STROHECKER: Wells Fargo game memorable, but had flaws

Patrick Strohecker
  • York High and Steel-High played a non-league game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
  • While the game was memorable for the players, it still had flaws for a first-time event.
  • York High AD Ron Coursey said he'd be open to returning for future events.

Rarely do first-time events go off perfectly.

York High's Nasir Smallwood (4) and Steel High's Tim Kater (42) get tied up while going for the loose ball during the second quarter of a non-conference basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the Wells Fargo Center, in Philadelphia. Steel High won 58-51. Amanda J. Cain photo

There's almost always going to be room for improvement.

File Wednesday's "Court of Dreams" boys' basketball game between York High and Steel-High at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia under that category.

It was a day to remember for all involved, most notably the two dozen or so high school athletes who got to fulfill a dream by playing a meaningful basketball game in an NBA arena. The end result of the game, a Rollers 58-51 victory, meant the Harrisburg-area outfit went home with positive memories, while the Bearcats made the trip back not fully satisfied.

That's not to say the York High kids didn't enjoy their day under the bright lights of a pro sports venue. They very much did, and expressed it post-game. A win would've simply made it that much sweeter.

Senior guard Jacquez Casiano admitted he was in awe of the sheer size of the arena when he first walked in. After the high school game ended, New York Knicks' rookie Ron Baker took the floor for warm-ups, drawing the attention of the high school kids. Up close, a player such as Baker, who stands 6-feet, 4-inches, looked like a giant, someone who fit the arena he was about to play in, even though a couple of the players who competed in the high school game would actually measure taller than him.

Everything was surreal about the experience. Casiano finally got to see his favorite NBA player — Carmelo Anthony — play in person. Nassir Smallwood had never been to Philadelphia. Most importantly, all involved can brag that they played a game in an NBA arena, a feat that won't be matched by many of their peers.

However, for as many dreams that came true during the "Court of Dreams," if it happens again, there will need to be changes.

Room for improvement: Walking away from the court and to the concourse area following the game, I couldn't help but think everything felt rushed. I wasn't alone in those thoughts, either.

York High's Jayden Iturmendi(0) goes up for the shot during the second quarter of a non-conference basketball game against Steel High, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the Wells Fargo Center, in Philadelphia. Steel High won 58-51. Amanda J. Cain photo

Because of NBA guidelines, the high school game had to be over by 4:30 p.m. to allow the NBA players the proper amount of time to go through shoot arounds and warm-ups. Typically, a high school game takes about 90 minutes to finish, so with a 3 p.m. start time to the high school game, that gave them just enough of a window to play the game at a reasonable pace without the threat of going past 4:30 p.m. Unfortunately, it didn't give the players much time for anything else.

Overtime could have created a real problem.

"It's something I would sit down and talk to my athletic director about doing again. It's something I would sit down and talk to the 76ers representatives about doing again," Bearcats' head coach Clovis Gallon said. "Talk about some of the logistical things that we'd like to work on and take care of if we would come out and do something like this again."

From the time they were rushed onto the floor at 2:30 p.m. to go through warm-ups, to the time they were rushed off the court as soon as the final horn sounded, they spent all of two hours on the NBA floor, doing nothing more than playing basketball. Asked after the game if he got to take a selfie or any photos from on the court, Casiano said he didn't. He simply didn't have time. While that wasn't something expected, it would've been a cool memento to have.

Coursey admitted he also thought some of the logistics about the event needed improvement, but was generally pleased with the overall event because it served its purpose.

"I had mixed feelings," he said. "I thought it was a great experience for our kids and just seeing their faces, being able to walk in and play on the NBA floor and the arena, I thought it was priceless. ...At the end of the day, I'm very, very pleased with the experience the kids got. I did have just a couple concerns, just with the logistics. Logistically, it didn't run as smooth as I would've hoped it would've run, just with the time constraints and lack of space that the Sixers granted us."

Coursey did suggest starting the game earlier, so that the players and teams wouldn't feel rushed to finish their game. But, he did also express great interest in returning in the future.

Nothing goes off perfectly the first time around.

If there is a future, the second time will surely be better than the first. After that, you can expect the third time will be better than the second, and so on down the line.

Flaws and all, the day accomplished what was expected and gave the players a memory they won't soon forget.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at