Another banquet is in the books and I have to say that the 8th annual Hoop Zone banquet was one of the smoothest we ever had. It was a great season that culminated in an amazingly busy two weekends as our local teams invaded Charleston and Columbia. I've posted in the past about the process of selecting our All-Zone teams and the voting process for the Zoneman and Mister and Miss Hoop Zone, but I feel it's important to reiterate as we inevitably seem to have a lot of questions.
In early January, Hags and I put our mental focus on the high school basketball season. The first thing I do is take out last year's All-Hoop Zone team and see who's returning. Barring a player suspension, major injury or other discipline types of problems, the players who were on last year's team usually returns to the All-Hoop Zone team. After that, we draw a line and develop a watch list. It starts by combing through box scores and getting calls from coaches on Tuesday and Friday night. We did a Hoop Zone honor roll on wpde.com on those nights and it was pretty easy to see who was on that list every time. We would move those on to the watch list and then go out and eyeball as many games as we can. I'm proud to say we had highlights of 74 games on our newscasts this basketball season which I think is a very impressive number for a two man sports department. Hags and I will try and think of how we can be even more efficient and try and get that number closer to 100 next season.
When it comes to playoff time, we look at #1 seeds (region champs) and make sure they are getting serious consideration for an All-Hoop Zone spot. After that, we go through the rest of the brackets and really study who we haven't seen and who deserves consideration. It is very difficult for a player to make the All-Hoop Zone team if their team doesn't make the playoffs. Of our 40 players on this year's team, only one did not make the post-season - Darryl Edge of North Myrtle Beach. Considering he is a 1,000 point career scorer, a 2007 WPDE All-Hoop Zone selection and received Mister Hoop Zone votes, he's an exception to the rule. I know we have a lot of talented players who don't make the team, but this process is the most fair that we know of.
In the past, our process for Mister and Miss Hoop Zone was to collect 15 boys coaches and 15 girls coaches to decide on Mr. and Miss HZ. This year was so unique that we got to that number (17 total ballots when you include mine and Hags) that I didn't feel right about it. With the 17 ballots, Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard had a 1 point lead on Lashay Page and Ashley Clarke had a 2 point lead on Rubylee Wright. Hags and I usually have very similar ballots, but our three picks were all over the place. It's then we realized that you could make a very strong argument for as many as five boys. The most fair thing to do would be to get every coach in the area (34 boys and 34 girls). That's 68 calls! I knew I'd have the piece of mind knowing that it couldn't be more impartial than to do that. So we got on the horn in a big way and collected each and every ballot. What we saw was the same results when we had 17 ballots (Gadsden-Gilliard was up by 2 on Page, Clarke a 6 point margin over Rubylee). However, I felt relieved that we expanded the process to include everyone. Especially on the boys side, a vote or two different could have completely turned things around. The fact that first and fifth place were seperated by only 8 points was amazing. It was a lot more work, but it was good to get input from everyone in our Hoop Zone family.
My mind is always racing a million miles an hour during the banquet and I never get to talk to everyone I want to. Our goal is to make this night special for each and every player that is being honored. I hope we accomplish that goal, because it means a lot not only to Hags and I, but our entire station. I hope our basketball friends appreciate the support shown by WPDE management to spend thousands of dollars in awards, food, etc. so we can make it a special night.
Eight years of Hoop Zone banquets and there's already an awesome legacy. We've got two NBA players, one more on the way soon (Carlos Powell - we're rooting for ya!) and a WNBA player to boot. From there, a long list of Division I and other college basketball players. One of my favorite parts of our website is the Zone history section that lets you drag down a high school and see all of their All-Zone picks over the years. I would like to get that more prominently displayed on wpde.com so folks can take the time to look over who has represented their communities over the years.
I put the section below on our Hoop Zone page, but wanted to put it here as well so our high school and local sports fans can get a full dose of Hoop Zone factoids and trivia:
Here are some fun facts and notes about the Hoop Zone banquet:
Just how far has the Hoop Zone banquet come?
The first WPDE All-Hoop Zone team did not have a banquet. The top 12 boys and girls had pizza in the break room at the old WPDE studios in Florence. Raymond Felton sat in a folding chair when he was announced the first Mister Hoop Zone in 2001. Based on the success of the first season, the Hoop Zone banquet has expanded to a full dinner and 30 minute special held after the week after state champions are crowned. Raymond's second Mister Hoop Zone featured the first true banquet and the airing of "The Truth", WPDE's 30 minute documentary on the current Charlotte Bobcats point guard which won an Edward R. Murrow Regional Award for outstanding documentary.
Two firsts in 2008
Latisha Harris became the first Aynor Blue Jacket to make an All-Hoop Zone team. The junior should be a contender for Miss Hoop Zone 2009. Also, a first - Khadijah Sessions became the first 8th grader to make the squad. The Myrtle Beach guard will try and carry on the Lady Seahawks dominance on the hardwood.
Waiting to Eat
Of the 34 SCHSL teams in the WPDE viewing area, there are now only four schools that have not had a boy or girl make the All-Hoop Zone team in our eight year history:
The Two Timers
Ashley Clarke joins an exclusive list of two time Mister and Miss Hoop Zone winners:
Raymond Felton (2001,02)
Ramon Sessions (2003,04)
Christina Dewitt (2005,06)
Ashley Clarke (2007,08)
Third time's the charm:
Only 11 players in our eight year history have made the All-Hoop Zone team three times. Mr. Hoop Zone Finalist Lashay Page of Dillon became just the second boys player while Ashley Clarke, Michelle McGee and Rubylee Wright bring the girls "3-timers" to 9:
North Myrtle Beach's Christina Dewitt is the one and only four time All-Hoop Zone selection.
Three time WPDE All-Hoop Zone selections:
Lashay Page (Latta 05,06 Dillon 08)
RaSean Dickey (Marlboro County 2002-04)
Ashley Clarke (Myrtle Beach 05,07,08)
Michelle McGee (Andrews 2006-08)
Rubylee Wright (Latta 2006-08)
Tomay Johnson (Andrews 2004-06)
Latasha Hayward (Hemingway 2003-05)
Zaporia Carr (North Myrtle Beach 2003-05)
Andrea Robinson (Wilson 2003-05)
Christina Dewitt (North Myrtle Beach 2002-05) * 4 time selection *
Tyesha Ervin (Darlington 2002-04)
Sasha Reaves (Mullins 2001-03)
Here's the breakdown of the most banquet appearances in eight years (boys, girls and combined)
Most All Hoop Zone boys selections
1. Marlboro County 12
2. Wilson 11
3. Myrtle Beach 10
3. Hemingway 10
5. Mullins 7
Most All Hoop Zone girls selections
1. Myrtle Beach 12
2. Wilson 11
3. Darlington 7
3. Mullins 7
3. North Myrtle Beach 7
Combined boys and girls All Hoop Zone selections
1. Myrtle Beach 22
2. Wilson 22
3. Marlboro County 15
4. Mullins 14
4. Hemingway 14