York High boys' basketball team gets rare opportunity

Patrick Strohecker

Several members of the Philadelphia 76ers' management made it clear that not just any team can play in the Wells Fargo Center.

Jacquez Casiano (left) and the York High boys' basketball team will look to improve off of last year's disappointing 12-11 campaign under first-year head coach Clovis Gallon. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

At least, that's what they told York High athletic director Ronald Coursey and new boys' basketball coach Clovis Gallon on Friday when the two drove to Philadelphia to finalize the Bearcats playing a game next season at the arena.

Now, somewhere there's probably a joke about how the 76ers aren't even deserving of playing in the 19,500-seat venue. After all, the 76ers are easily the worst team in the NBA over the last three seasons. But, that's a conversation for another day.

This is about how York High, the winningest hoops program in the state over the past eight seasons, got to be one of the select teams that will, for one afternoon, play in the arena.

"They said: 'We're very selective about who plays actual games in here,'" Coursey said on Friday.

The game will be part of an event called "Court of Dreams," giving high school athletes the opportunity to play in a regular-season game in a pro arena. When Coursey was an AD at a high school in Pittsburgh before coming to York High back in February, he helped organize a similar event. His school would take on a high school from the Cleveland area, roughly two hours northwest of Pittsburgh, at Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, when Coursey came here, he wanted to make sure he brought the same idea with him. It gives the players on the two teams the chance to live out a lifelong dream of playing on a stage that will make them feel like professionals.

If there's any downfall to this game, it's that it will actually mean something. For both teams, there will be district implications. District 3-AAAA points will be on the line for York High.

Anytime you add some sort of external element to a game that makes it seem bigger than any other game, which in this case will be the Wells Fargo Center, it can cause the game to take on more meaning, and the players will sometimes let the moment get to them.

York High to play game at Wells Fargo Center next year

For one game, that's certainly a risk that Gallon and his team will gladly take.

However, you also have to remember that this is the Bearcats we're talking about, a program that is accustomed to playing on the biggest stages. Quite frankly, it's expected that you'll play games when the lights are brightest if you don the blue and orange of York High. This is a program that, in its history, has won close to a dozen District 3 titles and was most recently, a state runner-up in 2009.

This is an opportunity that every single one of the Bearcat players should relish. They're being rewarded for the program's recent statewide success with a unique opportunity that few teams at the high school level get.

For most of the kids that will star in this game on both sides, high school basketball will more than likely be the end of the line of their competitive hoops days. A select few might go on to the college level, but maybe to a program that plays in gyms similar to what they play in now. And there's a pretty good chance that none of them will ever make it to the point where they'll ever get to play in an arena such as the Wells Fargo Center again.

So, this is a chance that many of these York High kids will never get again.

For one afternoon, they'll get the opportunity to know what it's like to play on the biggest stage. So, at least for the afternoon, they should only go out there and try to play like they belong.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com