GREENSBORO — It’s not the HAECO Invitational or the old Big Four college tournament, but a new high school basketball event coming to Greensboro in January will help fill a void caused by COVID-19.
The Big 4 Tip-Off Showcase will bring together boys and girls teams from Dudley, Grimsley, Page and Smith for two days of basketball Jan. 8-9, 2021, at the four schools.
Girls varsity teams will play a doubleheader Friday, Jan. 8, at Page, while their boys counterparts will play two games at Grimsley. Varsity teams from all four schools will play four games Saturday, Jan. 9, at Dudley, while junior varsity teams will play at Smith.
Darren Corbett, the Grimsley boys coach, led the effort to bring together the four schools in a season when the HAECO Invitational cannot be played because the N.C. High School Athletic Association has postponed the start of the season to Jan. 4 and limited teams to 14 regular-season games.
“Ethan and I were trying to find some games,” Corbett said, referring to his athletics director, Ethan Albright. “For me, Dudley, Smith, Page and Grimsley … those are the four oldest rivals in the city. What better way to start off your season than getting all four teams in the city in the same gym to tip off a shortened season? We thought that would be something that would generate interest from the community and bring the kids together in one gym, since we’re all familiar with each other.”
The name of the new event harkens back to the old Big Four tournament that brought Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest to the Greensboro Coliseum for a tournament each December from 1971 through 1980.
The HAECO Invitational began its life as a high school tournament in 1976 as the Little Four Invitational with the same four schools that will participate in the new Big 4 Tip-Off Showcase. It later increased the field to eight schools and in 2019 they also included Greensboro Day, Northern Guilford, Northwest Guilford and Ragsdale.
The Big 4 Tip-Off Showcase won’t be able to offset the $12,500 that the Greensboro Sports Council distributed to each of the eight schools that participated in the 2019 HAECO, especially if spectators are limited or not allowed in the venues. The organizers of the new event will pursue sponsorships, but they are realistic about what form those might take at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has affected so many businesses.
“We’re hoping to get some sponsorships to maybe do food, T-shirts and stuff for the kids,” said Matt Harder, Page’s athletics director. “We’re still navigating all that as coaches and ADs.”
All four schools that will participate in the new event remain “100 percent” committed to the HAECO Invitational whenever that tournament can resume, Harder said.
“We’re tremendously grateful for everything HAECO does and provides for our schools,” said Harder, who participated in the tournament as the Pirates’ boys coach before becoming AD. “It’s a great tournament and the kids love it.”
But the participating coaches and ADs also think the Big 4 Tip-Off Showcase will be a great event, and one that will have a life beyond the 2020-21 season.
“This whole concept has the ability to grow in the future,” Corbett said, “and that’s what we want to look at doing eventually.”
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraNR on Twitter.
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