The Cancer Research Classic basketball event is climbing the ladders as one of the most highly regarded boys hoop events in the nation.
One of the reasons is that CRC Director Dr. Gregory Merrick has made it a full-fledged event rather than just a day or two of basketball.
A new addition to last year's lineup will continue as the tip-off banquet for the weekend's games will be held on Thursday, Jan. 3 at Oglebay Park's Pine Room and will feature Ohio Valley native and former Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio as the keynote speaker.
When Merrick approached Gaudio, who is a native of Yorkville and graduate of Buckeye South High School, about speaking, he couldn't say yes fast enough.
"I don't know Dino all that well, but he said anything he could do to support the Ohio Valley he was willing to do," Merrick said. "Once he heard it was for the Ohio Valley, I didn't have to ask him twice. He's really proud of his roots and where he came from."
Gaudio was the head coach at Wheeling Central High School before entering the collegiate ranks. He spent time working under the late Skip Prosser and actually took over the Demon Deacons' program after Prosser's untimely passing.
"Part of our mission is to emphasize the value of Catholic education," Merrick said. "Not a lot of guys can say they coached at three Division I schools and had a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country for a while."
Gaudio spoke at the Cancer Research Classic Coaching Clinic held annually in September a few years back.
"He's really a marvelous speaker," Merrick said.
Gaudio has spent the last few years working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. This marks the second straight year Merrick has brought in a television analyst to be the speaker. Former OSU all-American and CBS Sports' top analyst Clark Kellogg spoke at last year's banquet.
"I really think Dino will be an even bigger draw locally than Clark was because of his name recognition here in the Ohio Valley," Merrick said.
According to Merrick, Gaudio won't be able to stay in town long because he's due to work in the studio that weekend.
"From talking to (Gaudio), he really seems to like what he's doing at ESPN," Merrick said.
The basketball games get under way the next evening at Wheeling Jesuit University's McDonough Center.
More information on tickets for the games and banquet will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.