By Brandon Speck
All of Union County, a 7-foot Australian, a Division I football commit, a state tournament rematch, Mississippi’s No. 2 ranked senior and the host team against the alma mater of Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
All of that in one day, at the 23rd Annual Kiwanis Hotbed Classic in New Albany.
“It’s a solid lineup. We don’t have as many big-name prospects as we have in the past, but good teams,” Hotbed organizer Mike Nobles said, “and I think the early game matchups have potential to be pretty good.”
The latest edition of the Northeast Mississippi staple is scheduled for Jan. 25 at New Albany Middle School, the first game between West Union and New Site at 10 a.m. The opener is followed by East Union and Booneville, Myrtle and Kossuth and Ingomar vs. Marshall Academy and 7-footer Johnny Crnogorac.
To round out all the Union County teams, New Albany hosts Tennessee state champion Lausanne Collegiate – Gasol’s alma mater – at 8 p.m.
All five Union County schools have played in the event in Nobles’ 12 years as organizer, minus one season when West Union had to back out.
“I think it’s really important,” Nobles said. “Without local teams, I don’t think the crowds would be near what they are. They come and stay.”
Tickets are $6 for the eight games, all the proceeds going to the community for various projects.
Alums in NBA
There have been huge names in the event, including future NBA players Travis Outlaw, Erick Dampier, Jarvis Varnado, Romero Osby, Arnett Moultrie and Jackie Butler.
Current Memphis Tigers forward Austin Nichols played in 2013 and college coaches have attended, including Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and North Carolina’s Roy Williams in 2009 – to watch Tarheel senior Leslie McDonald.
West Lincoln, now a 2A South contender, features 6-foot-7 center Sam Bivens and 6-foot-1 guard Duane Marshall. Biggersville beat the Bears on its way to the Class 1A title last March. They play at 5 p.m.
Louisiana-Monroe football commit Marcus Green and the North Pontotoc Vikings take on Tupelo at 3:30 p.m. and Grenada vs. Gadsden City, Ala. features the state’s No. 2 senior, Louisiana Tech signee Joniah White.
Then, No. 24.
“When the tournament is over, l already have a list of the teams next year we want to invite,” Nobles said.