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Hoop powers hit Panhandle

January 16, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Two years ago, when Buck Hoffmaster helped the Martinsburg boys basketball team get into the 16-team Beach Ball Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., he started to form a vision.

"I told them we could do this back home on a smaller scale," Hoffmaster said.

Thanks to the efforts of Buck and Mike Hoffmaster, that vision will become a reality today, when the inaugural West Virginia Showcase tips off at Shepherd College's Butcher Center.

"I'll be honest, I wouldn't be able to do what I've done without my brother, Mike," said Buck Hoffmaster, a 1985 Martinsburg graduate. "He's been very helpful in the organization and finding teams. ... It was more (work) than I expected, and fortunately it's something I enjoy doing. I do love high school basketball, and it's been rewarding."

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The Showcase features eight teams from five states playing eight games over two full evenings - including Saturday's rematch of the 2003 West Virginia Class AAA state championship game when the Bulldogs look for a small measure of revenge against Parkersburg South.

The two schools have plenty of well-documented history - the football squads met in the state finals last year and the state semifinals the year before. Martinsburg lost those two meetings, as well.

Contrary to what would be hard not to believe, the matchup between Martinsburg and Parkersburg South was not originally planned.

"I had two other West Virginia schools back out," Hoffmaster said. "It was a little bit drawn out and some of these teams were filling in at the last minute."

Arguably the best team on display this weeked is Montrose Christian, a preseason USA Today Top 25 squad coached by Stu Vetter. It's a homecoming of sorts for the legendary Vetter, who coached St. John's at Prospect Hall through the mid-1990s until leaving in 1998.

"They have played the season without their best player," Hoffmaster said. "They have four losses, and all of them have been to top 25 teams in the country."

While this year's Showcase isn't exactly what Hoffmaster envisioned ("We were shooting for the Oak Hills, and things fell where they are now. We will try to upgrade the level of teams we have in here," he said), he laid out what that vision for future years is.

"We're going to attempt to bring in some kids that West Virginia has either signed or is trying to recruit," Hoffmaster said.

But every event has to start somewhere, and eight games over two evenings - with one rivalry game sure to generate a festive atmosphere - isn't a bad place to start.

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