Memphis basketball fans should be happy to know that they will have an opportunity to see William Shaquille Goodwin performing in person a lot sooner than they might think.
Tiger fans don't have to wait until next fall to see Goodwin in action because he'll be making his third appearance in the Memphis vs Atlanta Roundball Classic at the Memphis University School gym. Event director (and native Memphian) Revelle Williams began the MARC in December of 2008, but the roots of the event reach back much, much further.
"It was initially started around the Christmas holidays," Williams began, "26th and 27th, a couple days after Christmas. And that started in Atlanta. I've been in Atlanta 23 years (and) I started coaching high school basketball in Atlanta in 1999. I've always compared the talent between Atlanta and Memphis and I thought it was very comparable.
"I had a vision of wanting to bring the two (cities) together. So financially, there came a time when I was prepared to try to put it together."
For his maiden voyage in 2008, Williams invited Memphis teams with coaches that he was familiar with.
"The first teams were teams that I was paying my respect to guys that I played against and guys that I knew back from when I played and when I grew up watching my brother play," he explained. "Raleigh-Egypt, Coach (Jimmy) Adams. I played against him when he was at (Memphis) Central.
"Sylvester Ford and Fairley, they came. Ridgeway, coach Henning. Harold Johnson and Trezevant, they came. And Wooddale, Jerry Johnson, who was ill, but Wooddale came as well."
The Memphis teams were thoroughly dominant at the first event.
"The first Classic, we had 15 games," Williams recounts, "and Memphis won 11 games to four. They kinda walked away (having) beat up on the Atlanta teams a little bit that year."
Stung by the margin, Atlanta teams made it a point to close the gap. Williams added girls' teams to the event in 2009, and Memphis prevailed again, this time 11-7. Atlanta won last year's all boys' clash for the first time, compiling a final mark of 7-5.
The competition between the two cities is friendly, however. Teams from each city fully intend to earn a measure of bragging rights, but it doesn't cross over into ugliness.
"The respect is so high on both sides," Williams notes. "Memphis teams respect Atlanta teams, and vice versa. So you would think it would be more of a competitive atmosphere, but its really not.
"The two teams (in any game) respect each other highly and they enjoy the event because they know both cities are two of the top recruiting cities in the nation. So they respect each other, from a coach's perspective and from a player's perspective. . . There's no bad blood or anything like that."
The event continues to grow, and Williams has ambitions of adding a third city to the mix in the near future, perhaps as early as next year.
"There's actually some preparations to constantly add a couple of major cities to the mix," Williams hints. "That's not confirmed but I've got some things in the works. . . I put some feelers out there but it's a little premature to mention the names (of any cities to be involved)."
Goodwin (Southwest Dekalb) and Marcus Hunt (North Clayton) will participate in this year's Roundball Classic. Memphis fans should recognize both names: Goodwin committed to the Tigers, and Hunt was a Memphis target before he pulled the trigger to Georgia Tech. In fact, the Memphis vs Atlanta series has introduced several prep stars to the Bluff City hoops scene, including Jelan Kendrick.
Another name that college basketball fans are aware of is Goodwin's SW Dekalb teammate, Jordan Price, who has verballed to Auburn "and could be one of the best players in this event, if not the best," according to Williams.
The natural tie-in to Memphis basketball for Williams, a Hamilton High graduate, shouldn't be overlooked. He's pleased to have an opportunity to showcase Shaq Goodwin to Memphis fans.
"I mean, with me growing up, being a kid in the Dana Kirk camp with Larry Finch and all of those guys on staff," Revelle began, "you know, it's almost like a dream come true for me to be a Big Blue Tiger fan as a kid and then to be able to bring a Tiger recruit and commit back home where it all started for me."
And Williams might have actually played a role in Goodwin's ultimate commitment, by giving the young Shaq an opportunity to mix it up with Memphis teams. Williams commented on reasons why he thought Goodwin verballed to Memphis.
"I think playing in the Memphis vs Atlanta Classic got him accustomed, and gave him visibility to see the competitiveness that the Memphis players play with. I think that was an initial component in getting Shaq exposed to Memphis basketball, number one.
"And number two, with him always going to top-rated events, he always saw Memphis kids at those same events. So I think that was another component. And thirdly, the AAU engagement with the Memphis YOMCA, being able to play directly with the Memphis kids, I think was a clincher."
Action begins on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The full schedule follows below. Tickets go on sale on November 21, 2010. Each school involved will receive an allotment of tickets to sell to booster clubs and remaining tickets will be available to the general public. Memphis-area stars to watch for are Alex Anderson and Nick King at Memphis East along with Craig Hill and Cameron Golden of Ridgeway.
Memphis vs Atlanta Roundball Classic
Memphis University School
December 9-10, 2011
Session I, Friday, Dec. 9
4:00 Charles Drew, GA vs. Cordova, TN
5:30 North Clayton, GA vs. Memphis East, TN
7:00 Westlake, GA vs. Memphis Central, TN
8:30 Paideia, GA vs. Memphis Univ. School, TN
Session II, Saturday, Dec. 10
2:30 Paideia, GA vs. St. Benedict's, TN
4:00 North Clayton, GA vs. Bolivar Central, TN
5:30 Charles Drew, GA vs. Memphis Univ. School, TN
7:00 Westlake, GA vs. Briarcrest, TN
8:30 Southwest Dekalb, GA vs. Ridgeway, TN