Hotbed Classic Hotbed Classic

In August of 1990, the New Albany Kiwanis Club held one of its regular weekly civic meetings and the guest speaker for that gathering was Gerald Snider.  Snider is a graduate of the New Albany School System and had just begun marketing his new business, Gerald Snider Recruiting Service.

His message to the club was simple;  he wanted to work at his lifelong love, sports, as a full-time job.  His comments of wanting to put New Albany on the map as a “big-time sports town” spurred thoughts that day.

Following that meeting, Bill Parks, a club member, talked to Gerald and fellow club members Adam Martin and Ken Kinney about starting an invitational high school basketball tournament.  Plans were made to begin a series of meetings to decide when to play a “Blue Chip” type tournament.  Since there was an open recruiting window of time in December that coaches were allowed to view the play of and visit with potential recruits, it was decided that December 1991 would be the best time to begin this annual fundraising event.

The club up until this time had worked very hard with its available members to raise money through a pancake breakfast, its Flag Program, and the dreaded Union County Fair dunking booth.  All of these required many man hours of work to be invested with very meager funds raised to show for the efforts.

Club support for this new venture was outstanding, and the first four years the format was four boys team playing two games on Friday night, with the winners playing a championship game on Saturday night and the losers playing prior to that game in a consolation game.

The inaugural year saw Lawrence County participate and win in the finals over New Albany.  Lawrence County that year, 1991, had senior guard and Mississippi State signee, Vandale Thomas and junior post man Erick Dampier, who would play again in 1992.  Dampier went on to play at MS State as well, and as a junior at MSU, lead his team to the NCAA Final Four in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Dampier has had a stellar career in the NBA, playing even today for the Dallas Mavericks.

1992 saw not only the return of Dampier and the Lawrence County squad, but also the area fans got to see Brian Williams play for the first time. Williams was a starting guard for Montgomery’s Jeff Davis High School.  As a sophomore that year, he showed signs of brillance and after graduating, signed to play at the University of Alabama.  Williams’ Jeff Davis squad beat New Albany by 3 that year to take the Hotbed Championship Crown.  Memphis University School of Memphis, TN. was a competitor that year and their squad included Ole Miss Signee John Cantrell.

New Albany had a standout of its own in postman Patrick Patterson.  New Albany was runner-up in both 1991 and 1992, no disgrace for the quality of competition on hand.

In 1993, Mendenhall came to New Albany for that year’s edition of the Hotbed, and with them their all-state guard, Brad Smith.  Smith signed with and played collegiately at MS State.

Hotbed 1994 was the last year of the two day tourney structure, and saw the Corinth team and its guard Tony Edmonds come into town and leave as tournament champs.  Edmonds played at Northeast MS Junior College and then started for the TCU Horned Frogs the next two seasons.

Hotbed 1996 saw one day play begin as the tournament became a classic invitational event and that year Alcorn Central’s Nick Coln participated. Coln is himself now a high school coach, having played at both Northeast and the University of Louisana at Monroe .

Many other standouts have played through the years, among them Leon Crawford of Ashland,  who scored 45 points in their 1998 game.  Anthony Richards tallied 40 points in Mendenhall’s 1994 game.  Cedric Brim, who played at both Mooreville and later at Ole Miss, is also coaching in the area as a high school coach at present.

Maybe the first huge upset in the Hotbed was in the 1999.  A sellout crowd for that year’s classic was on hand to see the number one team in the state of Mississippi, Provine, face the number two team, Tupelo. Provine’s “Posse” as they were known, had Ole Miss Signees Justin Reed and Aaron Harper, as well as, David Sanders, go down in defeat to Tupelo, 73-68.  Dennis Buse, point guard for Tupelo, had a career game, shooting his team to victory from the free throw stripe, where he was 17 of 18 on charity shots.  He scored 32 total points for the contest and later played at both Sam Houston State and Mississippi State.  This was the largest crowd to attend any Hotbed up until that point.

Recent years have seen standout coaches and squads make their way to New Albany.  Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State played with Haywood High School of Brownsville, TN.   Drafted in the 2nd round by the Miami Heat of the 2010 NBA draft, Jarvis was named SEC Defender of the Year twice, as well as, National Defender of the Year as a senior and is the NCAA all-time shot block career leader.

Ravern Johnson and Romero Osby of MS State have both played in the Classic, along with GA Tech team member Mo Miller and North Carolina Tarheel Leslie McDonald.  Yellowjackets’ coach, Paul Hewitt, visited at the Hotbed to watch his signee Miller play in 2007.  Also on that Memphis Raleigh Egypt squad was Junior big man Arnett Moultrie, who played in both the 2007 and 2008 Hotbeds.  Moultrie signed with UTEP out of high school and played there for 2 years before transferring to Mississippi State.   Coach Roy Williams attended in 2009 to watch McDonald and his Memphis Briarcrest squad play to victory.

The largest one game crowd ever to see a Hotbed was in 2003 when, NBA draftees directly out of high school, Travis Outlaw of Starkville and Jackie Butler of McComb played their only head to head match-up of their pre-pro careers.  It was a special event and it had some magical moments.

Other players of note coming to play in the Hotbed include Lamar Sanders, Derrick Bails, Cedric Lipsey, and Trent Adair.  Many players of the past have now coached teams in the event.

Many outstanding “teams”, not with necessarily big name recruits, have played in the event and multiple state champions have competed in the New Albany annual affair.

Certainly the initial goal and dream of putting New Albany, Mississippi on the national sports map have been largely achieved.  The Hotbed Classic, still alive and going strong  after 20 years!
The Hotbed, often imitated, never duplicated.
Hotbed Classic
2020 Hotbed Classic Will be 1/25/2020