At a Wednesday morning press conference, David Crockett athletic director Josh Kite stated it is the longest running local basketball tournament in the Volunteer State.
This year’s press conference featured current Pioneers coach John Good, Volunteer coach Mike Poe, who started the tournament as a fundraiser when he was head coach at Crockett, and Unicoi County coach Michael Smith, who participated in the first two Hardee’s Classic tournaments as a player.
Poe, whose team opens first-round play against Sullivan South, said the tournament’s success belongs to the David Crockett community.
“This community got involved in it early. John and the other coaches who came after me took it to another level,” Poe said. “We just had an idea, a great way to start the season, but the way the community gets involved in it is far more than what I envisioned.”
Returning to the campus gave Poe, who has spent the last 14 years at Tennessee Wesleyan College, a chance to reflect on his time at Crockett, where he led the Pioneers to the old IMAC championship.
“The people in Jonesborough and the Crockett community were really good to me the eight years I was here,” Poe said. “We had some good teams, got ranked in the state for the first time, and now you look what Coach Good has done since he’s been here. It has always been a great community with great support, and you see that with their football and the other sports now. They’ve taken it to an entirely different level. It’s enjoyable to see this school succeed.”
Good’s Pioneers have a first-round matchup against Claiborne. As tournament host, Crockett has five Hardee’s titles, including back-to-back championships in 2014-15.
“I think the matchups will be good, and the teams will be ready,” Good said. “This tournament is great to get you ready for conference play. The conference games start the week after Hardee’s. Each and every game you play is so important.”
The tournament starts with University High versus five-time Hardee’s champion Unicoi County at 4 p.m. Volunteer and South play next, followed by David Crockett and Claiborne.
Daniel Boone, which is still looking for its first Hardee’s title, will face South-Doyle in the nightcap.
“I think this tournament is a great way to tip it off,” Boone coach Chris Brown said. “There is always quality competition and it’s fun for our guys. It’s Thanksgiving weekend and gives fans a chance to transition from football to basketball. It’s a great test for our program. We keep talking about how we haven’t won this tournament, so we have it set up as a goal.”
One goal sure to be reached is the tournament serves as a major fundraiser for the Crockett athletic department. In recent years, the tournament has featured some classic games, including 2016 when Crockett’s Josh Releford hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to lift the Pioneers over Boone in the third-place game. That game, as many others, featured a large, enthusiastic crowd.
“The support of the community is obvious every year,” Good said. “The competition, people want to see good basketball, and we offer that at the Hardee’s Classic.”