A handful of the teams competing in the first two days at the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic would be meeting at some point in their high school gyms anyway. Springfield College and the Basketball Hall of Fame turn what would otherwise be any other regular season game into a game circled on every player and coach’s schedule.
Players and coaches from Springfield and other surrounding towns get a chance to play in front of a full crowd at Blake Arena, with appearances from celebrities and professional athletes both past and present.
The Hoophall Classic, while known for having the best high school teams in the country, come to Springfield College and compete against one another. It also grants an opportunity for local high schools to display their talent in one of the biggest basketball showcases in the country.
Windsor High School’s (CT) head coach Ken Smith realizes how meaningful it is for the players to play in such a big event.
“This is important to them. They want to say they played in it,” Smith said.
The event presents a rare opportunity for athletes to show their best work on the court. For Putnam Vocational’s (MA) Andrew Mabry, it’s something that he’s been waiting for since his first taste last year as a sophomore.
“I look forward to this every year because it’s another opportunity to show my game, present my play, and show how I am on and off the court as a person,” Mabry, now a junior, said. “I always try to stay humble and just stay confident in myself and never bring my teammates down.”
Mabry led the Beavers in scoring with 29 points in their game against Springfield International (MA) on Thursday night, which was the most points scored by a player on the first day of competition.
The Hoophall Classic also provides the opportunity for local athletes to gain attention from colleges around the country. As scouts travel for the national games, D-I colleges get a chance to have a look at some of the local talent in the Springfield area. For local D-II and D-III colleges, it allows for an easy recruiting trip.
“That’s how it is. It’s like that. Last year I had a guy (Primo Spears) who now plays at Georgetown, taking pictures with Rod Strickland,” Smith said.
The Birthplace of Basketball is the host of the Hoophall Classic, as it’s an easy way for stars around the country to appreciate the history of the sport they love by playing at the place it was invented. On top of that, they get to have an entertaining experience.
“A few of the guys who are playing over this weekend, about four to six guys who are playing in this event, we’ve already been in contact with them all year,” Springfield College men’s basketball coach Mike McClendon said. “So, this is really like you get to watch good basketball, you get to have a great weekend at the Birthplace, and add some names that we haven’t noticed throughout the year.”
This event for Springfield is used as a recruiting event for the team by showing that extra support for the guys they want.
“For us, it’s about keying on the guys we have a relationship with already. Letting them know we’re here and we’re showing love and that we really want them to be here next year,” McClendon said.
At the end of the day, players and teams are simply at the event to get a win. All the teams who take the court attempt to block out the noise, while also getting the experience and opportunity of a lifetime.
Photo: Braedan Shea/Springfield Student