All-Star basketball returns to Rocky Mount
By PATRICK MASON
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
The top senior high school basketball players in the eastern part of the state are returning to Rocky Mount.
The success of last year’s Tri-Counties All-Star basketball games has encouraged event organizers to host another game, this one with an expanded reach.
The game, now dubbed the Eastern North Carolina All-Star Game, will feature 40 players — 20 boys and 20 girls — drawn from nine counties in Eastern N.C., up from three — Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties — in the inaugural game last year.
“What happened was after last year’s game we had other schools reaching out and asking why they weren’t contacted,” said RiseUp! Elite Sports Academy founder Tizzo Johnson, one of the game’s organizers. “We had schools from the Greenville and Kinston area, and some others, and with that demand we decided to expand it.”
The game will take place on March 24 at Northern Nash High School. The girls’ game will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by the boys’ game at 6 p.m. Doors open at 3:30 p.m., and tickets will be sold at the door for $10. Those 10-years-old and under are free.
Holding the games at the new Rocky Mount Event Center was an idea, though the event’s committee believed that holding the games at a local high school would preserve the community feel of the event. Plus, showcasing local high schools makes the environment a more intimate one. Last year’s games were played at Rocky Mount High.
“We just feel like it’s something we want to keep the community involved with,” Johnson said. “Not that the event center isn’t part of the community, but there’s a different feel when we go from school to school.”
A 3-point shooting contest is planned at halftime for each of the games, and a dunk contest is likely to be added to the halftime portion of the boys’ game. A halftime show of sorts is also in the works. Last year a step team performed.
As for the players, the committee has sent out letters to 33 high schools — 66 teams between boys and girls — and have asked coaches to submit a list of talented seniors.
Right now, the number of potential players to respond is up to 30 boys and 25 girls, with many more yet to roll in. The next step is to have the players chosen by March 1, and to send out welcome letters to the 40 players chosen.
Before that, the committee must pare down the list to an eventual 20 players for each gender.
“We go through and look at stats, but we look at a lot of other things as well,” Johnson said. “A lot of people think we just look at points scored. We take into account rebounding, steals, assists, or even if they’re being recruited by colleges.
“If there’s someone talented, we want you in the game. We look at hustle players, players that are active in their community. Like, maybe you practice hard and your coach speaks highly of you. It’s not all about just the points.”
With the game being expanded to players across nine counties, being named one of the top 20 seniors is an exclusive group. College coaches are expected to be in attendance, and the opportunity for a player to showcase his or her abilities in a game among talented peers without having to travel to Raleigh or Greensboro or Wake Forest is an advantage.
“Last year we had five kids go to college alone from the game,” Johnson said. “That’s a big success in itself. It’s a place to gain exposure without having to travel all over.”
DJ AK will return again, while Jabaris Walker will emcee the event.
“We’re expecting the game to sell out, and we’re still looking for any businesses that want to get involved,” Johnson said. “This is a great event for the community where we can use basketball to empower and brings kids from different backgrounds and neighborhoods together.”