DRAFFENVILLE – Football season is barely under way and the Major League pennant races are far from decided, but for many sports fans – in Marshall County, across Kentucky and beyond – basketball is already a hot topic, thanks to the Marshall County Hoop Fest.
It’s the star players and powerhouse teams that will be making up the Hoop Fest field this year – and the likelihood that some of the players will end up at Kentucky – that’s driving the stepped-up interest.
The 17th edition of one of the nation’s top high school basketball festivals is scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 1. This will be the 12th Fest held at Marshall County High School’s Reed Conder Gymnasium. The event was launched in 1996 at Massac County High School in Metropolis, Ill., by athletic director Steve Woodward, who brought the event with him when he came to Marshall County in 2001.
Jeff Stokes succeeded Woodward in 2008.
“I’ve already had numerous calls from people outside the area,” Stokes said last week. “From Lexington, Louisville, Chicago, Memphis, [the callers] wanting to come down.”
A number of college coaches have inquired as well, the University of Kentucky’s John Calipari included.
The lineup includes a player Calipari covets, Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, and another player on that team, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who already has a scholarship offer from UK.
Wiggins is the No. 1-rated player in the nation according to several scouting services, and the players who rank No. 3-4, twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison of Travis High School in Richmond, Texas, are also expected to be in Marshall County.
The last couple of years, the field was not quite as star-studded and the A-list coaches were absent. Tom Crean of Indiana was the only major basketball power coach present last year.
“You bring in nationally recognized guys like the Harrison twins and Wiggins and at least three or four other big-time kids, and that’s going to drive interest,” said Larry Vaught, sports editor of the Danville Advocate-Messenger and a long-time observer of the high school basketball scene.
“I don’t know that there’s ever been a group like this assembled in Kentucky before,” Vaught said. “It should be a great event.”
All-session tickets are on sale now for $25, available at the high school office. Single-session tickets will be sold at the door only, at $10 apiece.
For tickets and information, call (270) 527-6714 or write to 416 High School Rd., Benton, KY 42025. For out-of-town orders, tickets will be returned if the buyer includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Otherwise, tickets will be held for pickup at the gate.