Big Country FCA All-Star Festival basketball games return to Brownwood

DERRICK STUCKLY BROWNWOOD BULLETIN derrick.stuckly@brownwoodbulletin.com
M’Lee Graham from Jim Ned (left) and Eula’s Marleigh Gleason (right), members of the South girls basketball team, were among the Big Country FCA All-Star Festival participants signing memorabilia during the media day event held Tuesday afternoon at Brownwood High’s Warren Gym. The girls and boys basketball doubleheader will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Brownwood Coliseum.

The first of three days of Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes All-Star Festival action begins at the Brownwood Coliseum Thursday night, and preparations for the girls and boys basketball doubleheader began Tuesday with media day at Brownwood High School’s Warren Gym.

For the second year in a row, Brownwood is the site of the Big Country All-Star Festival basketball games, while San Angelo joins the mix this year with baseball and softball Friday, and Abilene again hosts volleyball and football on Saturday.

“It’s a blessing that we have this opportunity,” Kevin Gabaree, Brownwood ISD Deputy Superintendent and member of the FCA Leadership Board, said during Tuesday’s media day. “This is tremendous for our community, not only the recognition, but getting the community involved. They’re having these kids in their homes and getting to know them, and the kids are getting to know our community.”

The four basketball teams and cheer squads taking part in Thursday night’s basketball games — which are slated to begin at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Coliseum — have a busy three days in store, according to Gabaree.

Following the media day event, which included team photo sessions and memorabilia signing, the teams held their first practices — the basketball teams at the Brownwood High School and Middle School gyms, and the cheer squads in the turf room at BHS. After practice, the athletes were transported to First Baptist Church where a meal was provided and Dallas Huston spoke. The athletes then headed to the 32 homes in the community that are serving as host residences.

Today, practices will be held in the morning prior to a lunch at First United Methodist Church where Jerry Don Gleaton will speak. Following lunch, the athletes will have the afternoon to swim or relax at the city pools. Coggin Avenue Baptist Church will host tonight’s dinner with Huston again as the guest speaker.

Thursday again begins with practice, then Austin Avenue Baptist Church will provide lunch at the high school, and new Brownwood boys basketball coach Grant Freeman will address the athletes. Following lunch, the athletes will spend the afternoon bowling before reporting to the Coliseum to prepare for Thursday night’s action.

“There’s not much free time, they’re going to be pretty busy, but I think they’ll be some life changing relationships that develop over these three days,” Gabaree said. “It’s now established that Brownwood will be the basketball host going forward, and it’s our goal and hope that this event and the community support for it continues to grow both financially and with their service and their efforts.”

Early’s Chase Riker will suit up for the South boys team, coached by former Brownwood and current Breckenridge head coach Josh Alcorn, in Thursday’s doubleheader, while Brownwood’s Abby Adams will be on the cheer squad.

“I want to get better as a person and a player,” Riker said of his goals for the week. “I love basketball, it’s my passion and I hope I can learn some stuff from these guys have fun with it. Being around these guys, new people, and seeing what kinds of lives they lead should be fun. And hopefully we can get a win.”

Alcorn will be coaching for the final time in Brownwood before taking over the reins of the Breckenridge program, which posted an 18-2 record last season.

“I’ve been looking forward to this and it’s definitely a privilege to be selected to coach,” Alcorn said. “These is a great group of guys and the festival the FCA puts on is top notch. I haven’t coached in the Coliseum that much, but any time you get to coach in there it’s a fun time. I know we’ll have some good crowds and it should be a fun night for us.”

But the week is about much more than just who wins and loses a basketball game, Alcorn was quick to point out.

“These guys come in and think they’re just practicing and playing basketball, but they’ll come away with some lessons they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” Alcorn said.