WHEELING - The Cancer Research Classic just keeps getting better.
The annual prep basketball gala, in its fifth year, will bask in the glow of the national spotlight as it will be a part of the GEICO Basketball Showcase this season on the ESPN family of networks.
Dr. Gregory ''Doc'' Merrick, CRC director and head of Wheeling Hospital's Urologic Cancer Center, announced Wednesday two of the event's seven contests will be televised nationally.
''This is something we've been working on for about three years,'' Merrick said during a press conference at Wheeling Hospital where he was joined by Wheeling Jesuit University President Richard Beyer.
''This is a remarkable event for our city, for (Wheeling) Jesuit and for Wheeling Hospital. It brings attention, brings people to our communities, restauarnts, hotels, etc.''
The games to be broadcast are the final two on the schedule - Simeon (Chicago) vs. Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) and Gonzaga (D.C.) vs. Whitney Young (Chicago).
Merrick said there is a slim possibility a third game could be televised.
The first telecast, which begins at 8 p.m., will be shown by ESPN2. The finale will hit the airwaves on ESPNU, at approximately 10 p.m. ESPN's coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.
''(ESPN) is looking for first-class events, and they're also looking for great matchups and great facilities,'' Merrick said.
The CRC certainly has all of that this year.
''This is really, by far, our best event ever,'' Merrick said. ''The quality of our teams, top to bottom, is probably better than any tournament in the country.''
The games begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 with Wheeling Central facing Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
Action the following day begins at 1 p.m. with Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) battling Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, N.J.). That will be followed by Wheeling Park vs. St. Joseph Prep (Philadelphia) at 2:30 p.m.; Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) vs. St. Raymond (Bronx) at 4 p.m.; and Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) vs. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) at 5:30 p.m.
MaxPreps, according to Merrick, named the CRC the third-best one-day event in the nation.
In addition, five of the top 13 squads and eight of the top 50 in Rivals Top 100 will participate, along with seven of the top 20 teams in ESPN's rankings, including the top two in the preseason - No. 1 Simeon and No. 2 Miller Grove.
Simeon is led by Jabari Parker, the nation's top-rated player, while Miller Grove boasts Tony Parker, a leading Mr. Basketball USA candidate.
''I think we will have 10 kids playing here who are legitimate candidates to play in the NBA,'' Merrick said. ''And we'll have 85 kids who I expect to play (NCAA) Division I.''
The CRC has come a long way during its short history. What started as a one-day showcase has turned into a three-day event.
Activities begin Thursday, Jan. 5 when former Ohio prep and Ohio State standout and current CBS Sports broadcaster Clark Kellogg headlines ''An Evening with Clark Kellogg'' at Oglebay's Glessner Auditorium.
More than 150 CRC alumni have gone on to play collegiately at many of the top Division-I programs in the nation. That list includes West Virginia freshman Jabarie Hinds, who played in the 2010 event for Coach Bob Cimmino.
''These are the Harvards of high school basketball,'' Merrick said of the CRC field. ''It also gives college coaches - like WVU's Bob Huggins and Pitt's Jamie Dixon - an opportunity to see players they're interested in on one day and under one roof.''
For more information about the CRC, call (304) 243-3138.