Steve Smith Holiday Hoops Classic will be played at Orrville High

Steve Smith Holiday Hoops Classic will be played at Orrville High

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The Steve Smith Holiday Hoops Classic is moving to the home of its namesake.

After being organized by WQKT radio and held at The College of Wooster since 2004, the Holiday Hoops classic will now be played at Orrville High School. Smith’s name was added to the event in 2005.

Six games will be held on Orrville’s Steve Smith Court in Bob Knight Gym on Saturday, Dec. 17 with the following schedule: Orrville vs. Rittman at 10 a.m., Northwestern vs. Norton at noon, Waynedale vs. Buckeye at 2 p.m., Triway vs. Wadsworth at 4 p.m., Norwayne vs. Hiland at 6 p.m. and Wooster vs. Revere at 8 p.m.

Orrville has had a planning committee consisting of Superintendent Jon Ritchie; athletic director Audrey Zuercher; former AD Kent Smith; middle school assistant principal, former boys basketball coach and 1992 state championship team member Sly Slaughter; and the late Steve Smith’s widow, Donna, and son, Rocky. The committee has held regular meetings since the summer.

“This has been quite the undertaking,” Zuercher said. “The guys at WQKT did such a great job for so many years that we have big shoes to fill. Our committee has worked diligently to take what they had done in the past and expand upon it. It just feels right to bring the Steve Smith Classic home.”

The committee has worked together to take care of all the big and little details, which include lining up a list of sponsors.

“In an event like this, those little details are what make the difference,” Zuercher said. “White’s Ford, CT Taylor, The Apple Creek Banking Co. and the Orrville Athletic Booster Club are the premium sponsors.

“Other businesses such as Wooster Orthopedics, Old Carolina, Aultman Orrville Hospital, Gerber Lumber and Hardware, the Orrville American Legion, and Preferred Legacy Trust have stepped up to allow us to really go above and beyond for the participants.”

The sponsor money will go toward swag bags for players and the Steven H. Smith Scholarship.

“We’re very thankful for the folks at WQKT, specifically Mike Breckenridge, and The College of Wooster,” Donna Smith said. “They did a great job for all these years. We found out they could no longer do it, and they asked, ‘What about having it at Orrville?’ We were all excited to bring it here. We think this is where it belongs.”

Steve Smith, who passed away at age 59 in 2005 after a three-year battle with cancer, was the Orrville boys basketball coach from 1977-2002.

Smith compiled a 456-136 record at Orrville, highlighted by state championships in 1992, 1995 and 1996. He had a 513-168 overall record, counting four years at Old Fort.

The coaching resume is among the best in state history, and Smitty’s style and personality also were legendary. He was extremely intense and sometimes used colorful language, but at other times, he was caring, funny or sentimental.

Smith never actually got to attend a game at OHS’ new basketball court that bears his name, but Donna knows how much that honor and having the Holiday Hoops Classic at Orrville would have meant to him.

“Steve loved Orrville and loved to be at the high school,” Donna Smith said. “He might still be coaching if he hadn’t gotten cancer, or at least he’d still be going to games. Coaching is something he dearly loved. I think it was something he was just destined to do.”

The Steve Smith Scholarship is a component of the Wayne County Community Foundation. The $1,000 annual scholarship is awarded to a senior girl and boy from Orrville High School who have been accepted to an accredited university, college, technical or vocational school and can show financial need.

“Steve taught the at-risk kids and always wanted them to succeed,” Donna Smith said. “He would have loved to see this scholarship in his name, and I’m really glad this event will help with the scholarship.”

Kent Smith thanked WQKT, Breckenridge, and Wooster’s Steve Moore and Doug Cline for all they did over the years to build the Steve Smith Classic. The logistics of holding the event at The COW got harder and harder to deal with, and Orrville was happy to take over as the host.

“Players will get hoodies, hats and backpacks, and they’re going to be fed,” Kent Smith said. “I know Smitty would really like the idea of the scholarship helping kids in need. I went to Orrville, was the AD there for 28 years, an assistant coach for the 1992 team and my kids grew up there. To see this come to Orrville and keep Smitty’s memory alive is just fantastic.”

Title teams reunion

As if it already wasn’t an epic weekend for basketball in Orrville, there’s more.

The 1994-95 and 1995-96 Red Riders boys basketball state championship teams and cheerleaders will be honored on Friday, Dec. 16 at halftime during a game against Triway. Those teams were led by Wayne County Sports Hall of Famers Marcell Denson and Renauld Ray.

Many of the former players will stay in town and then assist at the Steve Smith Classic with various jobs such as taking tickets or serving as ushers.

“It was a great time, a great mix of players,” Kent Smith said when asked about Orrville basketball in the 1990s. “Smitty was the maestro. We only played about six or seven home games in our gym in some of those seasons. We had to play a lot of the others at neutral sites to accommodate the crowds, places like Akron’s (James A. Rhodes Arena), Akron University or Ashland.”

Single-game tickets for the Steve Smith Classic are $10 each and available presale at the participating schools or at the gate. All-day passes are $30 and are available at OHS until game day and at the gate.