Many basketball players dream of playing on NBA hardwood, and next season, members of the William Penn boys’ basketball team will have the chance to live out that dream.
The Bearcats will play a game at Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers, during the 2016-17 season. William Penn athletic director Rob Coursey and head coach Clovis Gallon finalized the deal Friday afternoon in a meeting with 76ers management.
“I’m super excited for the kids more than anything else,” Gallon said. “For me it will be an experience, but I’m more excited for the kids to be able to go into an arena like that and build on the York High legacy that’s already been put into place.”
When Bearcats guard Jacquez Casiano said when he heard the news, he initially thought Gallon was joking.
"I asked him again to make sure he wasn't joking, because me and Coach joke around a lot," Casiano said. "I was so excited, and now I just can't wait for the season to begin. This will be a major experience for me and the rest of my teammates."
Casiano will be in his senior year when the game takes place and he knows how rare it is to play at an NBA arena.
“I know this will be an experience I'll remember forever,” he said.
Coursey has been working to set up the opportunity since he took over as athletic director at William Penn. During his time as an athletic director in Pittsburgh, Coursey was able to get his school involved in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Court of Dreams program that allowed his team to play a game at the Cavs' Quicken Loans Arena.
After arriving at William Penn, Coursey's contact with the Cavaliers put him in touch with the Sixers, and the wheels began to turn.
“I ended up talking to the director of marketing and the director of group sales for the 76ers. After I shared with him our history, and how successful York High basketball has been over the last few years, they extended an offer for us to come down,” Coursey said.
Coursey and Gallon made the trip to Philadelphia on Friday, and the Sixers offered them the chance to play at the NBA venue as part of their "Court of Dreams" program.
The date and opponent for the Bearcats’ game in Philadelphia have yet to be determined. Because the game will take place before a 76ers game, William Penn has to wait until next season's NBA schedule is released before they can look for a date that works with their schedule.
After a date and opponent are selected, tickets will be available and will cover both the William Penn game as well as the NBA game afterwards. The school also plans to set up buses to take fans to the game. Those buses will be available to students, families and the community.
Gallon said that during an informal meeting Wednesday, he filled in the players about the impending meeting with the 76ers. The coach saw the enthusiasm on their faces.
“I saw all of their eyes light up. They were very excited,” said Gallon, a longtime Sixers fan himself. “I put the Facebook post out there, so a lot of the returning players have been commenting and they’re excited about the opportunity.
“They can’t wait. I’ve even had some former players reach out and say, 'I wish I could come back and suit up one more time.'”
Senior Montrel Morgan joked that he was a little bit jealous to be graduating this spring before getting the chance for this opportunity. He said he's excited for the players who will be there next season, and he'd like to travel to Philadelphia for the game if he can make it.
Morgan also sees this as another step in the right direction for the William Penn basketball program.
“It seems like the expectations are higher,” he said.