SPRINGFIELD – Paul Biancardi first starting calling games at the Spalding Hoophall Classic as an analyst for ESPN in 2007, back when current Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker was a junior in high school.
Eleven years later, Biancardi still sees things that set the tournament apart.
“To me, it’s the biggest and best high school basketball event out there,” Biancardi said. “The teams and the talent are at the top of the country. The kids, the coaches and the parents get the experience of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Even when I still go, I get excited. You’re at Springfield College, where James Naismith went to school, where basketball was invented. You have all of those dynamics and the Hall of Fame does a first-class job of running the event and you get to see the best against the best, not just the best players, but some of the coaches and the teams.”
Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director for boys basketball, will call five games this weekend from the event, beginning with a game Saturday on ESPN at 8 p.m. (ET) between Spartanburg Day (Spartanburg, S.C.), led by preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA small forward Zion Williamson vs. Chino Hills, Calif. Biancardi will also call five games Monday on ESPNU, including five Super 25-ranked teams: No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), No. 3 University School (Fort Lauderdale), No. 21 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) and No. 22 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
SCHEDULE: 2018 Spalding Hoophall Classic
Biancardi, a former head coach at Wright State, sees a lot of elite club basketball, which gives him to see the top players compete against each other. However, the timing and the team aspect of the Hoophall allows him to see them in a different light.
“These guys have practiced with their teams for the past two to three months,” he said. “You get to see players who understand winning and how they have progressed in practice. It all comes out in the game. In AAU, the game goes so fast and summer coaches don’t have the practice time that high school coaches have. Here, you get to see kids in an environment who really want to be a part of the team and want to flourish in the framework of a team. As a scout or a college coach, you get to see those guys who add value to winning and I think you can evaluate from an event like this so well. It’s like talent, but it’s also talent that has been coached for three or four months.”
It also helps him to see how opposing coaches plan for ALL-USA players, including Montverde’s R.J. Barrett and Westtown School’s (West Chester, Pa.) player Cam Reddish, two elite small forwards in the event.
“I get to see the game plan,” Biancardi said. “You get to see basketball IQ and teamwork, a lot of things that sometimes you miss in summer basketball.”
To prepare for the Hoophall, Biancardi said he holds a conference call with each of the coaches in the games he’s the analyst for.
“We go through their rosters, we touch upon the guys who are going to play and if there are any human-interest stories behind any of the players, what each coach likes about their team,” Biancardi said “We do a lot of prep work. It’s high school. There are no sports information directors here. I watch a lot of film of guys and you talk to opposing coaches these players have played against and you talk to college coaches. It’s different prep work than you would for a college game. It’s a game, but there’s a lot of recruiting information that goes into it.”