The 11th Cancer Research Classic could be the best

WHEELING — The 11th-annual Cancer Research Classic is fast approaching.

The event tips off Friday afternoon at Wheeling Jesuit University’s McDonough Center with a slate of 10 games set to unfold during the course of two days.

“We believe this is the best lineup we’ve had in the history of the event,” event director and founder Dr. Gregory Merrick said. “We have a lot of interesting players and teams coming this year. We’re really happy with it.”

Merrick’s belief that this is the top field the event has put forth is validated by the most recent USA Today national rankings, which were published Monday. No fewer than nine of the top 18 teams are slated to make an appearance in Wheeling this weekend.

That kind of field is what’s helped the CRC develop into one of the premier high school basketball showcase events in the nation.

Actually, most national basketball publications have the event ranked second behind the Hoop Hall Classic, which is being staged later this month in Springfield, Mass.

Included in the field is No. 1 Montverde, which is making its fifth appearance in the event. Montverde, which has won events in China and Hawaii already this season, features the nation’s top-ranked senior in Duke signee R.J. Barrett.

“Most people are saying this is Montverde’s deepest team and that’s scary when you think about the team they had a couple of years ago here with Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, Dakari Johnson, etc,” Merrick said.

Other nationally ranked teams involved include: McEachern (No. 6), DeMatha (No. 7), Findlay Prep (No. 9), La Lumiere (No. 10), D.C. Gonzaga (No. 12), IMG Academy (No. 13), Imhotep (No. 16) and Mater Dei (No. 18).

There are four games that pit two ranked teams against each other. The event begins with La Lumiere taking on Imhotep, which is based in Philadelphia. It wraps up on Saturday with McEachern, which is based in Georgia, taking on DeMatha. In between, Findlay Prep meets IMG, which will be followed by La Lumiere taking on Montverde.

“McEachern is basically all juniors and a sophomore, so next year is their year,” Merrick said. “DeMatha is really young, too. They have a 7-1 sophomore in Hunter Dickinson, who is really, really good. That should be a really good game.”

As for the opening game, which tips at 2:55 p.m. on Friday, Merrick believes it “will be a heck of a game.”

“Imhotep finished third in the country last year and their year is probably next year since they have so many juniors and sophomores. It’s a really high-powered game to get the weekend started.”

The event, which has showcased 30 future NBA players and more than 200 eventual college players during its relatively brief history, will once again be littered with future high major collegiate players and eventual professionals.

Along with Barrett, others that Merrick pointed out as players to watch include: Bol Bol (Findlay Prep/Oregon), Nassir Little (Orlando Christian/North Carolina), E.J. Montgomery (Wheeler/Undecided), Robby Carmody (Mars, Pa./Notre Dame), Tyger Campbell (La Lumiere/Undecided), Jamie Lewis (Findlay Prep/Wake Forest), Chol Merriel (IMG Academy/Undecided), Connor Vanover (Findlay Prep/Memphis), Jordan Mitchell (Montverde/Undecided), Makhi Mitchell (Montverde/Maryland), Makhel Mitchell (Montverde/Maryland) and Mike Devoe (Montverde/Georgia Tech).

CRC NOTES

¯ Though the event doesn’t begin for a few days, teams actually begin arriving in the Friendly City today. La Lumiere, which is based in Indiana, will check into Oglebay Park early this afternoon and then head to the gymnasium at the former Mount de Chantal for an afternoon practice. The majority of the teams will arrive in the Ohio Valley on Thursday.

¯ Merrick noted that the Findlay Prep vs. IMG Academy game, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, will feature three players on the court at one time, standing 7-foot-3. Those are Bol and Vanover from Findlay and Merriel from IMG.

¯ Every game will once again be broadcast on ESPN3, which is an online service.

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