WHEELING - Dr. Greg Merrick traces his addiction to the game of basketball back to his days at Temple University.
He befriended long-time, and legendary, in every sense of the word, coach John Chaney back in the day, a friendship that is ongoing to this very day.
"Coach Chaney is my mentor, he's been like a second father," Merrick said Saturday, as the Cancer Research Classic was in full swing at Wheeling Jesuit University's Alma Grace McDonough Center. "He still comes down and spends time with the family."
Had Chaney been in town this weekend, you get the idea he would like the product his friend has put on the floor.
See, the Cancer Research Classic, or CRC as it is more typically known, is Merrick's baby.
He founded it.
He directs it.
He brings in the star power that, for the seventh consecutive year, had fans flocking to Wheeling Jesuit facility to see the action.
"I just love the game," said the man known as "Doc" (who is Executive Director of the Urologic Research Institute in Wheeling) to one and nearly all.
Merrick brought in the nation's top team, Montverde.
Merrick brought in the top recruit in the nation,Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.
Merrick showcased a couple of local teams, Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central in the event against undefeated teams from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, respectively.
Merrick even brought in ESPN, which, for the second year, broadcast not one, but two games from the CRC.
"When we started this, we wanted to to have the best high school tournament in the nation," Merrick said. "We wanted to have a first class event and I think we are doing just that. The kids stay at Ogelbay, which is treat. They fly in on jets. Everything that we do, we want it to be first class. It took a couple of years to get ESPN, but that was something we wanted to do from the beginning. We wanted to be on national television. I had to build up my reputation, but it worked out."
A showcase event that showcases the area. That is win-win.
Even Mother Nature can't check Merrick and the CRC.
When she tried, making one team cancel its plans, Merrick and his staff simply rolled up its collective sleeves and came up with a save, shuffling and making calls, to make the event come off without a hitch.
The games were, as expected, high-flying, up-and-down contests, showcasing some of the best future college and NBA stars in America.
Judging by the crowds, it was must-see hoops.
For an added bonus, Merrick even employed a 35-second shot clock.
Like it or not (for the record, I do not) I did not witness a shot clock violation at the games I covered or watched.
Right now, only eight of the 50 states employs a shot clock. West Virginia is not one of them.
"I just think it makes the game better," Merrick said. "The high school associations (without the shot clock) are the only organizations who don't use the shot clock," Merrick said. "At some point it will come into play here. They even use it in Europe."
The CRC is now in the books. At least the games.
The planning has already started for another year.
Many of the teams will be back. Every coach I spoke to spoke in glowing terms of the way they were treated in Wheeling.
Merrick, and his staff, deserve a thanks you and a congratulation for a job well done.
Heck, even the local kids walked away happy, owners of autographs of tomorrow's stars.