BRISTOL, Va. — Teams from four countries and seven states will compete in the 33rd annual Arby’s Classic, which will be held at Viking Hall from Dec. 26-31.
The matchups were finalized Sunday afternoon during a drawing at the Arby’s restaurant on Lee Highway. The visiting teams will enter the tournament with a 234-51 record during their games last year.
One of those teams will be 2014 Arby’s Classic champion North Mecklenburg out of North Carolina, which will open its title defense along a similar route from last year. North Mecklenburg will face Tennessee High at 5:30 p.m., the same team it opened the 2014 tournament with.
A much fresher rematch will be Dobyns-Bennett versus Oak Ridge in the following contest at 7 p.m. The teams will have met just eight days prior in Knoxville.
“In a sense, it’s sort of unfortunate that we will play them before the Arby’s, but that is part of being in the tournament. You never know who you are going to play,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Charlie Morgan said. “We will try to put together the best scouting report that we can, because that second one will hopefully help us more than the first one.”
Other local teams learning their matchups were Union and Gate City. Union, making its first appearance in the Arby’s, was given the task of playing the only defending state champion in the field: Wayne High School. Wayne finished 26-4 last season and brought home the Division I Ohio state championship.
“You aren’t going to get a good draw, they are all good teams,” Union coach Zack Moore said. “We knew we were going to play somebody really good. We’ll be ready to play and we are just honored to be in the tournament to be honest with you.”
The Bears may get a late start on their season because their basketblal roster is full of football players still competing in the VHSL playoffs. Moore isn’t surprised by not having his guys yet and openly admits he hopes he doesn’t see them for a few more weeks.
“We hope they keep winning, I love those guys,” Moore said. “We have a lot of competitors on our team that are playing football right now, so I want to see them succeed and hopefully they will win it all and then when we get them, we will start rolling.”
The Bears will have the luxury of getting a little extra preparation. They will play the 5:30 p.m. contest on the second day of the tournament on Monday, Dec. 28.
It will be a battle of the Blue Devils when Gate City opens the tournament against Tift County . The big and athletic team from Georgia had Gate City coach Scott Vermillion thinking about another team when he found out who he was playing.
“I was joking around coming over and I always tell my family, ‘Hey, I am going to go and draw the Boston Celtics,’ and I feel like I did draw the Boston Celtics this time,” Vermillion said. “Their size and athleticism will be a challenge for us.
“But that is why you play in it. We really wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a great experience for our kids and it is a measuring stick.”
Other matchups on the first day will be Greeneville vs. Urspring Academy of Germany at 1 p.m. and Christian Academy of Knoxville vs. Tabernacle Baptist of the Grand Bahamas. The final contest of the first night will be local favorite David Crockett vs. fan favorite Mentor, Ohio.
David Crockett coach John Good knows the crowd might be torn when the teams match up at 8:30 p.m., but he says the environment will be one his team will relish.
“I think the Arby’s is a unique tournament where there are 6,000 fans there and they are all wanting to cheer for somebody, so if you have the style of play that everyone likes, they’ll pull for you,” Good said.
Sullivan East is another team local fans enjoy cheering for. The Patriots, who return standout guard Gavin Grubb, will have the tough task of playing St. James School, which will try to become the first team from Maryland to win the Arby’s Classic. St. James is led by 6-foot-9 Richmond commitment Grant Golden.
All draws in the Arby’s are tough draws, as Patriots coach John Dyer knows. He is just happy he and his kids will have to travel only 8 miles to play top-tier talent, as opposed to having to travel to another state.
“We have talked about going to a tournament in Florida before, but they all want to stay and play in the Arby’s,” Dyer said. “So they soak it all in and they go to all of the games.”