Dime: How do you go about choosing the roster for the game?
PC: At the beginning, it was always Middle Tennessee area schools like Belmont, Middle Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, Lipscomb and others versus schools outside the Middle Tennessee area. Now that the game has grown so much, we try to divide it up and make the game as even as possible. We try to keep teammates together and we do the game where the players wear their actual home or away jerseys from their school in the game, like the old NBA All-Star games.
Dime: Who is participating in this year’s game?
PC: As I mentioned above we have Dee Bost, Gerald Robinson, and Kenny Gabriel coming. We also have James Justice who won the college slam dunk contest this year and plays at Martin Methodist. People get it twisted cause they think he is only a really good dunker, but he is actually a great player. He was NAIA Player of the Year last year and Co-Player of the Year this year so he’s a really good player. We have Mick Hedgepath and Scott Saunders from Belmont. Those two guys had a great career at Belmont and to have the game at Belmont, having them play in it is a big deal. I’m going to tell you about another guy you’ve never heard of and his name is Anthony Sampson who played at Freed-Hardema, an NAIA school, and he led the country in assists. He will be a fun player to watch. We have a guy named Ricky Taylor from Tennessee-Chattanooga, the sixth-leading scorer in school history is also playing.
Dime: Have any scouts come to these games in the past?
Penny Collins: We have had some scouts come to the games, but more so a lot of agents come. That’s what I try to tell these guys, I tell them it’s a showcase and they should have fun but they should also take the game seriously. I had a player who played for me at Cumberland a few years ago and he had 25 points in the All-Star game and he used the game film to get a job in Germany.
For me though it’s a time for these guys to put on their jersey one last time. It is a chance to play in front of the fans who have been supporting you and play with guys who you have been battling against the last few years.
Dime: What do expect this year’s turnout to be?
PC: I think this will be the best turnout we’ve ever had. I can’t put a number on it, but I think this will be the best turnout because of the amount of talent we have and the publicity we’ve generated so I think it will be one of our biggest years.
Dime: Talk about your involvement with Soles 4 Souls.
PC: We wanted to find a charity that had some type of connection to being an athlete. So when we looked at coordinating with a charity, that’s why we chose this one. We encourage people to bring an old pair of tennis shoes or sneakers to the game and the shoes will be donated across the country and the organization delivers shoes all over the world to people who don’t have shoes. A dollar from each ticket sold will go to Soles 4 Souls, and this is our first year partnering with them but we hope it will be a long partnership. This year at Cumberland University, we gave away 25 pairs of shoes, because our players went through a lot of shoes throughout the year and the ones they no longer used we donated. I know a lot of athletes have shoes they don’t wear anymore and we encourage our players to bring shoes they aren’t using anymore as well.
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