Great basketball at Heartland Hoops Classic

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This past weekend the Heartland Hoops Classic basketball event was held in Grand Island at the Heartland Events Center. This is the 12th year for this basketball event and is the work of Tino Martinez, the head coach at Grand Island Central Catholic High School. 

Coach Martinez also has a sports shop in Grand Island so he is a busy man to say the least. In my opinion, that makes this basketball event even more special. He gets commitments from 14-16 teams and then matches up the teams. You can then watch seven or eight games in a long day of basketball. 

In 2013, he upped the schedule a bunch when he got Oak Hill Academy from Mouth of Washington, Virginia. Oak Hill Academy is a nationally-known prep school that has had a traveling team that has produced many D1 players. Currently, there are three Oak Hill alums playing in the NBA. 

Oak Hill has made three trips to Grand Island (2013, 2015 and 2018) to participate. Even though they are a nationally-noted team, their trips to Grand Island have not been all that successful. They lost to Omaha Central in 2013, defeated Omaha South in 2015, and then last year when Coach Martinez matched them up with another elite prep school team in Sunrise Christian Academy out of Kansas, Oak lost again. 

Coach Martinez has also brought in some regular out-of-state teams to participate in Denver East and Overland High School out of Denver. This year Sunrise Christian Academy came back and was matched with Wasatch Academy out of Utah. 

The Utah team won and the game score was 65-53, but the game really wasn’t that close. I would think most of the crowd didn’t really care about the final outcome but just watching the talent on the floor perform was enough. Putting together this type of day takes a lot of work and I know Coach Martinez has some really good help, but still the event goes on as smooth as you could ever want with that many teams, coaches, officials and all the other staff you need. 

I don’t think the crowd for the games number-wise was as high as some of the past years and part of that is when the feature game is one that has two out-of-state teams playing plays a part in that. 

I also know that those elite prep teams don’t just come to Nebraska for the travel experience and in one conversation I had with one of the people who help run the event he mentioned that Oak Hill got in the neighborhood of $20,000 to attend. That is a pretty nice neighborhood. 

Wasatch Academy had players from everywhere: Texas, Indiana, Brazil, Utah, Netherlands, Hawaii, West Africa, were all listed hometowns. The teams had great size, speed, shooting ability and they played hard. I had to laugh when I heard someone say they were pretty good high school teams. I know they are high school-aged but the difference is in the word elite. 

There were some pretty good players from Nebraska on the other 14 teams there and I have seen Nebraska teams defeat Oak Hill for example, but for the most part, it isn’t going to happen very many times. It was a great time for an old retired coach to be able to spend it watching the events of the day.

With the Nebraska teams, I was really impressed with one of the Aurora players and that was Baylor Scheierman. Scheierman is a 6-6 guard that has very impressive skills. Aurora played Cozad and won 72-52. Scheierman had 19 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists in the game. 

The stats alone are outstanding, and the points and rebounds great, but some of the assists were so good you wanted to have replay to make sure it really happened. On four or five occasions, Scheierman threw a pass from the opponent’s lane to a streaking teammate and hit him right in the hands where all he had to do was dribble once or twice and shoot a lay-up. 

His coach, Tom Leininger, who was once the head coach at Ogallala, told me that Scheierman was the quarterback on the football team and was probably the most accurate passer he had ever seen. Watching him throw the basketball, I could easily see him throwing a football pretty well. 

Another pretty good effort was turned in by Joseph Bloom from Riverside as he ripped Loomis for 31 points with 23 of them coming in the second half.

The other thing about this event is being able to catch up with old friends from my coaching days like Coach Leininger, Sports writer Stu Pospisil, a bunch of officials who worked the games and getting to spend the day doing this with my son Troy. Great day all around!


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