Both teams came out with high energy which is to be expected at these types of events. Micah Williams of ETSU set the tone early for the away team with a couple of acrobatic dunks. The Morehead State contingency of Kenneth Faried and Demonte Harper would also get into the action as both players took turns dominating the game. Faried, a potential first round NBA draft pick, punished the basket and brought the crowd to its feet with a number of ferocious dunks. Harper, who you may remember from his buzzer beater against Louisville, made a couple of early jumpers and got a big slam of his own during the first half.
Things really heated up in the second half as Atlantic Sun player Mike Smith dialed up a few 3-point bombs. As the game settled down, both teams picked up their defensive play. Cedric Austin of Freed-Hardeman was inserted in the game and immediately picked up the tempo. He would match-up against Harper of Morehead State and slowed down the Eagles star. When coach Ricky Collins of the home team gave Kenneth Faried would a breather, the game would turn in favor of the away team. Micah Williams would hit a 3-pointer and follow it up with an alley-oop jam on the next play. The teams played to a 108-105 score with the away team up by three. The stage was set for another late-game buzzer beater from Morehead’s Demonte Harper. Harper would receive the ball at the top of the key and take one dribble to sink a game-tying 3-point shot, almost exactly as he did against the Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA tournament.
However, that would be the last celebration for the home team as Justin Tubbs of ETSU and Caleb Brown of Austin Peay secured the lead for the away team and sealed the victory of a couple of key baskets. It’s was a great game and even better effort given by both teams.
I had the pleasure of interviewing event coordinator Cecelia Shell after the game. Shell is a Fisk alum who along with former Belmont point guard Brian “Penny” Collins developed this great occasion. She spoke about making the event more open to the public and how the event has grown over the last four years. Shell spoke on how she thinks this is the premier showcase of college basketball talent in the mid-state. She also said she would like connect with the local high school all-star game that was also held at Fisk, and make it an entire weekend event, showcasing both high school and college stars. Shell was a bundle of energy and a joy to speak to.
Brian “Penny” Collins was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict, but he has built this game from the ground up. I had a chance to catch up with the former Belmont Bruin over the phone. He stated that he wanted to make this a showcase game for all of the college basketball seniors in the state. His vision is to get further sponsorship and eventually land the game on one of the ESPN networks as a featured showcase game. Collins said he will continue to recruit the top talent in the state and the rest should take care of itself. I will agree with him on that statement. When you have the type of talented players he is brining in, then the sponsors will follow.
I also spoke with future NBA players Kenneth Faried and Demonte Harper. Those two guys were easily the funniest guys I spoke with the entire evening. They have a certain chemistry between the two that reverberates on and off the court. Faried explained how he thinks he will be successful in the NBA. He said his tenacity and determination hopefully will take him a long way. I asked Harper what with him and his flair for the dramatics and let’s just say he believes in his abilities. For more on this interview be sure to watch the attached video of this article. Those two guys are hilarious together.
Ricky Collins is the former coach of the Pearl-Cohn Firebirds. He gave his opinion on who he thinks has the best pro potential out of all players from the game. He also stated that he enjoyed the energy and effort that both teams displayed and hopes to be back coaching again in next year’s game.
I cannot state enough how much I enjoyed myself covering this event. Everyone from the players, coaches and fans all were in high spirits and made this a successful and highly enjoyable function. Everyone in Nashville and Tennessee as whole should come out next year and support this great event. If you enjoy basketball in fun family atmosphere, then your doing yourself a disservice by not attending. Special thanks to Robert Snelling for his splendid camera work and Fisk University for hosting such a great event