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Tomahawk Talk: Marquee players attract marquee crowds

By Tim Chambers

If you’ve not noticed lately, high school basketball is dying a slow death right before our very eyes, and what must we do to prevent it from happening?
The answer is a simple one. You have to look at the fan base. I have noticed while attending games that you only see a sector of four to five parents at the game. The student sections are not overflowing like they once did, and marquee players bring in a lot of fans like Gate City’s Mac McClung did at the Johnson County Tip-off Classic last year. Sorry, but fans weren’t packing Ray Shoun Gymnasium to watch Gate City play. Nor were they filling up Viking Hall at the Arby’s Classic three hours before game time to watch the small school from Southwest Virginia take the court. They were there to see “Big Mac” and the special sauce he added to his high flying dunks and still is. He has dazzled many fans on TV with his outstanding play for Georgetown University this year the same way he did a packed house in Mountain City late season.
Marquee players will pack high school gymnasiums, and so will marquee games, which is becoming harder and harder to find.
So what must we do to improve crowds at high school games? Here is some food for thought.
A lot of parents are attending, sometimes three and four games per day that have younger siblings playing. Last week I had attended seven games in one day before covering my first high school game. We are overdosing on basketball. You will always have your small groups of parents and grandparents at the game, but the game needs gimmicks and other things to attract a much broader fan base.
The best current fan base for high school basketball is Johnson County.
Ray Shoun Gymnasium is usually packed, and the crowd noise is electrifying. Players like “Big Mac” don’t come along too often, so you don’t find many games of this magnitude among local schools.

Current Enrollment
for TSSAA School
& Classifications
Here are the numbers of some current schools on Johnson County’s schedule for this year. I have been asked to give our readers the current TSSAA enrollment numbers for area schools. I hope this helps.

Sullivan Central 1017
David Crockett 1247
Science hill 2207
(Tip-off Tournament)

Conference Schools
football reclassification
Sullivan South [4A] 978
Sullivan East [4A] 879
Elizabethton [4A] 830
Unicoi County [4A] 776
Johnson County [3A] 652
Happy Valley [3A] 570
Sullivan North [3A] 566
West Greene [3A] 667
Chuckey-Doak [3A] 644
Hampton [2A] 429
Cosby [2A] 422
Unaka [1A] 340
Cloudland [1A] 199