Kell vs. Burlington School (Girls), 10 a.m.; Concord First Assembly at No. 13 Rocky River (Girls), 11:30 a.m.; Berry vs. New Hampstead (Boys), 1; Charlotte Catholic vs. Burlington School (Boys), 2:30; Conrad Academy vs. Bishop Sullivan (Boys), 4; South Mecklenburg vs. Concord (Boys), 5:30; No. 4 Davidson Day vs. No. 7 Providence Day (Girls), 7; No. 4 Providence Day vs. No. 2 Jay M. Robinson (Boys), 8:30
Tickets: $15 day pass for adults, $6 for children 12-under.