WHEELING -- Dr. Gregory Merrick is one of the nation's foremost physicians in the ongoing fight against prostate cancer. His work at Wheeling Hospital's Schiffler Cancer Center is peerless.
Dr. Merrick is also a basketball junkie. His hoop knowledge rivals his medical expertise.
He held a press conference Tuesday at the hospital to update area media on the upcoming Cancer Research Basketball Clinic as well as the Cancer Research Classic, both of which are growing in stature.
The coaching clinic unfolds a week from today and once again features a power-packed lineup.
The initial speaker will by Danny Sancomb of host Wheeling Jesuit University. He will talk on half-court offense beginning at 8:20 a.m. Bob Hurley speaks at 9:15 on practice organization. Hurley is one of the nation's most respected prep coaches. He has guided St. Anthony's in New Jersey to several mythical national championships.
Jerome Allen is next up at 10:35 a.m. The University of Penn head coach will address transition offense and half-court offense.
After a box-lunch, the afternoon session features Colgate University's Matt Langel (12:25) on competitive practice drills; Andy Toole of Robert Morris University (1:45) on offensive skills and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins (3:05) on player development. Sancomb will deliver closing remarks at 4:25.
"Our goal is to attract 200 coaches to the clinic this year. The big key is to have as many OVAC coaches attend as possible. We draw from a wide area, including coaches from Maryland, Boston and Philadelphia. But we need our local coaches to support us," Dr. Merrick said. "This is just not for high school coaches. It is deal for junior high coaches as well as parents interested in developing their children as players."
Pre-registration costs $75. After Sept. 20, the fee is $85. Student and group rates are also offered. For more clinic information, call Dr. Merrick at 304-281-1427 or visit the new CRC website at www.cancerresearchclassic.org.
THE CANCER Research Classic, meanwhile, has blossomed into a national tournament of note. ESPN has fueled the status explosion by opting to broadcast some of the CRC games. ESPN has not announced its broadcast slate yet for this year's extravaganza.
This year's CRC is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 4 and Saturday, Jan. 5. The opening night will have four games contested followed by six on Saturday. The OVAC is being represented in the event by Wheeling Central (host school), Wheeling Park and Linsly.
"THE CRC has evolved every year. It has become a national event," Dr. Merrick said. "This year we are proud to have both the top-rated prep team in the nation (Chicago Simeon) and the the nation's best player in Jabari Parker."
In all, the CRC will feature three of the nation's top five prep teams based on pre-season polls. Top-ranked Simeon will square off against #2 Montverde (Florida) while St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.), also a top fiver, meets Gongaza (Washington, D.C.)
The four Friday games will be: Wheeling Central vs. Pittsburgh Propel Charter, a team Dr. Merrick tabbed as "super"; Linsly vs. Pittsburgh Seton La Salle; Huntington (W. Va.) Prep, which boasts the nation's number one junior, vs. Dallas Prime Prep, a school Deion Sanders is affiliated with; and Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pa.) vs. St. Raymond from the Bronx.
Specific game times have not been affixed yet for either day.
Saturday's six-pack of games include: Gonzaga vs. St. Benedict's Prep; Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) vs. Salesian (Richmond, Cal.); DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) vs. Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, N.J.); Montverde vs, Simeon; Prime Prep vs Whitney Young (Chicago) and St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) vs. Wheeling Park.
The CRC festivities actually get under way Thursday, Jan. 3 with a dinner at Oglebay's Glessner Auditorium. Last year, former Ohio State and NBA great Clark Kellogg was the featured speaker. Dr. Merrick said he will be announcing this year's headliner in the coming days.
As always is the case, Dr. Merrick uses his high profile basketball forums as an opportunity to champion the cause of men's health. He will speak at the clinic and dinner in that regard.
"Men die on the average of seven years sooner than women. That is because women are smart enough to visit their doctors," Dr. Merrick said. "Men do not place enough emphasis on their health."