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David Beard couldn’t stop smiling Sunday afternoon.
Not because he saw a team of former Glenn Hills boys basketball players come together and defeat a squad full of former Laney rivals — although that was a bonus for the former Spartan. But because he saw his vision to highlight Augusta-area basketball legends take another step forward.
This past weekend, the fifth annual Clash of the Classes and Top 20 Alumni Basketball Tournament happened at Richmond Academy’s gym, and judging by the smiles, laughter and nostalgia kicked around by current and former players and fans — in addition to some solidly played basketball — Beard’s brainchild is growing in a way that makes him excited for the event’s future.
“Being from Augusta, I just wanted to give people an opportunity to see the best of what Augusta has to offer,” said Beard, a 2002 Glenn Hills graduate.
Clash of the Classes began in 2018, stemming from the popularity of homecoming alumni games originally started by Beard. The Clash is typically an eight-team tournament of Richmond County schools and their basketball-playing alumni, but this year’s tournament grew to 12 squads for the first time.
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It’s becoming a fan-favorite event for those who can’t get enough of the city’s robust basketball scene. But it’s also both a blast-from-the-past showcase of the kind of talent that the city has produced as well as a platform for some of the area’s top current girls ballers to shine.
This year in the alumni tournament, it was Glenn Hills winning The Clash crown by notching an 87-86 win over Laney, thanks to former Spartan Daniel Quarles’ buzzer-beating tip-in. Quarles (Class of 2004) won the championship game’s MVVP award by scoring 10 points, grabbing 24 rebounds and swatting away seven shots. In the Top 20 girls game, Josey’s Keasia Henderson was the team’s MVP for the Team White winners while Cross Creek’s Michaela Bogans led her team in scoring in the loss.
But more important than scores and stats, this weekend’s games were about camaraderie, good will and giving local basketball standouts, past and present, a reminder of the rich hoops history in Augusta.
“We just want to help provide a safe environment to enjoy something big," Beard said. "We’ve had several players come through and play in our tournament that went on to receive college scholarships after not being in school. That’s an example of the kinds of things we like to do through this event.”
Long-time locals will likely recognize names like G-League player Tommy Williams and former area standouts such as Madison Williams, Rod Hall, Ricardo Glenn, Dominique Archie, Christian Keeling, Xavier Collier and Christian Nobles who have gone on to play college ball.
Meanwhile, the Top 20 girls game once again featured current stars such as Peris Smith (North Augusta), Trinity Barrow (Greenbrier), Jaliyah Terry and Jada Kendrick. There was some star power pacing the sidelines as well, as Jasmine Robinson (Richmond Academy and Troy), Alana Davis (Cross Creek and Memphis) and Nicollete and Emani Mayo (Hephizbah and Temple) served as coaches for both girls teams.
Back on the men’s side, Laney’s roster donned names like Hall who played for Clemson and Keeling who played for North Carolina, along with Jashawn Brooks who went on to Mars College after graduating high school.
Basketball fever has always been high in Augusta, but Beard says that the level of attention the city’s gotten over the last two years with multiple teams in the area winning state championships has magnified the fervor. And that’s something he believes The Clash can capitalize on in the near future.
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“We have had about six state champs in the last couple of years here, and in my opinion, people should be trying to get here to see our talent, instead of us always trying to get our talent to them,” Beard said. “That’s why the Top 20 game was created — to help give the best high schoolers in the area the opportunity to be seen by coaches in a showcase that’s local to Augusta.”
Beyond giving current high school players a platform that could entice college scholarships — Beard says over the years at least two players he knows of began receiving recruiting attention after the event — Beard wants this annual event to become something younger players and basketball enthusiasts use to see the city’s rich legacy. He also hopes The Clash will become a model event for other communities.
“My vision is to give the community the opportunity to see players that they may not have seen in person who have gone on to do great things since high school,” he said. “Also, at some point, we want to add things such as food trucks, more appearances by professional players and different kind of entertainment and potentially be able to start giving the winning school a donation. We want to be seen nationally as the best alumni tournament in the south.”
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Clash of the Classes, Top 20 showcase gives past, future stars exposure