First it was the NHL’s Winter Classic, taking an indoor game back to its outdoor roots, generating good will and fan excitement in the process. In 2011 college basketball tried to duplicate the act and honor the military at the same time, holding a game on an aircraft carrier. That worked, too, leading to plenty of imitation acts in 2013 (even if some never got played).
Now high school basketball is aiming to catch the same outdoor lightning in a bottle, with two Southern California teams facing off in the sunshine on the legendary playground courts on Venice Beach.
As reported by MaxPreps, North Hollywood (Cal.) Oakwood School will face off against Santa Monica (Cal.) Pacifica Christian School on Saturday in a game that will be played on the high traffic courts of Venice Beach, a site made famous by Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’.
While some might be concerned about distractions from nearby street performers, Oakwood athletic director Eric Walter said playing amidst a carnival atmosphere was the goal the entire time.
"We are a small school and always looking for things to heighten the experience for kids and make them feel special," Walter told MaxPreps. "I just thought, 'What's the most iconic place ever to play basketball?' Millions of people visit Venice Beach, it has all the jesters, jugglers and guys that walk on glass. It should be a fun thing."
It might be fun, but the coach who reports to Walter, Oakwood boys basketball coach Alex Barkouras, might not be quite so thrilled about taking his team outdoors in a sanctioned league game. Oakwood is currently in the midst of a 10-game winning streak and is a likely league champion if it can keep momentum going. Something tells Prep Rally that playing a game outside, where things like sunlight and wind could affect shooting and ball handling, isn’t the best way to keep a team laser focused.
Barkouras said that he planned to have his team practice outside at least once before Saturday’s matchup. Whether that provides a significant advantage remains to be seen.
Walter has already hinted at playing another game at Venice Beach in the future should Saturday’s game prove a success. Maybe next time he can even call Harrelson or Snipes in for a brief cameo on the bench. After all, it’s been far too long since tie dye and bicycle caps starred in serious games in Venice.