WHEELING - Obviously, the basketball fans of the Ohio Valley get a real treat when the annual Cancer Research Classic Basketball Showcase event comes around.
The fans certainly aren't the only beneficiaries.
With teams and fans coming from all over the country, the city of Wheeling and entire Ohio Valley are all winners when for the weekend from an event that's ranked as the third best boys' basketball showcase in the country.
Cancer Research Classic
Wheeling city leaders, Wheeling Hospital officials and event organizers met with the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss the actual economic impact that the Cancer Research Classic has on the city and Ohio Valley.
"I was never a big basketball fan, but when you go and watch high school or collegiate basketball, it's exciting," said Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie. "I went to (the CRC) for the first time last year and it was an absolutely wonderful event. It's exciting to have such an awesome lineup of young men coming to our community."
After the press conference, McKenzie and members of city council presented event organizer Dr. Gregory Merrick a check for $2,500 toward the CRC's operating budget.
THE CITY of Wheeling made a $2,500 donation to the Cancer Research Classic during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Wheeling Hospital. Pictured, from left, are Wheeling Jesuit University Athletic Director Danny Sancomb, Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron, CRC Director Dr. Gregory Merrick, Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie, Wheeling Council members Dave Miller and Don Atkinson. The event is scheduled for Jan. 4-5 at WJU’s Alma Grace McDonough Center.
The visibility of the Ohio Valley will once again be enhanced as ESPN has announced that the 6 and 8 p.m. games on Saturday night will be broadcast on ESPN-2 and ESPN-U to a national television audience once again.
"The addition of ESPN is of bigger importance than most of us stopped to think about," Merrick said. "As a cancer center, hospital, small university or city, we could not have purchased that type of exposure. The type of exposure that can be acquired from sporting events is second to none."
With several of the premier teams and players in the America set to converge on Wheeling Jesuit University's McDonough Center on Jan. 4-5, the interest level has grown and grown over the last few years.
"When I watched the ESPN broadcasts about two months ago, the thing I was most proud of wasn't seeing the games, but hearing the announcer saying, 'ladies and gentlemen, ESPN presents ... live from Wheeling, West Virginia,'" Merrick admitted. "That really made me feel good for the community, our hometown and where we live."
Merrick and his team of organizers have already processed ticket requests from hoop junkies from Canada, Utah, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., Michigan and Maryland just to name a few.
"Those are people coming to the Ohio Valley to see not only basketball, but to see what we have here," Merrick said. "This is just a win-win for the community. We've been successful and everyone knows success can't occur on an island. We've got a great team working on this."
McKenzie went as far as to say the CRC generates "the most exposure in any one weekend that we generate in a whole year. It's really important for the economic future and also the immediate impact it makes of people eating and sleeping in our community."
Along with the basketball and financial impact, Wheeling Hospital and the Schiffler Cancer Center of Wheeling Hospital have information tables and screenings available to promote healthy lifestyles and cancer detection.
"Cancer is something that there's probably not a person in this room or in the community where it's not immediately impacted you," McKenzie said. "This not only brings revenue and visibility to our area, but it also brings a light to something that causes so much sadness to so many people and families."
Merrick, who admits he's a basketball junkie, wants to encourage Ohio Valley residents to get out and get checked without the help or encouragement of a spouse or family member.
"At the McDonough Center, there will be an enormous amount of information and health-care screenings available to help guide people to better life decisions," Merrick said.
The schedule of games is as follows:
Friday, Jan. 4
4:30 p.m. - Linsly vs. Seton-La Salle (Pittsburgh, PA).
6:00 p.m. - Wheeling Central vs. Mercersburg (Mercersburg, PA).
7:30 p.m. - Huntington St. Joseph Prep (Huntington, WV) vs. Prime Prep (Dallas, TX).
9:00 p.m. - Lower Merion (Ardmore, PA) vs. St. Raymond (Bronx, NY).
Saturday, Jan. 5
12:30 p.m. - St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia, PA) vs. Wheeling Park.
2:00 p.m. - DeMatha (Hyattsville, MD) vs. Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, NJ).
3:30 p.m. - Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, PA) vs. Whitney Young (Chicago).
6:00 p.m. - Montverde (Montverde, FL) vs. Simeon (Chicago, IL).
8:00 p.m. - Gonzaga (Washington, DC) vs. Salesian (Richmond, CA).