CRC Marks Its 10-Year Anniversary
WHEELING — The Cancer Research Classic is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Jan. 6 and 7 at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Alma Grace McDonough Center.
Dr. Gregory Merrick — the event founder and director — admitted during a press conference held late last week that the event has been able to accomplish everything he had hoped for when it started.
“We had one goal when this started and that was to be the best event in the country,” Merrick said. “We wanted it to be an event where every kid who played in it, said it was the best place they were. Our goal was to have every top team we could have. That’s where we started and we’ve achieved that.”
While bringing elite prep basketball to the Ohio Valley was one of the main reasons, the chief reason was to bring awareness to men’s health through the sponsorship of Wheeling Hospital and the Schiffler Cancer Center.
“We’re really happy where we are,” Merrick said. “We’ve had so many people help and support us from the area. We’re really pleased. I am excited about ourfuture, proud of our past and right now we’re focused on the present, trying to make this the best ever.”
Since the schedule was announced in the fall, Merrick has continually pointed out that he firmly believes this year’s lineup, which features 11 games over the course of the two days, is the best the CRC has put forth yet.
“I think it’s going to be a marvelous two days,” Merrick said. “We have 10 of the top 20 teams in the country here.”
During the course of the event, 24 past participants have reached the NBA and hundreds have played Division I basketball.
Early on in the history of the CRC, the fans didn’t always flock to the Alma Grace McDonough Center. Quite simply, Merrick had to figure out a way to convince area hoop fans that these teams and games weren’t the average high school games that they watch on most Tuesday and Friday nights.
“My main concern was making people realize that this wasn’t (ordinary) high school basketball,” Merrick said. “This was college players masquerading in high school uniforms and the first couple of years that was hard because people saw we had Park and Central and thought, ‘I’m not going to come out all day and watch those guys play.'”
There’s never been a thought of not involving Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central. They’ve been included in every event since the CRC’s inception and will bookend the event on Saturday this season.
“We’ve always wanted to give our local kids an opportunity to play on a bigger stage and allow them to be able to reap some of the benefits of this,” Merrick said. “Our turnouts have been great.”
The event now gains national exposure through its television deals. Again this year, the ESPN Family of Networks are committed to showing two games. One will be broadcast on ESPNU, while the other will be streamed on ESPN3.
This is the sixth consecutive year that Wheeling and the CRC will be featured on national television.
“The TV part of this came a little faster than we had expected,” Merrick said. “That’s definitely helped us.”
Merrick also pointed out “the future of the event is strong.”
“We’re still working to further improve the cash flow, which is always a concern,” Merrick said. “We’re planning on doing this (event) for a long, long time. Hopefully, when I am done (directing), someone else will decide that they want to run with it also, but I am not planning on going anywhere. For me, CRC Basketball is a year-round event. Basketball never stops and I am glad of that. That bouncing orange ball has brought a lot of good people into my life.”
Friday, Jan. 6
Noon — Gates open
1:30 p.m. — Findlay Prep vs. First Love Christian
3:10 p.m. — La Lumiere vs. Cleveland VASJ
5:30 p.m. — IMG vs. Westlake
7:30 p.m. — Roselle Catholic vs. Greenforest
Saturday, Jan. 7
8:30 a.m. — Gates Open
10 a.m. — Wheeling Central vs. North Allegheny
11:40 a.m. — Wheeler vs. Neumann-Goretti
1:20 p.m. — IMG vs. Greenforest
3 p.m. — La Lumiere vs. Findlay Prep
4:40 p.m. — DeMatha vs. Roselle Catholic
6:20 p.m. — Gonzaga vs. Westlake
7:45 p.m. — Wheeling Park vs. Pine Richland