By Robert Alfonso Jr.
SENECA FALLS, NY – Some people take in the scenic drive up Route 89 as a chance to soak in the beauty of the trip and vineyards. This weekend those visitors will have some company.
A number of boys and girls travel basketball teams are making the trip to play in the Finger Lakes Slamfest. The 23rd edition of the event is the oldest of its kind in the region. It will be played on Saturday and Sunday at New York Chiropractic College. Teams will travel from around the region along with teams coming in from Canada and Pennsylvania.
“Having a showcase tournament keeps players here for college coaches in this area to recruit,” Chris Hammersley said. “Kids do not realize when they go far away they may not have their families support when they go to a school far away.”
Hammersley speaks from experience. The eight-grade Central Western Red girl’s coach has been on the travel scene for 13 years. She has coached all three of her daughter with the youngest currently on the team, while the middle child serves as her assistant.
Hammersley’s team plays plenty of showcase style events where the competition is a lot tougher. When her oldest daughter played there were many times the Hammersley’s were at basketball showcase events outside of the Central New York area. She always felt Central New York needed its own one.
“The Finger Lakes is a beautiful area,” Hammersley said. “We take is for granted.”
One team making its inaugural trip to the Finger Lakes is the Boro Elite. The Edinboro, PA based organization is coached by Ryan McKissonok, who is coaching a 14U girls’ team and 17U boys’ team.
His teams have a summer travel schedule agenda.
“The entire goal of the program is to get them out there (in front of college coaches),” McKissonok said. “Northwest, PA is not well recruited. We travel pretty far to make it happen.”
The Finger Lakes Slamfest helped fill a vacant weekend for the Pennsylvania squad. Normally, Boro Elite is taking seven to eight hour road trips throughout the summer in order to play in front of college coaches. Players like junior Ryan Reagan are benefiting from the exposure.
After watching the 6-foot-8 small forward, from General McLane, junior season highlight it easy to see why Ivy League and Patriot League programs are expressing heavy interest. He has taken unofficial visits to the Naval Academy and American University.
However, Reagan is not the only one on the team capable of playing at the next level. Meadville High’s Jason Clune is a 6-foot-4 junior guard averaging 20 points a game so far. Another rising prospect is Vincent High sophomore Simeal Wofford college coaches may want to keep an eye on.
McKissnook understands this is not an NCAA Live Period Event. Smaller college programs, however, are allowed to attend.
“We want to go where schools are looking at our players,” he said. “They want to see them play. We try to go to where they will be.”
While college coaches care about finding players, travel teams are looking for the competition.
“You are always looking to play quality teams,” RAP 14U boys coach Ed Wood said.
Wood has played in eight of the Finger Lakes Slamfest events. He has coached his son through the Rochester Area Prospects Basketball organization and is still on sidelines. He is always looking for his team to improve.
“They are eighth grades who are always learning,” Wood said. “As a coach, you are looking to see your team improve.”
Teams and coaches will see everything they want to see at the Slamfest.