Woodland Hills plays host to basketball showcase
Ron Coursey’s love for basketball, his penchant for trying new events and a desire to bring more attention to stopping gun violence.
Those three things together have led to the creation of a unique high school basketball event Saturday-Jan. 21 at Woodland Hills High School.
The Stand Against Violence Showcase will involve 28 games and 36 teams (34 boys teams and two girls). The event is the brainchild of Coursey, who is in his second year as the athletic director at Woodland Hills.
The volume of games and teams makes this event unique to Western Pennsylvania, but so do the participating teams.
Woodland Hills has two gyms virtually side-by-side and the school will use both for this showcase. Seventeen of the boys teams are from the WPIAL and other parts of Western Pennsylvania, including City League member Westinghouse. But 17 other boys teams will come from five states and the District of Columbia. Teams will come from Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and North Carolina.
On top of it all, some of the contests will involve top-notch teams, from the WPIAL and elsewhere, and some future major-college players.
Westtown, a private school in
“We brainstormed to maybe use athletics as a tool to get kids more involved and more off the streets, whether they are playing or spectating.” — Ron Coursey Woodland Hills athletic director
eastern Pennsylvania, is one of the participating teams. Westtown is really an allstar team, drawing players from everywhere. Two years ago, Westtown had a team that some called one of the greatest in high school basketball history. It had Mo Bamba, now in the NBA, and Cam Reddish, a star freshman at Duke.
Western Pennsylvania long has had high school tournaments and some special events that might last two or three days. But a three-day tournament with so many games and so many teams from so many places is certainly unique.
“So I guess that means I’m innovative?” Coursey said with a laugh.
The first weekend of the past football season, Coursey put together a two-day, six-game event that was played at the Woodland Hills football stadium (”Wolvarena”). Coursey started working on the Stand Against Violence Showcase in the summer. Plenty of teams were interested in playing, and Coursey thought the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be perfect, for a few reasons.
“This started from the premise that everybody is well aware that the Woodland Hills community has suffered some losses due to gun violence,” Coursey said.
“At Woodland Hills, we’re constantly racking our brains, trying to come up with ways to draw attention to lives lost, but also to find a way to curb some of the violence and present activities to kids and community members.
“We brainstormed to maybe use athletics as a tool to get kids more involved and more off the streets, whether they are playing or spectating.”
Part of the proceeds from the event will go to SAVE — Students Against Violence Everywhere. SAVE has clubs across the country.
Coursey played basketball at Carnegie Mellon University but has worked in high school athletic administration in Maryland and eastern Pennsylvania.
His contacts from those areas helped him get teams, as well as getting two big sponsors — IGS Energy and the Frank Walker law firm in Pittsburgh.
The sponsors are paying for lodging and some meals for out-of-town teams. Every player will get a certificate for some free games at Dave & Buster’s in Homestead, and Gatorade is donating products.
“The icing on the cake to be able to do this was to get some big sponsors, like IGS and Frank Walker,” Coursey said. “This couldn’t be done this way without them.”
Westtown is not as good as it was two years ago, but it still has some future Division I players, including senior point guard Jalen Gaffney, who has signed with Connecticut. Noah Collier, a 6-foot-6 forward, has an offer
from Pitt. Sophomore forward John Camden has offers from Miami and Syracuse, and 6-11 John Bol Ajak has committed to Syracuse.
Westtown plays First Love Christian (Washington, Pa.) at 5 p.m. Sunday. First Love has D.J. Gordon, who has offers from Virginia Tech, Dayton and TCU among others.
Westtown plays Baltimore Polytechnic Institute at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 21. Baltimore Poly features Justin Lewis, a four-star prospect by Rivals.com who has offers from Penn State, Florida and Maryland among others.
One of the most interesting games involving a WPIAL team will be at 6:30 p.m. Sunday when Penn Hills, one of the top Class 5A schools, plays Chester, a perennial power from near Philadelphia who has won eight PIAA titles since the 1980s.
Woodland Hills will play two games in the event. Woodland Hills features Keandre Bowles, the leading scorer in the WPIAL this season.
“I love basketball and this should be a basketball fan’s paradise,” Coursey said. “We hope to make this an annual event. Although Western Pennsylvania is known for football, we think we have some pretty good basketball teams also and we can have some pretty good events.”
Coursey laughed when he said, “As I sit sometimes and try to plan the logistics of this event, I question my sanity. The reality is that this is quite a huge undertaking. However, I think it’s for an honorable cause and it’s good for basketball.”
Tickets are available at the school the day of the games. Tickets are $10 for adults and one ticket is good for all games for one day. Student tickets are $5.
Penn Hills’ Wes Kropp attempts a layup against McKeesport Friday. The Indians, ranked No. 4 in WPIAL Class 5A, play Chester in the Stand Against Violence Showcase at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.