BRISTOL, Tenn. — Just call it the luck of the draw.
Area coaches gathered in Bristol on Sunday to choose who they would play in the opening round of the 30th Arby’s Classic set for Dec. 26-31 at Viking Hall.
One by one, the coaches came forward, reached into a box and drew out their out-of-town opponents.
Gate City coach Scott Vermillion went first and drew Urspring School of Germany.
“Our kids and community really love being a part of the Arby’s,” Vermillion said. “It gets everyone excited about basketball in such a great atmosphere.”
Cherokee coach Jeremy Parrott went next and drew Tabernacle Baptist of the Bahamas.
Parrott’s Chiefs upset Memphis Craigmont in the first round of last year’s Arby’s. By season’s end, Cherokee played in the TSSAA sectionals with a chance to go the state tournament.
“That win against Craigmont gave us such confidence the rest of the season,” Parrott said. “It shows you that it can’t hurt to take advantage of these types of opportunities.”
Dobyns-Bennett will begin its tournament play on Thursday, Dec. 27 in a matchup with Martin Luther King from Georgia.
Sullivan East coach John Dyer drew defending champion Christ School of North Carolina.
Host Tennessee High will take on Princeton Day Academy out of Maryland; Abingdon drew Mentor, Ohio; Science Hill will take on Memphis Melrose; and Oak Ridge will close out the first day of action against Virginia Episcopal.
Being the 30th edition of the event brings with it some special extras.
“We’re giving area fans a chance to vote on the all-time Arby’s team,” said tournament director Richard Ensor. “Folks just need to go to arbysclassic.net and cast their ballots.
“Also, Bill Gatton has donated a car that we will give away during this year’s championship game. We’re very excited about that.”
Canada’s Father Henry Carr and Berkmar of Georgia will play on Thursday. Carr will meet the winner of the opening round game between Gate City and Urspring. Berkmar will take on the Cherokee/Tabernacle winner.
Berkmar, led by 6-foot-10 junior Tim Rowe, made it to the Georgia 5-A Elite 8 last season. Rowe is being recruited by Miami, Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Former Science Hill standout Shannon Hale (6-8, 15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg), an Alabama commitment, leads defending champion Christ School. He is joined by Jon Elmore (6-3, 20.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) who is being recruited by Alabama, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
Martin Luther King standout Donta Ottley (6-8, 15.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 7.0 blocks per game) is being looked at by Tennessee and the College of Charleston. Teammate Greg King (6-7, 15.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg) is being recruited by West Virginia, Memphis, Georgia and Tennessee.
Markel Crawford (6-5, 17.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) leads Melrose. He has already committed to Memphis.
Mentor, last year’s Arby’s runner-up, is always a tough matchup.
“Those guys will start shooting 3-pointers the minute they hit the floor,” Ensor said. “They are a fun team to watch.”
Princeton Day is led by 7-foot Malik Kuwornu, a sophomore who is being looked at by Oklahoma, Maryland and Temple.
Urspring, making its 13th appearance in the Arby’s, is led by 6-3 senior Malik Muller, who is being recruited by Virginia Tech and Oregon State.
Former Arby’s standout Curtis Staples coaches Virginia Episcopal School. Staples was an all-tournament selection in 1991. The Fighting Bishops are led by senior Caleb White (6-7, 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), who has committed to East Carolina.
Another standout for Episcopal is junior Anthony Swan (6-7, 14.5 ppg), who is getting looks from Cincinnati, Miami and UCLA.
“Participating in this tournament will erase any fantasies that your team has,” Vermillion said. “This caliber of competition will expose your team’s weaknesses.
“We won’t play anyone any better the rest of the year so this can be a very good learning experience.”