The 100th Kentucky boys’ basketball Sweet Sixteen has happened, but the celebration is just getting started. There will even be music.
“Bounce: The Basketball Opera” isn’t officially affiliated with the state’s continuing celebration of high school basketball’s centennial, but it has Kentucky roots. Ardea Arts, a theater company based in New York, partnered with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre to develop the production. Its official premiere will run at the Calvary Baptist Recreational Outreach Center in Lexington from Nov. 10-12.
Everett McCorvey, director and executive producer of the UK Opera Theatre, was among the speakers at a Kentucky high school basketball centennial committee meeting Tuesday morning. McCorvey was at a National Endowment for the Arts meeting about three years ago when he heard about Ardea Arts’ desire to produce a basketball musical.
“And I thought, ‘‘Well wait a minute, you cannot produce a basketball opera without involving the basketball mecca of the universe — the University of Kentucky, in the state of Kentucky.’”
While at UK, McCorvey’s has made attempts to engage younger demographics with musical theatre and art. He draws inspiration from the state’s love of basketball.
“Art also changes people, just like basketball does,” McCorvey said. “I talk all the time about, ‘Why is it that basketball is so popular in Kentucky?’ I think one of the reasons is that we grow our basketball players and we grow our fans. They just leave the hospital in UK basketball jerseys. So we’re doing the same in the arts.”
Phillip Gay, who plays the lead role of “Flight” in “Bounce,” and Marcellus Barksdale, a former Tates Creek basketball player who plays professionally in Europe and helped with the production’s basketball choreography, were in attendance for the presentation Wednesday. Gay even sang a musical number, “This Game, This Beautiful Game,” from the show to those present.
Danville native Frank X. Walker, formerly Kentucky’s poet laureate, helped compose lyrics for the show.
Gay, who’s based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., thinks “Bounce” will attract a diverse audience.
“I’ve always liked pieces that mix genres, that take concepts that normally people separate in their minds and then have to put them together,” Gay said. “So people from both sides can see, ‘Oh, well this maybe isn’t what I thought it was,’ or ‘Maybe basketball is more beautiful and complex than I thought.’ Or basketball players can see that opera isn’t just this stuffy, elite thing.”
▪ Centennial officials held a video documentary contest, “A Basketball Story,” in coordination with the Student Technology Lead Program state championships in April and will do so again this school year. This contest, “Lost Schools,” will ask students to create a short feature (under 10 minutes) about a school that’s no longer around.
“We’ve had over 700 schools that played basketball in this state and no longer player. They’ve been consolidated. We’re asking the existing schools to look into their landscape around them and find those lost schools and do a documentary. Tell their story that they no longer can tell.”
“Rise: The Revival of Women’s Basketball,” made by Highlands High School’s Mason Bibb and Trey Bowden, won this year’s competition, earning $4,000 in scholarship awards.
▪ Jeff Bridgeman’s “Kentucky High School Basketball Encyclopedia,” released in Jan. 2014, is a treasure trove of information about the sport starting from 1916 to 2013. It’s an incredible asset for any high school basketball junkie (I use it regularly, myself), but isn’t easy to track down. Two used copies are listed on Amazon for more than $135 and $572 (it retailed for $40 originally).
A revised edition of the book, incorporating seasons that have occurred since its publication, will be available for pre-order soon through the centennial website, khsbk100.com. The book is expected to be available in December.
▪ Packets containing shirts, coins and other commemorative items, along with a manual suggesting how schools can involve their students, staff and community in the centennial celebration, were mailed to every KHSAA member school this week. The centennial committee is also seeking sponsors to help put the centennial logo on every high school gym’s floor before the season tips off.
▪ The KHSAA will offer a printed commemorative centennial program recognizing 100 years of Sweet Sixteen tournaments. It will be available for purchase during the next Sweet Sixteen in March.
▪ A fantasy competition pitting every Sweet Sixteen champion against one another using a mathematical algorithm is in the works and will be accessible via khsbk100.com.