Former Hollidaysburg Area High School basketball players Billy Clapper and John Boyer are teaming up for a great cause.
Clapper is the general manager, and Boyer headlines a team of former college players who will play in The Basketball Tournament beginning June 6-8 at Philadelphia University.
Clapper, the men's basketball coach at Penn State Altoona, was contacted by Hoop Group about the idea for TBT and, since his college season was over, he decided to look into it.
"After looking at the website, I thought this was something I could do," Clapper said.
Although no entry fee was necessary, "fans" determined which 24 of the 32 teams would get an automatic bid.
The local team, called Sideline Cancer, is playing for The Griffith Family Foundation charity.
"If we win the tournament, The Griffith Family Foundation will receive the $500,000 prize, which goes to the championship team," Clapper said. "Additionally, we are playing to bring awareness to what the foundation is doing to help find a cure for pancreatic cancer."
Greg Griffith, a former Hollidaysburg athlete, died from pancreatic cancer a few years ago.
Clapper received support from friends Bruce Cafferty and Joe Landolfi, who helped get 458 people to sign up as "fans" for the Sideline Cancer team, and that was enough to get the local team one of 24 automatic berths.
Eight other teams were added to make it a 32-team field. The first four rounds are scheduled June 6-8 at Philadelphia University and the two teams who make the championship game will compete in a fan vote to see who has homecourt advantage for the championship game the weekend of June 28.
"A couple of organizers are putting up the money," Clapper said. "It's been in the planning for three years and I think they'd eventually like to sell it as the first reality sports tournament."
Clapper said it was difficult to get players but, with the help of Boyer, a former Altoona Mirror Player of the Year who later was a standout at Buffalo University and then played overseas for three years, nine former college players agreed to play for the Sideline Cancer team.
"I wouldn't be doing this without John Boyer," Clapper said. "He's five years younger than me, but I've been able to stay in touch with him a little and he was all for it when I contacted him about the idea."
Boyer is working toward his doctorate degree in physical therapy at Buffalo, and efforts to reach him by telephone were unsuccessful.
Boyer is the only player with local ties on the Sideline Cancer team, Clapper said. Four of Boyer's former Buffalo players are on the squad as well as others from Tulane, St. John's and Rider.
"We knew we needed guys at a high level," Clapper said of his roster. "We didn't know how big the tournament would be, but there are 24 former NBA players lined up and there are alumni teams from Villanova, Notre Dame, Cornell and Princeton."
Clapper noted that the Sideline Cancer team is one of two entries playing to give the prize money to a charity. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Griffith Family Foundation should contact Cathy Griffith at 937-1082.