Classic for Columbus gives HBCU players chance to shine

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The third annual Classic for Columbus has come to an end, seeing thousands gather at the Schottenstein Center for a party with a purpose.

Whether you attended the game or participated in it, everyone can agree that it was more than just a basketball game.

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“The message is that education is the pathway to upward mobility,” John Pace, president and CEO of Classic for Columbus, said. “We believe that so strongly, that we believe education should be a part of every aspect of our life, including sports, entertainment and culture.”

So far, Classic for Columbus has awarded over $670,000 to scholarships, educational programs and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

“Many of the students we serve come from marginalized communities, and they are first-time college hopefuls,” Pace said. “They need hope and so we bring them to this event where they see an arena filled with accomplished African-Americans who serve as role models and mentors.”

Watching the two teams — the Ohio and HBCU all-stars — was fun for everyone, but for the selected players, they said being picked was an honor.

“It’s about the greater good so they have an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to bless others and other people are blessed by this event,” Tim Brown, chairman of the Players Selection Committee for the Classic for Columbus, said. “So they love to play so they can help somebody else.”

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Brown said the selection process begins in early fall, with the committee tracking players’ stats but also paying close attention to their character.

“Sometimes you watch guys on film, you see their stats on paper, and then you see them, like, you can hear the excitement in the crowd,” Brown said. “So you hear it when you see it live. It just, just gives me great joy.”

NBC4 was a sponsor of the event and our very own Kerry Charles served as the emcee.

Pace said the event is just going to keep growing thanks to the organization’s 18k Initiative, a plan to put 18,000 people in the Schottenstein Center by the 2026 game.

“It’s important because we also have a $1.5 million goal, $1.5 million towards scholarships,” Pace said. “Now that 18k initiative will all but guarantee we meet that $1.5 (million) and we’re halfway there already today.”

He said that they’ve only just begun and to keep the third Saturday in April free and come join them for the next Classic for Columbus.

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