DAYTON — After no representatives last year, two area basketball teams will be competing in the 2016 Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament this January in Kettering.
The Yellow Springs Bulldogs and Carroll Patriots will both attend the tournament that hosts national and local teams who play at the highest level.
For Yellow Springs coach Steve Grasso, this is an opportunity to showcase his much improved team.
“I think the word will get out a little bit more on the Bulldogs,” he said. “This year, the core of our team has grown up. They started as sophomores when I got there, and now they’re seniors. I thought if there was ever a year to be going to the Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament, it was this year.”
Grasso, who is a former assistant coach for the Kettering Fairmont basketball team, said he knows what the tournament can do for high school players. Yellow Springs plays Dayton Northridge at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 17.
This will be the first year Carroll and Yellow Springs have competed in the event. Tournament founder and president Eric Horstman said getting new teams involved is part of the goal, at a press conference Tuesday.
“That’s the other thing that we try to do. Besides getting the best talent on the floor, I like to spread the love among the Dayton teams to give them a chance to be in it,” he said.
The Carroll Patriots play Urbana at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16.
Grasso said this is an opportunity to get more exposure for smaller schools. In particular, he said returning first team all-conference players Isaiah Taylor and Kaner Butler have a lot to gain.
“Isaiah hasn’t done too much AAU, so the exposure for him to get recruited to the next level hasn’t been that great, especially in our conference where we play smaller schools. So to step up to a national level tournament is really going to be unbelievable,” Grasso said.
“I think when we get the opportunity to step out there, people will be surprised with the athleticism that we’re going to bring from little Yellow Springs.”
Northridge coach Jeff Lisath said he was excited to be invited.
“Very grateful and thankful to be a part of this event. It’s really, truly amazing for our program and our kids to be able to participate. I watched games last year and I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get in there.’ So I emailed Eric about 15 times and we got in, and we’re happy and glad about it.”
The Bulldogs played Northridge in a Christmas tournament last season. Northridge won 69-52, but Grasso said that he’s excited for the challenge.
Flyin’ to the Hoop will host 42 teams this year, 18 from the Dayton area. Twelve states will be sending teams, many of which are nationally ranked. The tournament will include nine five-star ranked players and 12 four-star players. Horstman said teams from Australia and Canada applied.
Many players who participated in the tournament in previous years are now in the NBA. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 top NBA draft picks all played at Flyin’ to the Hoop.
Ohio schools have a reputation for being tough, and Grasso said he expects his team to live up to that.
“When I started three years ago, the number one aspect on the floor that I asked for was that when you step in between the lines, you give 100 percent of what you have,” he said. “I have not had any problems with that at any point. So you know when the Bulldogs step on the floor, you’re going to get our best shot every night.”