The Salem High School gym will be buzzing with action Saturday as it plays host to the first Adam Ward Classic basketball event.
The “Classic” will feature seven good games, beginning at 9:30 am and running for about 12 hours at SHS.
The event will honor the memory of Ward, a Salem High and Virginia Tech graduate who was killed during a TV broadcast while working for WDBJ-7 in August of 2015. Alison Parker, a Channel 7 reporter, was also killed and Vicki Gardner of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, who was the subject of the report, was injured but survived.
Many tributes to the fallen journalists followed, and a scholarship was founded by the Salem Education Foundation in honor of Ward. Adam was a very popular student at Salem High and a big basketball fan.
“When I was coaching here Adam was a ‘Superfan’ who never missed a game,” said Salem teacher Grant Smythers. “He’d sit in the front row and paint his face and he was just a great kid. Everyone loved him.”
Smythers and Hank Luton, a former Salem High assistant basketball coach who now works for the City of Salem Parks and Recreation Department, wanted to do something to sustain the scholarship. They thought an annual day of basketball would be just perfect.
“We wanted something that had sustainability,” said Smythers. “We thought a day of basketball would bring contributions every year. Hopefully this will become an annual thing.”
There’s no reason why it wouldn’t when you look at the response Grant and Hank have been getting from the community and area schools. The Western Virginia Basketball Officials Association joined Salem High and the City of Salem to promote the event. All proceeds will go the Adam Ward Scholarship Fun, which is administered by the Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association. In addition to the $10 admission, which is good for all seven games, sponsorships by businesses and individuals will also add to the fund.
“Everyone has been very supportive,” said Smythers. “We started off with plans for three or four games but teams and coaches kept calling us. We have a nice mix of different types of teams.”
There will be five boys’ games and two girls’ games, beginning with the Roanoke Catholic boys against Carlisle at 9:30 am. Next is the William Fleming and Martinsville girls at 11:15 am, followed by the Fleming boys against North Cross, coached by RC Hall of Fame coach Ed Green, at 1 pm.
Massanutten Military Academy will meet Ridgeview Academy at 2:45 pm in a game that will feature close to 20 future college players. William Byrd grad Chad Myers coaches Massanutten, and he’s reknown for his quality basketball clinics.
The Salem girls will be next, taking on Floyd County at 4:30 pm. The Salem boys and defending Group 2A champ Martinsville will play at 6:15 pm, and the final game of the day will match 14-4 Northside against 14-4 Radford at 8 pm.
Smythers, Luton and Jerry Spangler, who is the head of the local officials association, have done a great job organizing and promoting the event. A check will be presented to the Education Foundation between the two Salem games, and Ward’s family is planning to attend.
Parker will also be remembered. She was a graduate of Martinsville High School, which will participate in both a boys’ and girls’ game on Saturday.
“It’s in honor of Adam but we wanted her to be part of the event as well,” said Smythers. “I hope the community will come out and support this because a lot of work went into it. It’s been in the planning for over a year.”
Considering how the area loves basketball, and how the community loved Adam and Alison, I expect a great turnout for some exciting basketball. In fact, I would call it a “slam dunk.”