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This article was prepared for the February 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Prime Time Shootout’s LeBron James Connection

Basketball sensation LeBron James, originally the

marquee

attraction at the PrimeTime Shootout, the nationally recognized

invitational

high school basketball tournament coming to Trenton’s Sovereign Bank

Arena, Friday through Sunday, February 7 to 9, is now the poster boy

for all that is wrong with big time athletics. But the tournament

itself may still be a showcase for how a community can leverage such

a showcase in a positive way.

Jeff Hewitson, now retired from the New Jersey Department of

Transportation, started the PrimeTime Shootout tournament 24 years

ago. Over the years it has become a premiere showcase for high school

talent, drawing scrutiny from NBA scouts and college recruiters. Jay

Williams and Tyson Chandler of the Chicago Bulls, Eddie Griffin of

the Los Angeles Clippers, DaJuan Wagner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,

and Al Harrington of the Indiana Pacers are among the NBA stars who

have played in past Shootouts.

Managing the tournament for the first time this year is Isles,

Trenton’s

nonprofit community development corporation led by founder, president,

and CEO Martin Johnson. With revenue generated by both ticket

sales and corporate sponsorships, Isles is working to make the annual

non-profit event a fundraiser for the organization, which is dedicated

to fostering more self-reliant families in healthy, sustainable

communities.

Last year LeBron James, the Number 1 player in the country at St.

Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, generated "a

phenomenal

amount of interest," says Peter Page, vice president of

communications for Isles. "Jeff Hewitson wanted the St. Vincent

team to come back and he asked Marty to help him make that

happen."

Why did Hewitson asked for Johnson’s help in this? It happens that

Hewitson was asking Johnson to lobby his own high school alma mater.

As a youth Johnson, still described by colleagues as a "sports

fanatic," played basketball and football for St. Vincent High

School in Akron, Ohio. He went on to become a recruited athlete at

Princeton University, a member of the Class of 1981. And today he

is the father of three athletic teenaged sons.

As Johnson talked to his former St. Vincent basketball coach, now

the school’s athletic director, and his former football coach, now

a member of the school’s board of trustees, to help make this happen,

his interest in the tournament grew.

"Marty became intrigued with the event, and saw an opportunity

there for Isles and for the city of Trenton," says Page. "He

saw it as an opportunity to make Prime Time shootout an annual

big-name

event, an opportunity to introduce Isles to many more people, and

as an opportunity to grow a hospitality industry in Trenton."

Prior to the James ruling, Page had expected the tournament to fill

the Marriott Hotel on at least one of the tournament’s three nights.

But in the true spirit of amateurs and non-profits everywhere, the

Trenton sponsors are not throwing in the towel. They point out that

the tournament field still includes the top four high school teams

in the nation and 14 high school All-Americans — not counting

James.

Sponsorship and promotional opportunities are available by calling

Laura Kreiger at Isles, 609-393-5656, ext. 22. Tickets to the

Trenton games, priced from $12 to $25, are available at the arena

box office and from Ticketmaster.


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