Pandemic pulls plug on high school all-star basketball games

Allen Deep

April is a month that high school basketball all-star games are held.

That won’t be the case this year.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to sports at all levels, including high school basketball all-star games.

Allen Deep organizes all-star games every year. His annual Roundball Classic matchup, set for April 24 and 25 at Geneva College’s Metheny Field House, joined a long list of clashes that have been wiped out by the pandemic.

“We were hoping to go to June 30 if we could,” said Deep, who is 66 and a 1971 New Castle High graduate, about possibly waiting as long as possible to play. “But now, the problem is none of the schools are open.

“This was going to be the initial year that we allow the kids to wear their own uniforms. We were going to need to get into the schools to do that. But, there was no way we really could have pulled it off.”

There were options available for the games to be played.

“We were actually thinking about playing it outdoors,” Deep said. “If we were going to play late June, I just recently contacted Robert Morris to see about playing on their outdoor court and possibly play the games there. That was actually one of the last things we talked about.

“We could have easily played it without fans. It’s just as risky putting 20 boys or 20 girls in a locker room, probably just as risky. It’s pretty hard to keep those kids away from each other. It would have been pretty much an improbable task. But, it was a good idea. We didn’t want to play it without fans. Generally, in all-star games, 90 percent of the people there are family.”

The Classic was born in 2006.

“We went from two games to four and six and now seven,” Deep said. “I didn’t want these games to take on the look of all the other all-star games. Where the kids just go through the motions.

“We wanted the games to be competitive. We push the fact that you’re playing against another class of kids. It took a few years before we had any upsets. Now we have upsets every year. The kids get fired up. The kids are amazing. They’ll do what you ask of them. They’ll run through walls for you. It’s been easy these last 10 years.”

In addition to the Roundball Classic, Deep brought back the Rising Star. That game was set for May 2 at New Castle High School. This would have been the fifth year for it. It pits eastern Ohio’s best against stars from western Pennsylvania.

Deep, who was married to Mary Jo Costello and has three kids — Allen, Joseph and Alexandria — noted canceling the all-star game was ultimately an easy one.

“The PIAA announced that the season is over,” he said. “We’ve decided to cancel the games. We knew that was going to happen, but we tried to abide by the PIAA as far as the rules that we use. Everything we do, we try to mirror their rules and regulations.”

Despite the cancellations, which were announced Tuesday, Deep said this isn’t a death sentence for his all-star games.

“It’s a little different than other events,” Deep said. “We have a different audience every year. A 100 percent different audience every year. Different players. Different parents. There are some kids that have two, three or four brothers or sisters that have played.

“We’ll start it all brand new as soon as the next basketball season gets started. It hasn’t hurt us. The financial losses have been minimized since it was caught early. We didn’t go ahead and buy the merchandise. Had we bought merchandise, that could have been a mini disaster. Next year we’re going to do it and we’re going to push it back. We’re going to do it, just because of the calendar and that Easter is a little later next year, in May.”

Organizing an all-star classic isn’t easy.

“You have to plan this no different than you would any concert or any large gathering,” Deep said. “You have to secure the venue first.

“Geneva has been a great partner for us every year. They generally open up a whole week for us. The logistics are a mighty task. But we have enough people to do it. I have good people to do it.”

ROUNDBALL CLASSIC LOCALS

Union High graduate and Hickory head coach Chris Mele was selected to lead the District 10 boys all-stars team against the Class 1A/City/Prep squad.

PrestonTurk (Neshannock) and Colin McQuiston (Shenango) would have joined forces on the Class 2A/3A team to take on the Class 4A squad. Union’s Vince Fuleno was set to compete for the West in a battle against the East. New Castle’s Isaiah Carter would have suited up for the North against the South.

On the girls side, New Castle’s Raquel Rivera was set to play for the Class 4A/1A team against Class 3A/2A, which was represented by Ellina DeLillo (Neshannock), Faith Gibson (Laurel) and Karly McCutcheon (Mohawk). The Class 3A/2A would have been coached by the Lady Warriors’ Mike O’Lare.

rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

Sports Writer

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is a sports writer at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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