Flyin’ to the Hoop canceled because of COVID-19

Showcase event for high school basketball has been held every year since 2002

The 19th annual Flyin’ to the Hoop Basketball Invitational is the latest event to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement was made Thursday, seven weeks after the 2021 schedule was announced.

“I tried as hard as I could,” said Eric Horstman, the founder and president of the event. “In good conscience, with everything going on, it’s probably the right thing to do.”

There were 19 games involving 37 teams scheduled between Jan. 15-18 at Fairmont High School’s Trent Arena. Area boys teams on the schedule were: Beavercreek; Centerville; Springfield; Alter; Trotwood-Madison; Chaminade Julienne; Wayne; Fenwick; Dunbar; and Fairmont. The Springboro and Beavercreek girls were also scheduled to play each other.

In a press release, Flyin’ to the Hoop organizers said the games were cancelled after conversations with directors of public health in Dayton and Montgomery County.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” the press release stated, “and we know this will come as an enormous disappointment to our teams, fans and sponsors, but we feel it’s the appropriate thing to do to keep public health first and foremost in our minds.”

The reasons given were:

• The stay-at-home order has been extended into January and may last longer than that.

• There are travel restrictions around the country, and having teams travel to Dayton from many different states “is not conducive to public health.”

• Experts predict another spike in COVID-19 cases after the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.

Horstman said only one team withdrew from the event because of the problems of traveling during the pandemic, but there were 8-10 teams lined up to take that spot. In normal years, he has backup teams in case weather problems stop teams from traveling. This year, he had more teams waiting than ever.

The Flyin’ to the Hoop was the last of three major national basketball showcase events being played the weekend of Martin Luther King Day to cancel its games, Horstman said. The Bass Pro Tournament of Champions was cancelled Nov. 11. The Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass., was cancelled Nov. 19.

“I was trying to make it work,” Horstman said, “but in talking to our title sponsor, Premier Health, and having many discussions with the Department of Health here, it just wasn’t panning out. We were already going to be restricted on fans. We thought about (televising) it virtually with a web stream, but with the kind of expenses we have with team hotels and food, it just didn’t make good business sense to do that. It would have been hard to charge our sponsors normal prices when they would have been in front of 15 percent of the normal crowd size.”

The Flyin’ to the Hoop started in January 2002 and was first held at Butler High School. The first field included Ohio teams from Butler, Bellaire, Shaker Heights and Zanesville and a number of nationally-rated teams: Oak Hill Academy (Va.); Lexington (Ky.) Catholic; Mt. Zion Christian Academy (N.C.); Coastal Christian Academy (Va.); and Champlain Saint Laurent, of Quebec.

“It’s not going to be your average high school tournament,” Horstman in 2002. “We’re looking for this to be a showcase event here in the Miami Valley.”

Four future NBA No. 1 draft picks have played in the event over the years: Deandre Ayton; Andrew Wiggins; Anthony Bennett; and Anthony Davis. Seventy six players who have played in the Flyin’ to the Hoop have gone on to play in the NBA, and more from last year’s event will soon make their pro debuts.

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