Students prepare for the largest Pioneer Valley Tip-Off to date

Six new teams were added this year


By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

The staff of the Pioneer Valley Tip-Off is preparing for their largest event yet at the Curry Hicks Cage, which will be held from Friday, Dec. 13 to Sunday, Dec. 15.

The high school basketball showcase put on by the McCormack Student Leaders Club will feature 30 teams, six more than last year, from high schools and preparatory schools in the area.

Director of Basketball Operations Brendan Clark, a sport management and marketing junior, explained this year the PVTO focused less on schools from Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts and tried to go with more local talent.

The 15 scheduled games have been strategically matched up to ensure the most competitive games, both in terms of skill and past rivalry.

“In terms of pure basketball product, it’s the best in western Massachusetts,” Clark said.

“Back in the day when UMass basketball was really good, they had their games in the Cage and it would be filled and it would just get really loud. And our night games and our rivalries are not as intense, obviously, but it kind of makes people think of that time,” said Executive Director Daniel Smith. “It’s pretty electric.”

Smith, a marketing and sport management senior, hopes to see over 2,000 attendees across the span of the weekend. Past years have seen 1,500 to 2,000 attendees, but Smith said, “We have those three extra games so hopefully it will be attainable.”

Director of Business Operations Andrew Rumney, a sport management senior, added to increase engagement with the audience, guests have the chance to win raffled-off signed sports items, including a Noah Syndergaard signed baseball.

The PVTO was started in 2011 by two students and has since been developed into a more professional event planned by about 50 students.

“In terms of its inception… these students wanted to make a really cool experience not only for the students in the McCormick Department of Sport Management to give them that opportunity, but also, they were looking at it from the high school side,” Rumney said.

“It’s really geared to give students in the sport management major real-life experience that they can then put on their resume and use when they’re trying to get jobs in the industry, Smith added. “And then on the high school student side it provides them with a really cool, unique opportunity to play in the Curry Hicks Cage, where Dr. J and Marcus Camby played like back in the day.”

Smith said this year’s goal is cliché, but true: make it the best Tip-Off yet.

“Every year we’re trying to improve. It’s a learning process for the students who run it… but also to make the most profit,” he said.

The Tip-Off pays for the club’s networking trip to New York City every year. In previous years, they’ve visited Barstool Sports and Scout Sports. A portion of the proceeds also goes to their partner, Coaches Versus Cancer.

Another goal this year was to create a better experience for the players, according to Clark.

“I think from the players’ perspective this year, we’re focusing on their experience and [giving] them not only the opportunity to showcase their talents, but just to feel like they’re part of something special. Not every team gets this opportunity. We have a bunch of teams phoning in to try to be a part of this year. It’s probably our most highly demanded tournaments yet.”

“Some of the schools have been there since the start. They look forward [to it] every year, like their whole school knows about it like this is a big event that started the basketball season,” Smith said. “So, it’s kind of a cool like, niche thing in the Pioneer Valley.”

This year’s title sponsor is local – Encharter Insurance. Other sponsors include The Hangar Pub & Grill, ​Turners Falls Pizza House, ​Bart’s Ice Cream, Basketball Hall of Fame, Lia Toyota and Greenfield Savings Bank.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.