CitC ready to honor Tom Jenkins as it returns with a bang

CitC ready to honor Tom Jenkins as it returns with a bang
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Classic in the Country XIX will take place Jan. 15-17 over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The event focuses on high school girls basketball and is considered one of the top high school girls events in the nation. This year will have a special meaning with the passing of creator Tom Jenkins.

                        

Last year fans of Classic in the Country didn’t have a chance to pile into the Perry Reese Community Center at Hiland High School to witness a plethora of high school girls basketball games featuring top talent and the best teams Ohio offers, and even great teams from outside Ohio.

After carefully tiptoeing through last year’s games with a minimal crowd of parents at each game, the CitC crew is set to return to the gym-packed sensation that has made CitC one of the top high school girls basketball events in the nation.

Packed with outstanding action on the hardwood, great food, music and entertainment, and the ongoing commitment to honor the important roles Martin Luther King, Jr. and Perry Reese, Jr. played on the national and local levels in promoting unity among all people, the CitC XIX is ready to return in earnest with a splash over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend Jan. 15-17.

“It was kind of a disappointment we couldn’t invite every fan last year who wanted to take in this great basketball venue,” said Dave Schlabach, who has taken leadership of the event after the unfortunate passing this year of former CitC creator and promoter Tom Jenkins. “It didn’t have the same excitement level because all of the fans were missing, but it did give the girls a chance to play great competition, which is a big part of this event.”

Classic in the Country began almost two decades ago when Jenkins; Schlabach, who was then the Lady Hawks head coach; and others put their heads together to create an event that has focused on unity, community, and great hoops and food.

Schlabach said that won’t change, and there is even a greater commitment to continuing everything Jenkins had done to create a venue that was dedicated to bringing people together to celebrate what Jenkins always termed “our sameness.”

“Tom was such a big part of this, and the one thing we really want to do is continue his legacy and follow through on his commitment to promoting unity among everyone, which is why we are excited to present this over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,” Schlabach said. “With Tom’s passing, we want to make sure this event stays on the very high level it has achieved while Tom was here.”

Jenkins created Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report, knew just about every girls high school basketball player in the state and was connected to an array of college coaches throughout the country, and his story will be featured in this year’s CitC program.

Schlabach said after stepping down as the Lady Hawks' head coach after three decades, he and former assistant David “Cousy” Borter have taken on a considerable role in guiding the CitC. While they organize, he said the CitC can’t exist without the support of the community and the many people who volunteer to make the Reese Center hum with excitement and hospitality over the three days.

Schlabach said the CitC has been blessed to have developed a great reputation across the state and nation of making everyone feel at home and welcome, from the players and coaches, to officials and fans, to visitors and the community.

“Our community and volunteers' hospitality is so crucial to our success,” Schlabach said. “We want everyone to feel special, but especially the teams who come here to play and make this such a wonderful atmosphere.”

He said while they have filled many of the volunteer roles, others still exist, like the role of clean-up on each of the three evenings. Whether it is a business taking a shift in the concession stand or volunteering to clean up at each night’s end, there remain opportunities to drive this event that has invigorated Holmes County during what is normally a very slow wintertime.

Now in its second year of sponsoring CitC, WKLM 95.3 will carry all 25 games throughout the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend festivities, presenting an additional way basketball fans can enjoy the weekend crammed with high school girls basketball action.

Speaking of action, this year’s event has seen the slate of games rise from 20-25, something the promoters felt was possible by trimming the time between games. That has allowed CitC to bring in more teams that have long wanted to be a part of the event, as well as give college coaches scouting during the event an opportunity to see more talent play.

Over the years CitC has helped uncover some hidden gems who might not have otherwise received a chance to play at the next level.

“We’re starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and Monday, and we have an hour and 20 minutes scheduled for games,” Schlabach said. “Tom always used to say these college coaches didn’t come to watch players warm up, so we’ve trimmed down the time for warm-up to 10 minutes each game. By the time people go out and get their noodles and get back to their seat, the next game will be starting.”

CitC tickets for both single day and weekend attendance are now available. Day passes for $15 will get an individual in for all that day’s contests while a three-day pass is $40.

“$40 to see 25 basketball games is a really great deal,” Schlabach said. “That’s a lot of action and entertainment.”

For more on the CitC, visit the website at www.classicinthecountry.org or visit it on Facebook. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help fill a shift will receive a badge that gets them into each game the day they volunteer. Anyone who wants to volunteer or would like to order day or weekend passes can do so by calling Seger Bonifant at 330-893-2626.


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