Pennsylvania’s sudden dismissal of Ohio on Wednesday in the Big 33 All-Star Game didn’t sit well with some from the Buckeye State who either played in the contest or coached in it.
The game dates back to 1957, with Pennsylvania playing against all-stars from Texas, Ohio, Maryland and simply East Pa. vs. West Pa. But Ohio has been involved the last 25 years and dumping Ohio in favor of Maryland for the next five years rubbed a little salt in the wound.
“We’re very taken aback by the letter we received, very surprised,” said Grafton (Ohio) Midview coach Bill Albright, who coached in the Big 33 this year. “Quite honestly, we left as coaches with the support people thinking we were still in good shape.
“Every indication they gave us was that they wanted to keep the tradition going. Quite honestly, I’m very disappointed for the players that won’t get to play in it and for the coaches that won’t have the opportunity to coach in it.”
Former Ohio State Buckeye and All-Big Ten defensive end Mike Kudla played in the 2002 game and was a little miffed at Ohio being pushed from the contest.
“I know both states looked forward to it,” he said. “There’s a great camaraderie. Great friendships have crossed lines because of it. We got to see those guys on a yearly basis even though we played at different schools.
“I’m not sure the direction they wanted to move in. I know there’s a reason for everything, but it’s something where you liked to hear about the lineage. I look at how close the rivalry was [Ohio held a 13-12 lead]. There were so many great players from Pennsylvania that played against the greats from Ohio, to not have it for this initial five-year period is tough.”
The next step according to Albright is to make the North-South All-Star Classic in Columbus played in the spring even stronger. At least that’s what he’s hoping for when the high school coaches association meets in December.
“Right off the top, we’ll strive to make our all-star game, which is the longest running all-star game in the nation, bigger and better,” Albright said. “All-star games may become a thing of the past because schools are asking kids to report early. I don’t know if it’s a dying breed, but we’ll strive to make it even bigger and better.
“It’s unfortunate how it happened. I’m sure it came down to a money issue for them. They kept telling us they were losing money. We signed a contract and gave up some things last year. I thought everything was good when we left Hershey last summer. We had no idea they were even talking to Maryland. I wish they would have given us an opportunity to sit down with them and see if we could iron something out, but they obviously wanted to go in a different direction.”
HOOPS HAVEN: Thad Matta will get his chance to impress ESPN 100 power forward Devin Williams (Cincinnati, Ohio/Montverde Academy) this weekend when the 6-foot-8 senior comes to Columbus on an official visit. Williams made news over the summer when he broke a backboard at the LeBron James Skills Academy even though he didn’t convert the dunk attempt.
The former Ohioan is fresh off an official visit from Memphis but has the Buckeyes in his final cut. As a junior last year for Cincinnati Withrow, Williams averaged 15.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
SEE YOU IN PENN STATE: Ohio State will get its chance to make a big first impression on a 2014 recruit garnering a ton of attention as of late when Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, N.J./Red Bank Catholic) makes his way to Happy Valley.
The 6-5, 285-pound offensive tackle had four offers five weeks ago and is now up to 13 as more and more game film gets out. Obviously, Nelson is going as a guest of Penn State, which has offered, but will be keeping a close on eye on the Buckeyes as well.
WHERE WE’LL BE: With the playoff race not set in stone, BuckeyeNation is releasing a full-court press on this weekend’s action. On Thursday, we’ll head to Byers Field in Parma, Ohio, to watch Shaker Heights take on Normandy.
On Friday, Division I target Travis Tarnowski leads North Royalton into an all-important Northeast Ohio Conference River Division contest against Michigan commit Ben Gedeon and Hudson. A North Royalton win would put the Bears at 10-0 for the first time in school history and likely knock Hudson out of the playoffs.
On Saturday, Massillon Washington and Canton McKinley will meet for the 122nd time. This one is a biggie, as postseason positioning will take center stage with Massillon (8-1) and McKinley (7-1) ready to do battle in one of the most heated rivalries in the nation.
Both have already clinched a playoff berth, but it will be interesting to see if Ohio State targets Marcus Whitfield and Gareon Conley can one up McKinley. McKinley is led by Eric Glover-Williams, who already has looks from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Syracuse and UCLA as a sophomore.