Hoops For Hope girls' basketball benefit is growing

Saturday's ScheduleNoon--Notre Dame vs. Chatt. Girls Leadership Academy; 1:30--Arts & Sciences vs. Red Bank; 3--Soddy-Daisy vs. Signal Mountain; 4:30--Baylor vs. Hamilton Heights; 6--Ooltewah vs. GPS; 7:30--Cleveland vs. Sequatchie County.

The Hoops for Hope high school basketball breast cancer-awareness fundraiser is turning three years old, and with that comes a big growth spurt.

The Hoops for Hope competition had a modest beginning with Red Bank hosting Baylor in girls' and boys' games on Jan. 18, 2010. Last season it was moved to Baylor where Signal Mountain and Davidson Academy joined Red Bank and Baylor for a girls' doubleheader.

Twelve girls' teams will be competing Saturday at Baylor in this year's Hoops for Hope event. Action starts at noon. The last game is scheduled to begin at 7:30.

Like the previous Hoops for Hope benefits, proceeds will be forwarded to the Mary Ellen Locher Foundation scholarship fund -- a local charity formed to assist with college financial burdens for children who have had a parent diagnosed with breast cancer.

Steve Redman, now in his first season coaching boys' basketball at Signal Mountain, was Red Bank's girls' basketball coach at the time he came up with the concept for Hoops for Hope. After Baylor girls' coach John Gibson agreed to join in, they began laying the groundwork.

"It was kind of an idea I had," Redman said. "I'd seen a lot of other sports doing things like that and thought 'That's a cool thing to do. I'd like for us to do something like that some day.'"

Gibson asked BIllenda Nabors to be chairperson over the event. Her daughter, Teal, played basketball and graduated from Baylor in 2009, and daughter Macall is currently a junior playing for the Lady Red Raiders. Nabors was friends for 16 years with Locher, who died June 9, 2005 from breast cancer.

"It's quite an undertaking," Nabors said. "I've been coordinator for three years and everything has pretty much tripled this year."

Nabors said word spread quickly after last season's event and as many as 16 teams showed interest in being part of this year's competition.

"We felt like six games in one day was probably enough," Nabors said.

Nabors said among the volunteer work it takes to put on such an event, Charles Ray is offering to do the public-address announcing all day, an orthopedic team is offering its services in case of injuries, and others will work in concessions. Baylor's girls are going to fulfill other duties when not playing.

Exhibiting the breast cancer-awareness theme, each game will be played with a pink basketball. Even the officials will be equipped with pink whistles, thanks to special permission by the TSSAA.

Crowd members will be able to donate money and try halfcourt shots during halftimes of games with prizes being awarded. Baylor student Marshall Ferrell will play the national anthem on saxaphone to open the event, and The Baylor School choir will also sing the anthem before the Lady Red Raiders' game at approximately 4:30 p.m.

The one condition for participating teams is each girl must sell at least 10 of the T-shirts that were donated to commemorate the event. Nabors said most of the teams exceeded their minimum requirement, with Sequatchie County selling the most, and each team has already raised approximately $1,000-$1,500.

Anyone wearing one of the T-shirts, which will also be on sale at the game for $10, will be allowed in the gymnasium. A $5 donation will also serve as admission.

Redman said about $4,000 was raised during the first Hoops for Hope benefit and the second raised almost $10,000. The target is considerably higher this year.

"When you start something like this you hope it's going to have success," Redman said. "I'd like to see it maybe become a three-day tournament and invite teams in, not just to show up and play, but maybe they could do things like go to the Aquarium together as a team. Whether that can happen or not, I don't know."

If not, at least the increase in the number participants is allowing organizers to present scholarships to two qualified students Saturday, rather than the one each at the previous Hoops for Hope fundraisers.

"I think Mary Ellen would be so proud and so thankful her scholarship program is continuing," Nabors said. "For us to go from one scholarship to two is a big leap."