For 36 years top players from the legendary Atlantic Coast Conference’s men’s basketball teams have gotten together in April and traveled around playing local club and high school teams.
It’s called the ACC Barnstorming Tour, and it’s featured such players as Michael Jordan, Len Bias, and Tyler Hansbrough.
The tour usually sticks to the southeastern part of the country, but this year they’ll be making a rare appearance in New England- Portland, Maine to be exact.
Players from national champion Duke University, along with star players from the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest will be at Deering High School tonight, April 17, to face off against high school stars from a local club team from the Yes to Youth basketball league.
Walter Phillips, a Deering High graduate from the class of 2002, is the coach of the high school team, and helped put the event together.
Here’s what he had to say during a team practice on Wednesday at another alma mater of his, Portland’s Lincoln Middle School:
Phillips cemented his name in local basketball lore during his illustrious career playing alongside other all-time Maine greats such as Nik Caner-Medley and Jamaal Caterina, but in recent years he’s been doing a lot of behind the scenes work to help grow the game regionally and give young players more opportunities.
Local standout Milani Hicks, of Scarborough High School:
In addition to inviting me to his team’s practice, Phillips also took the time to reflect on the history of Yes to Youth, and some of the memories that he has from when he was a player for the local league:
“My name is Walter Phillips and I have played and coached basketball since I was young.
I’m sure that many of you remember that jaw dropping state championship game in 2002 between Deering and Bangor.
I have been a coach with the Yes to Youth basketball league for a long time. Both Dudley Davis, long-time Director and I are excited to bring an amazing opportunity to Portland. The only problem for me is I won’t be playing in it.
The Yes to Youth program has brought some of the best talent from the ACC to teach players about the game and have some fun with them on the court.
Quinn Cook, (from Duke) played in the NCAA National Championship game. He is just one of the players from an elite college basketball program that is going to be here and participate in this barnstorming event.
The Yes to Youth basketball program has been a staple in the Portland area for many years. It started approximately 20 years ago around my family’s kitchen table with a conversation between my father Walter Phillips (aka Big Walt) and Dudley Davis.
At that time, Yes to Youth began as a summer educational and basketball league for all aged kids. Since its inception, Dudley Davis has taken the program beyond that to be one of biggest and best basketball programs in the state.
There are over 250 kids playing in our league and we have over 30 teams that travel all over New England competing in tournaments.
I remember playing in the Yes to Youth summer league against players of my generation like Chris Markwood, Nick Caner-Medley, Jamal Caterina, Josh Longstaff, Ralph Mims, Brian Wohl, Jason Levecque, and a host of others.
It was especially fun for me to participate in the Yes to Youth all-star games showing off in front a big crowd in the hot gym at the University of New England. After the championship and all-star games, held at the end of the summer we had a family style cook-out in the UNE parking lot.
I hope that you will consider registering your kids for this event. I promise it will prove to be great experience.”
In addition to the basketball game, there will also be a 3-point contest and a dunk contest.
Players will be available following the game for a limited autograph session with general admission ticketholders. VIP ticketholders will enjoy reserved front row seating to the game, a post game reception with the players.
A portion of the proceeds from each game will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House. Additional proceeds will also benefit Deering High School.
Doors open at 6:00 pm and the game starts at 7:30 pm.