Arby's Classic ready for year No. 20

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Winter tournaments are a staple of high school basketball, and the Arby's Classic has become the staple of tournaments in the state of Tennessee.
   Entering its 20th year of existence, the Classic will showcase some of the nation's top teams, and a multitude of Division 1 basketball talent.
   The team to watch this year is undoubtedly Wheeler High out of Georgia.
   The Wheeler Wildcats roll into the tournament ranked 25th in the USA Today's Top 25 and return as the class 5-A state champions in Georgia.
   The Marietta based squad has players of all sizes including senior center Jermared Davidson (6-9, 210), senior forward Ramando Lyons (6-5, 200), and junior forward Johnathan Meeks (6-5, 180).
   Other top teams entering the tournament include Mansfield Senior, Ohio, Bartlett High, Alaska, Rimini, Italy, Tabernacle Baptist, Grand Bahamas, and William R. Boone, Florida.
   Locally Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton and Maryville are expected to give the best showings from a statewide look.
   The Mansfield Tigers are the defending Ohio Heartland Conference champs and made it to the Sweet 16 in their state tournament last year. They feature D-1 prospect and senior forward Antonio Graves (6-2), who is expected to lead them this year.
   The Golden Bears from Bartlett are the defending 4-A champions out of Anchorage, Alaska and will bring a solid team to this tournament. The team has pretty good depth and size, but is mostly dependent on its youth.
   Rimini, Italy is the National runner-up and features perhaps the best total team height in the tournament. Alberto Saponi (6-8, 220), Tommaso Rinaldi (6-8, 231), and Leonardo Lunedei (6-7, 195) will be featured by the squad.
   Tabernacle Baptist returns this year and should pose a good threat once they are used to the environment. They are the defending champions from the Grand Bahamas, featuring junior Lance Francis (6-7, 210) and senior Torrington Cox (6-5, 190).
   William R. Boone High out of Orlando, Florida is the defending State runner-up in Class 6-A out of Florida. Under second year coach Stephen Shafer, the squad brings nine juniors to the field but doesn't have a lot of size.
   The best match-up of the first day could be Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett and Maryville.
   Maryville features University of Florida signee Lee Humphrey (6-2, 180) at their point position, who is widely regarded as one of the top ten players in the south.
   Science Hill is poised to be a threat in the tournament, as they face Tabernacle.
   Elizabethton will open against Chattanooga Brainerd, but will face the winner of Wheeler and Daniel Boone. If Elizabethton upsets Wheeler, it could give them a big boost in the state rankings.
   The Food Lion Slam Dunk contest will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, December 30 while the Wal-Mart 3-Point Contest will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 21 before the third place and championship games.
   The Grindstaff Carter County Classic will take place beginning on Thursday at VanHuss-White Gymnasium.
   Early contests feature Unaka and Unicoi County, Happy Valley and University High, Cloudland and Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Hampton and North Greene.
   University High and Whitesburg, Kentucky will be the favorites coming into the tournament this year. It should be a treat for every person who wishes to attend this year.
   There will be three contests before each game, including lay-ups, free throws, and 3-point shots.
   The Johnson County boys will be playing in the Super 16 Tournament held at Knox Bearden. The Longhorns will open against Farragut High School.
   Unaka's girls travel to the Pickett County Christmas Tournament, while Cloudland will play more locally in the Watauga Christmas Tournament in Boone, North Carolina.
   Tolley was a big player for the Highlanders this week, scoring 20 points with 12 boards to lead Cloudland to their first victory against CAK. Tolley also had 12 points against Johnson County and 13 points with 11 boards against Hampton.
   Gardner played superbly for the Lady Bulldogs this week. She had 20 points against Morristown West, and followed that up with 17 against Cloudland. She will be a key to the Lady Bulldogs' success this year.
   This will be a fun thing to do this week, as I will predict games that could happen, instead of games that will. The first two are definitely ones that would generate profit down at Hampton.
   The top two teams in the Watauga Conference have been battling with words over the past few weeks and its obvious that the first time they clash will be the most exciting and brutal.
   The Junior Bucs center Brandon Bradley and Unaka forward/guard Rusty Chambers are the two front runners for the conference MVP at this stage, and it could set up a best of three series between the two.
   If this game does take place, I expect the Rangers to lay the smackdown on University High with a packed house present.
   The fans make this game, and if the students come out for this possible game. The crowd will be entertained all night. The roots for this game go way back, and if history is any indication, it will be a competitive ball game.
   If this game does take place, I will say the victor is too close to call. But I will side with the Warriors as the favorite in this one.
   Hampton should hammer North Greene on the first night, while Cloudland probably took the toughest draw in the tournament with a team that is little known in Whitesburg, Kentucky.
   If the 'Landers happen to pull the upset, it could be an exciting second contest between the Bulldogs and Cloudland. Should this game take place, again the contest is in VanHuss-White Gymnasium, so you've gotta side with the 'Dawgs.
   Okay this one is the grand finale folks, and whether or not one of the teams doesn't want this to happen, there is a good chance that it will.
   Scenario: Elizabethton and Sciene Hill both win their first round games, pitting the Cyclones against Wheeler, GA and the Toppers against Maryville or Dobyns-Bennett.
   Wheeler should beat Elizabethton (Sorry Cyclone fans, they are the top team this year), and if Science Hill loses to the winner of the Rebels and Indians, next Monday will see a good showcase.
   The only problem, it will be during the 12:00 contest. If this does take place, I know I will be sitting in the stands as a spectator for this one. It could be a good one.
   T.A. Dugger defeated Hampton 55-20 on Friday afternoon. Austin Taylor had 20, while Josh Guinn had 10 for the Junior Cyclones.