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Big time college hoops coming back to Raider Arena this weekend

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 9:21 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The Arena at Northwest Florida State College is set to host some Division One basketball again this Thanksgiving week. After skipping 2020 because of the pandemic, the Emerald Coast Classic is coming back to Raider Arena this week. So this will be the 7th year this event, hosted by Global Sports Management will take place in Niceville.

“It’s like going home.” Maury Hanks, the ECC organizer, told me via zoom this week. “Ramsey Ross over at the College does an outstanding job of hosting the event for us. And it’s a beautiful arena. You know we’re very excited. I was down there a few weeks ago to do some preps for the tournament. It was good to see everybody. The teams are very excited about coming down to the Panhandle and seeing the beautiful beaches. And getting to play college basketball in front of, you know crowds. "

Hanks went on to tell me about the basketball teams heading to Northwest Florida this week. “The four hosts schools, as I call them, LSU, Penn State, Oregon State and Wake Forest, four Power-5 teams. In the earlier games, North Carolina A and T, St. Francis Brooklyn, McNeese State and Samford out of Birmingham. And the games are November 26th and 27th, Friday and Saturday, like you said over at Northwest Florida. The easiest way to get tickets is to go to EmeraldCoastClassic.com.”

Those start times for the Power-5 school match ups Friday are LSU vs. Penn State at 6:00, Oregon State vs Wake at 8:30 Friday night. The latter now coached by former Raiders head coach Steve Forbes, who says he is very excited to be bringing a team back to Niceville.

“I think it means everything to me because that’ where my path started, to getting to here.” Coach Forbes said at his Monday press conference in Winston-Salem. “Not that the previous 22 years didn’t matter. But after leaving Tennessee and having the opportunity to go to Northwest Florida, put me right back on my feet. And for Jason, coach Shay, coach (Brooks) Savage, we coached there all together. You know we went 62-6 and went to back to back National Championship games. Mickey Englett who hired me, is retired now, he’s going to be sitting right behind the bench. Ray Ross, who was invovled in hiring me, his son Ramsey, was my A.D. after Mickey retired, is our host, and a close friend of mine, Ramsey will be there. Dr. (Ty) Handy is gone now, but he was the president that hired me. You know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Florida State, with Chipley alum Trent Forrest a big part of that team, beat the Vol’s in the 2019 ECC final, the last time it was played here.

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