Six-game event about more than basketball
By George Bremer | The Herald Bulletin
|AHS Assistant Coach Jeff Howard overseas practice at the Wigwam|
The Anderson High School boys basketball coach was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, the liver disease that claimed Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton’s life.
In August 1996, Hecklinski received a liver transplant from a 19-year-old man who had died in a motorcycle accident. The transplant saved Hecklinski’s life.
And he’s never missed an opportunity to speak on behalf of organ donation since. At his insistence, the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization has been a part of the Wigwam Classic since its inception.
“They saved my life, and they’ve saved many people’s lives,” he said. “I always have a little message to give (during the pregame speeches). We certainly don’t have enough organs going around to save everybody’s life.”
IOPO will be on hand throughout the event with information about how fans can help. It’s one of many ways in which the two-year old Classic branches out beyond basketball.
Not that there won’t be plenty to capture hoops fans’ imagination.
This year’s event features six games, and it tips off at 11 a.m. with a marquee girls basketball matchup. Class 4A No. 3 McCutcheon battles Class 3A No. 4 Benton Central.
At 12:45, the girls basketball portion of the Classic concludes with Class 2A No. 3 Heritage Christian taking on Fishers. Freddy Fever, the Indiana Fever’s mascot, will be on hand for both games.
The four boys basketball games begin at 2:30 p.m. with Class 3A No. 2 Lebanon facing Beech Grove.
At 4:15, Class 3A No. 5 Hamilton Heights takes on Sheridan. Hamilton Heights features perhaps the tournament’s best-known talent, Indiana University-bound Austin Etherington.
The 6-foot-6 forward is heralded for his shooting touch and is averaging 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
At 6 p.m., the tournament gets a touch of regional flavor with Mount Vernon squaring off against Knightstown.
The hosts cap off the night at 8 with a matchup against South Bend Adams, coached by former Indian Pat King.
Discounted advance tickets still are available for $6 at Anderson High School during normal school hours.
“It’s good basketball,” Hecklinski said. “It’s a very exciting day for me. Much like the old Madison County Tournament, I get to watch basketball all day long, and I love doing that.”
There are many other activities planned for the day, as well. Indianapolis Colts’ mascot Blue will attend the day’s final two games to entertain fans and sign autographs.
Also, six fans will have a chance to win $1,000 via a shootout during each game. Six more can win $50 gas cards through a dance competition.
In addition, Key Bank will donate $25 to Anderson Community Schools’ Junior Achievement programs for every 3-point shot made during the Classic.
“We want to add a little spice to the Wigwam Classic,” event director Ray Compton said. “The event is a special day for Anderson and high school basketball. We want our fans from these 12 schools and communities to enjoy a great experience that combines basketball and entertainment. We provide great basketball and lots of fun.”