WEST ORANGE, NJ – The fourth annual Mary Kline Classic held Saturday night at West Orange High School was a high-flying show on and off the court.
The fourth annual basketball event was conceived by New Jersey native Alex Kline, a 20-year-old wunderkind of "hoops recruiting" whose ability to connect with coaches and players has already landed him in the Forbes "Top 30 Under 30" and Sports Illustrated's "25 Under 25." Kline is part of the team at The Recruit Scoop at Rivals.com and heading into junior year at Syracuse University.
However, the Mary Kline Classic is not about basketball, although some pretty amazing ball is played. The Classic is an homage to Kline's mother, Mary, who passed away from cancer in January 2004. Dr. David Andrews, Mary Kline's doctor, spoke about development in cancer treatment and research that helped to extend Mary Kline's life. The mission statement of the Mary Kline Classic states that “The Mary Kline Classic honors cancer victims, who are fighting through the disease, or have been lost to the disease.”
Nicholas Trivelpiece spoke about his experience with cancer. Trivelpiece, 10, was diagnosed with optic glioma, a tumor that put pressure on his optic nerves, when he was 2 ½ years old. When he was five years old, he became a part of the Syracuse University family and frequently attended games and practices. He still has to undergo treatments because his tumor cannot be removed.
Lastly, LeAnn Brown spoke about missing half of seventh grade and all of eighth grade due to brain cancer, which not only affected him physically but academically. Through hard work and perseverance, Brown is graduating high school this month and will attend Syracuse University in the fall.
With something greater than basketball in mind, the players took the court for the underclassmen game. Team Bravery faced off against Team Inspiration in the game. Derrick Jones, a 6’6” junior small forward with offers from schools including Kansas and Syracuse, led all scorers with 31 points for Team Bravery. Unique McLean, a sophomore guard with offers from schools including Fordham and Saint Peter’s, had 26 points for Team Inspiration. After four ten-minute quarters, Team Bravery defeated Team Inspiration by a score of 137-105 with Jones and McLean taking MVP honors.
Moustapha Diagne, a junior forward from Pope John XXIII in Sparta, announced his commitment to Syracuse University before scoring 18 points for Team Bravery. With his announcement, Diagne joined juniors Franklin Howard and Malachi Richardson from the underclassmen roster and senior Chris McCullough, who have all committed to play for the Orange.
Other scorers included Tyus Battle, a sophomore from Gill St. Bernard’s, who scored 20 points for Team Inspiration; Trey Lowe, a guard from Ewing, who scored 8 points for Team Inspiration; and Chris Silva, a power forward from Roselle Catholic, who scored seven points for Team Bravery.
Following the game, the three-point contest took place. Shooters shot from each corner and the top of the key. Each rack had six balls, with the last one being a money ball. Shooters in the first round had one minute to shoot, while the two final contestants were given 45 seconds. The participants were Payton Pritchard from West Linn (OR), Jamal Murray from Athlete Institute Academy (Canada), Brandone Francis from Arlington Country Day (FL), Isaiah Whitehead from Abraham Lincoln (NY), Jared Nickens from Westtown (PA), and Romeo Trimble from Bishop O’Connell (VA).
Trimble and Pritchard were the two highest scorers in the first round and advanced to compete in the last round. Trimble went first and made 15 shots which beat out Pritchard’s score of 13 to win the competition. The University of Maryland Terrapins should have good three-point shooting next season with the addition of both Trimble and Nickens.
The next event was the big one, the dunk contest. The six contestants were Abdul-Malik Abu from Kimball Union Academy (NH), Wade Baldwin from St. Joseph’s Metuchen (NJ), Derrick Jones, Unique McLean, Donovan Mitchell from Brewster Academy (NH), and Desi Rodriguez from Abraham Lincoln (NY). The judging panel was filled with celebrities including David Wilson from the New York Giants, who was one of four G-Men to attend the event. The first round gave contestants an opportunity to do two dunks. Highlights included Abdul-Malik Abu’s 360 dunk, Derrick Jones dunking over two people, and a between the legs dunk by Unique McLean.
The final round was between Derrick Jones and Unique McLean. Jones ran the length of the court a la Michael Jordan, jumped near the free throw line, and dunked with the left hand. McLean did a 360 reverse dunk with two hands to win the competition. Everyone who competed got the crowd off of their seats and excited by the dunks.
The senior game followed the dunk contest, with Team Perseverance facing off against Team Courage. Team Courage featured four Seton Hall University commits, Isaiah Whitehead and Desi Rodriguez both from Abraham Lincoln (NY), Angel Delgado from The Patrick School (NJ), and Khadeen Carrington from Bishop Loughlin (NY). Team Courage, after trailing in the first half, went on to beat Team Perseverance by a score of 104-80. Each one of the Pirates had good games as Whitehead had 15 points, Carrington had 12, Rodriguez had 10, and Delgado had 8, which pleased the “Seton Hall section” of the bleachers.
However, Team Courage was led in scoring by Villanova commit Phil Booth who scored 21 points and took MVP honors. Team Perseverance’s Ja’Quan Newton, who is committed to Miami (FL), also scored 21 points and took MVP honors.
Alex Kline took the opportunity at halftime to remind the crowd that while the players provided plenty to cheer for, there was a greater cause. Since its creation, the Mary Kline Classic has raised money for cancer research. Last year’s event was held at Philadelphia University and raised $27,000 dollars. This year, the Mary Kline Classic raised $31,000 dollars with all proceeds benefiting the National Brain Tumor Society and Brain Tumor Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Over the past four years, the Mary Kline Classic has now raised $86,000 dollars for cancer research.
Alex Kline was happy that the event was successful and could reach so many people. In an interview with the Alternative Press, Kline said, "When I decided to move the event back to New Jersey, the West Orange venue came to mind. West Orange was always a place where I felt comfortable and welcomed by the community. The venue is beautiful and if filled, the atmosphere is ideal because of how intimate it is."
Kline continued, “Through the help of Ron Bligh, Greg Tynes, Trish Dellosso, Fil Santiago and all of the hard working people at West Orange High School, we were not only able to secure the venue, but run a high-level, highly-complex event that was a total success in both entertaining our crowd, informing them of our goal and raising our goal in donations for cancer research," said Kline.
"Having four Seton Hall commits, numerous North Jersey players, former St. Patrick (NJ) coach Kevin Boyle as local flavors, as well as many national and international representatives from Mali, Senegal, Canada, Oregon, California, Florida and many more places around the world at the event made it versatile, dynamic and unique for everyone from all walks of life to learn more about cancer research, put their words into action by helping in one way or another and making amazing memories.”
West Orange High School Athletic Director Ronald Bligh said the event was held at West Orange after Alex Kline reached out to the school and it was approved by the superintendent.
“We have such a premier facility that we always like to show it off to people and we always like to help out,” said Bligh.
"I am extremely pleased with everything that took place this year with the Mary Kline Classic and can truly say that North Jersey as a whole - West Orange and West Orange High School specifically - as well as the community, made the fourth classic a hit," said Kline.
Those who want to watch a replay of all of Saturday’s events can go to maryklineclassic.com and click the link on the home page.