In the middle of every hurricane, you will find the eye of the storm. An area of calm surrounded by destructive winds and heavy rain. The Young Entrepreneurz Solutions / United States Virgin Islands Basketball Classic held this past weekend at Antilles School’s Mark C. Marin Center served as the eye of this latest COVID-19 outbreak here in the territory.
Three of four schools from the United States were able to make their way down to St. Thomas to participate in this inaugural event. Wayne State University had 12 of 15 players catch COVID-19 and were not allowed to travel. The remaining rosters also suffered the effects of COVID-19 as all three teams had to leave behind players and coaches who were presently battling or recovering from this ailment. It was most evident with the Pioneers of Point Park University as only six players from their 12-man rosters were cleared to make the trip. Fisk University traveled with eight players and only Head Coach Kenny Anderson and Assistant Coach Cyrus Booker were on the sidelines for the Bulldogs. Kenny Anderson is the former Georgia Tech standout who played in the NBA for 14 seasons. The tournament champions, Elizabeth City State University, roster suffered the least casualties due to the outbreak as most of their players and coaches were able to make the trip.
In the first game of the tournament, Elizabeth City State University Vikings tamed the Bulldogs of Fisk University 73-65. Zaccheus Hobbs of ECSU caught fire early nailing his first three shots on his way to a 21-point afternoon. Tournament MVP Shykeef Daniels chipped in 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists for ECSU. Marcus Moultrie dropped a game-high 22 points for the Bulldogs.
Game two saw Elizabeth City in the winners circle once again as the Vikings defeated the Pioneers from Point Park University 61-48. The Pioneers got off to an extremely slow start shooting 34.8 percent from the field and 9.1 percent from behind the arc. The Beloti brothers led the way for the Vikings as Senior Brandon Beloti scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and registered four blocks. Freshman Jayden Beloti added 12 points and collected a game-high 10 boards. Sherron Schifino was the only Pioneer to truly get going as he hit 50 percent of his shots connecting for a game-high 24 points.
The final game of the event was a match-up of the two winless teams in the tournament. Point Park University used a more balanced attack to muzzle the Bulldogs in their 71-60 win. Sherron Schifino picked up right where he left off the day before scoring a game-high 23 points for the Pioneers. This time Schifino had a little help from his friends. Teammate Jordan Stowe recorded 15 points, eight rebounds and dished out five assists. After putting up a goose egg in Point Park’s previous contest, Jesse Calloway rebounded with 14 points including two big three-point baskets in the closing minutes of this game. Eddie Flohr seemed to be everywhere on defense as he collected a tournament-high seven steals for the Pioneers. Ethan Jones was the star for Fisk University as he registered a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The tournament ended with St. Thomas native and Fisk University alum, Elridge Blake, receiving his Hall of Fame Induction plaque from Head Coach Kenny Anderson. Coach Blake was named to the Fisk University Hall of Fame earlier this year but was not able to attend the ceremonies. Dr. Larry Glover, Fisk’s Athletic Director, was scheduled to make the presentation but he couldn’t attend due to COVID-19 protocols. Coach Anderson stepped in and delivered the award. Coach Blake was a standout athlete that played baseball, basketball and ran track for the Bulldogs.
Director Ruffin is looking forward to making this an annual event, especially for Division II schools. “We get a chance to help HBCU DII young people come to a place like this and play basketball”, he said during the opening press conference. “The DIIs get different opportunities but the DIIs don’t get these opportunities.” Coach Shawn Walker was named HBCU Coach of the Week for his victories here at the YES/USVI Basketball Classic. He had this to say about the event. “It was absolutely an awesome trip. It totally exceeded my expectation.”