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PREP BASKETBALL: Central Hardin to host Bassey, Aspire Academy Saturday

By Josh Claywell, The News-Enterprise, 11/17/17, 6:45AM MST


One of the best prep basketball players in the country will be at Central Hardin’s Bruin Gym this weekend.

Charles Bassey, the third-ranked junior in the country according to ESPN 60, and his Louisville-based Aspire Academy team will be taking on Memphis-based Tennessee Prep Academy at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The so-called “Battle of the Border,” which will feature 20-minute halves and a shot clock, was the idea of Central Hardin coach Matt Nickell. Nickell’s brother-in-law, Damien Anderson, is an assistant for Aspire.

“I kind of brought it up when he (Anderson) found out he was going to be coaching there,” Nickell said. “He knows how big of a gym we have, so they’re looking to play in some bigger places. I told him we could find a date and we’d figure it out.

“This date came up and it’s perfect for us because it’s before the start of our season.”

Admission to the game is $7 for adults, $5 for students 12-and-older, $4 for students under 12 and free for children 5 and younger. A family ticket option for two adults and two students is available for $20.

It will be a fundraiser of sorts for Aspire, which plays games all over the country. The Wizards have games scheduled in California, Ohio, Mississippi, New York, Texas and West Virginia along with several stops in the Bluegrass State.

“I’m just glad we get an opportunity to help him (Anderson) and the team out with just some of their expenses,” Nickell said. “The people around here get a good chance to see some really good players play.”

One of them is Bassey, a 6-foot-11 power forward who grew up in Nigeria before moving to Texas and then coming to Kentucky.

On his ESPN recruiting profile, Bassey lists Kansas and Texas A&M on his school list.

“He is unreal,” Nickell said. “I’ve been to a practice of theirs and just how big these kids are and how skilled they are is pretty amazing.

“We have some really good talent around our area, but the overall scope of talent is just on another level with these teams.”

If all goes well Saturday, Nickell wants to welcome Aspire back to Bruin Gym in the future – maybe even incorporate the Wizards into the New Year’s Eve Classic.

ASPIRE players sign autographs after the game, which Nickell hopes will attract a bigger crowd.

“It’s going to be the first time, so it’s going to be new, but I can’t see how it’s not going to be awesome for our young guys around here,” Nickell said. “If they go and watch, they’re gonna have a good time. You’re getting to see these high-level kids and the things these kids can do.

“I would love to do it every year. As long as I’m the coach, I would love to try and do this if Damien and them want to do it again. Hopefully this will be a success for them and hopefully they’ll want to do this again.”