Exhibition raises fun and funds
Different things were going on at South Aiken High School Thursday night.
• For members of the South Aiken boys’ basketball team, it was the first scrimmage of the year in preparation for the regular season, which will tip-off on Monday.
• For people involved with the Savannah River Cancer Foundation, it was an opportunity to raise money and awareness about cancer prevention.
• For the fans, it was a chance to watch familiar faces rekindle greatness on the hardwood and be entertained by the legendary Harlem Globetrotters.
It was all part of the 5th Annual Suzanne Messick Memorial Celebrity Basketball Game, a charitable exhibition that pitted the Thoroughbreds against the SRCF Old School Ballers, a team composed of former high school, college and even NBA players with connections to the area.
“It was for a good cause,” said Brandon Wallace, a former star at Silver Bluff High School and the University of South Carolina who led the Ballers to a 48-41 victory. “So many families are affected by cancer, so I’d do anything to help out.”
All proceeds from the event will benefit the SRCF and the South Aiken basketball program. The SRCF’s mission is to help anybody in the community affected by cancer – especially those with low incomes. There was 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.
“I’m overwhelmed; the amount of money we raised was in the thousands. That money helps cancer patients and it all stays local,” said Tavy Perry, an honorary member of the SRCF who was the driving force behind organizing this year’s exhibition. “This has been the best so far.”
Perry was especially complimentary of the seven alumni members of the Harlem Globetrotters who performed their routine during halftime. She said they all volunteered their services, and they had the crowd roaring in approval as they displayed their ball-handling skills, trick-shot abilities and comedic sense of timing. Legendary Globetrotters like Matthew “Showbiz” Jackson, LeRoy “Gator” Rivers and Michael “Memphis” Douglas got the crowd fired up and brought a few members of it on the floor to participate.
Aiken Tech basketball coach Bruce “Sugar” Capers was also there and showed a flare for making shots over his head to the approval of those in the audience.
“The Globetrotters, I can’t say enough,” a smiling Perry said. “Everybody who participated did it from the heart.”
One person who wasn’t having as much fun was South Aiken head coach Drew Jernigan. In spite of the spectacle, Jernigan was focused solely on the state of his team. He approached it like a regular-season game and used every opportunity to try and educate and allow the T-Breds to improve, often calling timeouts.
“We need to work on the execution of our defensive sets and what the principles are,” Jernigan said after his squad lost. “Those guys are pretty big, but we let them get good position and get rebounds we should’ve had.”
Wallace said the Ballers’ strategy to slow the game down worked in their favor.
“We’re a bunch of old guys, and we came out and played old-guy basketball,” said Wallace, who was teammates with Tyrone Hayes, Carlos Collazo, Jim Hanna and Chon Matthews among others. Former Duke University and Minnesota Timberwolves player William Avery was expected to play for the Ballers but missed the game with the flu. The Ballers prevailed without him. “We used our height and strength to our advantage.”
One South Aiken player who did well was newcomer Latrell Brown. He was active on the glass and moved fluidly, prolonging possessions for his team and quick to stifle those of the Ballers.
“He’s very important with what we do. I’m very happy with how he played,” Jernigan said. “As a team, we did some decent things, but it’s early, and you can’t judge too much.”
The T-Breds will compete in more scrimmages on Saturday as they prepare for their season opener Monday, when they’ll face Evans (Ga.) in the first round of a season-opening tournament in Grovetown, Ga. They’re not the only ones looking forward to the upcoming season. Wallace has plans to return to the D League, the NBA’s developmental minor league, when it starts play on Nov. 24. In addition to his time with the Bulldogs and Gamecocks – where he graduated as USC’s all-time leader in blocked shots – the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Wallace briefly played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.
“I’m 27 now, so I’m going to give it two or three more years before I get into coaching,” Wallace said of his future plans. “I’m going to continue playing as long as I can. I’ve been blessed and have been around the world playing basketball.”
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.