Next month's Charm City/Big Apple Challenge at the Baltimore Arena is being billed as The Old Guard vs. The Young Turks.
The boys portion of the event will pit three teams from the New York Catholic League against Baltimore city's elite -- Dunbar, Southern and Lake Clifton.
"For most of the 20th century, the Big Apple has been regarded as the center of the basketball universe," said Bill Spotts, whose foundation is presenting the event, at yesterday's news conference at City Hall. "The game was invented in Springfield, Mass., but surely it was perfected in New York. In contrast, only within the last decade has Baltimore basketball, for too long hidden in the shadows of Washington and Philadelphia, received its just due."
Much of the credit for Baltimore's emergence has to go to Dunbar, the defending mythical national champion. The Poets, ranked fourth nationally by Street & Smith's, will meet 15th-ranked St. Raymond's in the event's marquee matchup. Dunbar defeated St. Raymond's twice last season, each time by eight points.
Neither Southern coach Meredith Smith nor Lake Clifton coach Charlie Moore is as familiar with his opponent, Rice and TC Archbishop Molloy, respectfully.
"It's definitely a shot in the dark," Smith said. "Rice has one of the top players in the nation, Felipe Lopez. But they'll have to prove to us they can play."
Spotts heads the Bill Spotts Foundation, a nonprofit group. Proceeds from the Charm City/Big Apple Challenge will benefit the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, which helps needy area families pay their heating bills. The Fuel Fund had lost one of its main sources of revenue with the cancellation of this season's Metro Classic.
"We have some tremendous talent, and the fans will definitely be entertained," Moore said. "But the bottom line is that we're helping people."
The opening contest will be a girls game between city rivals Western and Walbrook. The game originally was scheduled to be part of Western's mixer.
"A Western-Walbrook game is always a sellout, and that means we would lose a lot of money," said Western coach Breezy Bishop, whose team is ranked eighth by Street & Smith's. "I decided that I wanted to reach back and help somebody, so I put my personal goals for my mixer aside."
Spotts, whose organization also produces the Charm City Classic, said he has plans next year for a Charm City girls tournament, which would bring some of the nation's top teams here to play Baltimore's best.
He said he also would like to expand on the Charm City/Big Apple Challenge concept.
"There's potential to play teams from Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia," Spotts said. "We're trying to showcase what we have. The level of competition in Baltimore can stand up to anybody."