Bedford Border Battle attracts elite basketballers to our area

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Inaugural tournament seen as tool to help develop local talent

By Rod Short

By: Rod Short
Sports Editor


    If anyone wonders what some Bedford area basketball players did with their summer, the Bedford Border Battle at Liberty High helped answer that question.
    They were getting ready for basketball season this coming November.
    This first-ever Border Battle did just that while making a splash with the local sports community that was successful in several different ways.
    First and foremost, however, the good news was that Liberty’s Minutemen won their bracket over some stout competition to finish fourth overall in the 16-team tournament.
    “We had a huge win over Cave Spring last night in the quarterfinals,” Coach Randy Dunton said when asked how the Minutemen fared during the three-day tournament. “They will probably be ranked the preseason number one Class 3 team in the state.”
    In addition, it’s been estimated that there were six-or-seven NCAA Division 1 recruits playing this weekend with a boatload of Division 2 and 3 kids.
    The player drawing the most attention from the college ranks was power forward Obinna Anochili Killem from undefeated West Virginia state AA champion Chapmanville.
    “He’s as good a 6-foot-8 skill kid as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Dunton said admiringly. “He’s a potential ACC recruit that already has 16 scholarship offers.”
    Chapmanville would go on to win the Border Battle when they edged E.C. Glass 56-54 to win the Tony McKinney Memorial Trophy.
    The trophy was given in remembrance of the former Liberty assistant basketball coach who was a victim of cancer.
    The real benefit from playing against such top-echelon talent wasn’t necessarily who won or lost, but the fact that it provided some hands-on experience that everyday team practices and rec leagues just can’t provide.            “We wanted to do something to bring a benefit to our kids,” Coach Dunton said. “That was the number one thing. We wanted this tournament to be the standard that the Bedford community basketball players get to evaluate their game by.”
    “Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen skill and basketball IQ deficiencies,” Dunton continued. “We felt we needed to address this because there are so many developmental resources that other kids have access to.”
    The original goal was to have 16 Virginia and then another 16 West Virginia schools at the inaugural Border Battle. Timing and the newness of the event didn’t allow that to happen, but the goal is for 32 teams for next year.
    Easy access to the three gyms at Liberty and the adjacent middle school made the event practical. for all of the teams attending.
    “Showcasing our facilities and the community  here was also a big part of this weekend,” Dunton said. “We’ve had a lot of comments about how outstanding everything is as well as the ease and convenience of being able to easily get from gym to gym and see other schools play. The coaches loved it.”
    “There was an economic impact on the community as well. All of the area hotels have gotten revenue out of it,” he added. “I’ve heard people raving about their experience at area restaurants.”
    Dunton was also quick to credit Russell Smith, Lori Mattson and Ryan Stevens for their work in helping make this event a reality.
    “We think that the Bedford Border Battle is going to become something that everybody in the state is going to see as a real jewel come next year. We believe it’s only going to grow!”