The South Aiken High School boys’ basketball team expects to be improved this season. Just how much better the Thoroughbreds are will be put to the test even before the 2012-13 campaign begins – and it won’t be against another high school squad.

The T-Breds will see their first live action tonight, when they play an exhibition game against a team composed of former high school, college and even NBA players. It’s part of the 5th Annual Suzanne Messick Memorial Celebrity Basketball Game that will pit the South Aiken boys against the SRCF Old School Ballers. The game will be played at South Aiken High School and is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m.

“The team we’re playing is made up of good local players,” said Drew Jernigan, who’s entering his third season as T-Breds’ head coach. “We have our work cut out for us. That’s a good, competitive team.”

The Ballers’ roster includes William Avery among other players. Avery’s an Augusta native who played at Duke University before being selected with the 14th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he remained for three seasons.

Avery’s expected to be joined on the Ballers by Brandon Wallace, a former star at Silver Bluff High School. In addition to his time with the Bulldogs, Wallace played at the University of South Carolina and briefly in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. Wallace will be an imposing figure for the T-Breds to face, at 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds. He made the most of his size at USC, where he set the school record for blocked shots, and is ninth all-time in the Southeastern Conference. He also ranks fifth in SEC history in blocks per game and sixth in rebounds.

Other players on the Ballers’ roster includes USC Aiken assistant coach Carlos Collazo, former college star Tyrone Hayes, as well as Chad Cook, Randy Scott and Daryl Perry among others.

“This is an extension of practice, our first scrimmage. We’ll see how they play and compete,” Jernigan said of his squad, which will be led by guards Jordan Dingle and Jordan Scott as well as center Austin Kyles among others. “It’s a good way to develop as a team.”

The Ballers won’t be the only high-profile players at South Aiken tonight. The halftime entertainment will be provided by alumni members of the Harlem Globetrotters. They’ll be performing their world-famous routine during an extended intermission, that will likely keep fans and players alike captivated.

“When you bring in an attraction like the Globetrotters, it’s fun for everybody,” Jernigan said of the event which will also feature an announcer, a DJ and refreshments. “We’re going to let them do their thing.”

“It’s the least expensive way to see the Globetrotters,” said Carol Mondschein, the Director of Development and Community Relations for Savannah River Cancer Foundation, the group that’s responsible for organizing and running the annual Suzanne Messick Memorial Celebrity Basketball Games. “This is for the whole basketball community. It’s the older generation vs. the younger generation playing for a great cause.”

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Savannah River Cancer Foundation and the South Aiken basketball program. Tickets are just $5, and only $3 for students. The SRCF’s mission is to help anybody in the community affected by cancer – especially those with low incomes. So while the evening will offer fun and entertainment, it’s true purpose is to raise money and raise awareness about cancer. Mondschein said there will be information available about early detection and prevention of cancer provided by SRCF, which is a local organization that will keep all of the money raised for those in need of assistance in the community.

“It’s an opportunity to get out there and inform the community about what we do,” Mondschein said. “It’s a fund raiser and educational.”

“The money is going to a good cause,” said Jernigan, who will also be focused on the task of evaluating his players’ performance as South Aiken prepares for its season opener on Monday. “We want to put on a good showing, but we’re there with the purpose of trying to compete. I’m looking forward to it.”

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.


What: 5th Annual Suzanne Messick Memorial Celebrity Basketball Game

Who: South Aiken boys’ team vs. SRCF Old School Ballers

Where: South Aiken High School

When: Tonight, 6:30

Tickets: $5, $3 for students

Notable: Proceeds will benefit the Savannah River Cancer Foundation and South Aiken High School basketball program … Halftime entertainment will be a performance by alumni of the Harlem Globetrotters