By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
For the second year in a row, Southern Indiana will host some of the best high school basketball players in the country.
The Night of the Future Stars, which is the prelude to Friday’s 40th annual Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic at Freedom Hall in Louisville, will take place on Thursday at Floyd Central High School’s Highlander Gymnasium. The Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County in New Albany is sponsoring the event.
The Night of the Future Stars will include three competitions that Derby Festival Classic players will participate in. They are a slam dunk contest, a 2-on-2 skills competition and a 3-point shooting contest. The players will have an autograph session to cap off the night.
Derby Festival Classic recruiting coordinator Mike Gandolfo said past players of the Classic enjoy the Night of the Future Stars for a few reasons.
“They love it because it gives them a great opportunity to entertain and interact with the fans in events that really showcase their talent and personality,” Gandolfo said.
Gandolfo said Floyd Central is the ideal place to have Night of the Future Stars.
“It meets all of our needs,” Gandolfo said. “There is great seating for the fans, plenty of parking and a place where we can host the autograph session at the end of the night. I think it will be an amazing place to host the Night of the Future Stars.”
Eleven recruits from the Kentuckiana region’s “Big 3” universities will compete in the Night of the Future Stars and the Derby Festival Classic.
Five of those 11 players are going to play at Indiana: Warren Central forward Devin Davis, Cathedral forward Collin Hartman, Luke Fischer (Germantown, Wisc.), Stanford Robinson (Fairfax, Va.) and Troy Williams (Hampton, Va.).
Four players who are heading to national champion Louisville will compete in Akoy Agau (Omaha), Anton Gill (Raleigh, N.C.), Dillon Avare (Lexington) and David Levitch (Goshen, Ky.). The two Kentucky recruits taking part in the festivities are Derek Willis (Mt. Washington, Ky.) and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dominique Hawkins (Richmond).
The Night of the Future Stars and Derby Festival Classic also will include this year’s Indiana Mr. Basketball in Hamilton Southeastern forward Zak Irvin, who will play at national runner-up Michigan next season.
“With five IU recruits and the Indiana Mr. Basketball participating, I am hoping that Hoosier basketball fans come out strong,” Gandolfo said. “I would love to see the place full because the skills competition is going to be one of the best ever.”
Gandolfo says every year the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic tries to bring in not only IU, U of L and UK recruits, but some of the best high school talent in the nation.
“It is critical to have a good balance of players of local interest and strong national talent,” Gandolfo said. “It is one of the things that makes our event unique — a national All-Star game with a local twist. Our fans appreciate great basketball talent, but they show up to cheer for those players that will be wearing blue, red or crimson.”
Admission to the Night of the Future Stars is free if fans have a ticket to the Derby Festival Classic.
Tickets for the Classic are $11 for students and $16 for adults and can be purchased at all area TicketMaster locations, by calling 800-745-3000 or 502-367-5144 or by visiting the Freedom Hall box office.
Classic tickets also will be sold at Floyd Central on Thursday night. Gandolfo says Classic tickets have sold well at the Night of the Future Stars in the past.
“We usually have a good walk-up crowd,” Gandolfo said. “I think our event provides excellent value. For either $16 or $11, you get both events for one low price.”