Last year there were 22 local basketball players selected to participate in the annual Roundball Classic at Geneva College but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event, leaving that group disappointed.
This year 22 more area seniors have been selected for the basketball showcase and all signs point to the games, scheduled for May 13, 14 and 15, again at Geneva College, being a go.
Albert Gallatin leads the way with five players (four boys, one girl) chosen and two of those — Nate English and AJ Blyden — will play for the Boys Class 5A (Gold) team in the Saturday, May 15 showcase game against the Class 6A (Gold) team. Ringgold’s Demetrius Butler will also play for the Class 5A (Gold) team. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
The Colonials’ Hunter Sexton and Dylan Shea, along with Laurel Highlands’ Nick Egnot and Caleb Palumbo, were chosen to play for the Class 5A (Silver) team against the Class 6A (Silver)/City League team at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14.
“That’s definitely big for those four guys,” AG coach Shea Fleenor said. “Our whole senior class — and I thought Ja’Shir Kean maybe should’ve been chosen, too — is going to be tough to replace. Those five guys along with Mason Layhue, Tito Harrison, Trey Coville, all our seniors ... talent is talent but all of them had a great, great work ethic.”
Other local boys players chosen were Uniontown’s Da’Marr Lewis, Frazier’s Luke Santo and Owen Newcomer, Charleroi’s Zach Usher, Mapletown’s Lance Stevenson, Belle Vernon’s Jake Haney, Mount Pleasant’s Jonas King and Nathan Kubasky and Yough’s Gamal Marballie.
Girls players selected to play in the Roundball Classic were Albert Gallatin’s Bryn Bezjak, California’s Makayla Boda, West Greene’s Elizabeth Brudnock and Jersey Wise, Belle Vernon’s Taylor Rodriguez and Elizabeth Forward’s Anna Resnick.
Lewis was picked for the Boys Class 4A (Silver) team which plays the Class 3A team, including Usher, at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 13. Santo and Newcomer are on the Boys Class 2A team and Stevenson is on the Class A team in a 6:30 p.m. game that same day.
“To end your high school career with you last game being in the Roundball Classic means a lot, and I’m so glad for Da’Marr that he’ll have a chance to do that,” said Red Raiders coach Rob Kezmarsky, who also played in the event his senior year for Laurel Highlands.
“I told him during the season he’d be playing in that game and I’m really happy for him, he deserves it.”
Not all players selected have confirmed they will play in the event, but Lewis is one who plans to be there, according to Kezmarsky.
“He intends to play,” Kezmarsky said. “He’s really looking forward to it.”
On Friday, May 14, Boda’s Girls Class 2A/City League team will take on Wise and Brudnock and the Class 3A/An team at 6:30 p.m.
In the 5 p.m. game on May 15, the Boys Class 4A (Gold) team, including Haney, King, Kubasky and Marballie, will play the District 10 team.
Also that day. Resnick and Rodriguez are slated to play for the Girls Class 4A team against the District 10 team at 1 p.m., and Bezjak will play in the main girls event for the Class 5A team against the Class 6A team at 3 p.m.
Fleenor was happy to see Sexton, who wasn’t a high-profile player entering the season, chosen for the event.
“Every accolade that Hunter has gotten as the season has gone along is an example of hard work,” Fleenor said. “Last summer he and Mason Layhue were putting in two hours a day with me in the gym and the weight room. Even during the season, Hunter was showing up to work out with me at 5:30 in the morning on non-game days.
“It’s cool to see what all the work got him. He had a tremendous year.”
Fleenor also commended his other three Roundball Classic players.
“Dylan has put in a lot of work, too. As the season progressed he did a really good job of adjusting his role with the new group we had. He had a nice career here. He’s a great athlete who’s on our baseball team now so I’m not sure if he’ll be able to play or not.
“Nate has lived and breathed basketball for four years and even before that. He’s been a bulldog ever since he set foot in the gym. People don’t understand the amount of hours he’s put in. It’s non-stop for him. He’s earned everything he’s gotten. There will never be a kid I coach that can put in as much time as he did over a career.
“AJ was just such a pleasant surprise this year. Obviously, when you first laid eyes on him you can’t get over what you see physically, his height, his length, his agility. He was a bit green in the sport but you could see as time went on he has some special qualities about him and great instincts on the basketball court. We enjoyed having him. I know he really loves basketball and that he wants to do some things at the next level.”
A total of eight games are scheduled to be played in this year’s Roundball Classic over the three days.