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Classic in the Country under new management

By KEVIN LYNCH Staff Writer Published: January 7, 2017 5:00 AM
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BERLIN -- After building his scouting report into the No. 1 service in the state of Ohio, Tom Jenkins is turning over the reins of Ohio Girls Basketball Report (OGBR) to a pair of basketball junkies who helped build the program.

Bryce McKey, a 2004 Hiland graduate, who has been coaching since he graduated from Malone in 2008, and Tenisha Benson of Archbishop Hoban and Ohio University fame have taken over operations of OGBR.

"Bryce sort of takes the lead on the scouting service, and Tenisha will handle events," Jenkins said.

But as Benson pointed out, you can't have one without the other.

"You can't have the events without the scouting service, and visa versa," she said. "We kind of intertwine, quite often."

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Benson says she works with the babies, running a lot of middle school events while her partner deals with the older kids.

"I love middle school basketball," she said. "We're really starting to look at kids younger and get them acclimated to the program. I'm at a lot of middle school games and Bryce is at a lot of high school games. I work a lot with the little kids and deal with a lot of the parents."

"This was something we'd all been talking about for awhile," McKey said. "When I went into college coaching, Tenisha was around a lot more. We are both kind of the successors that make sense from a partnership standpoint. From her end, she loves the events and is great with relationships and meeting new people.

"For me, having coached at Hathaway Brown and being with OGBR and developing relationships with high school coaches, and then as recruiting coordinator at Xavier, I add the mindset of being on the other side, what the college coaches are looking for. We both bring a different perspective to it, which works really well together."

When Jenkins brought up the possibility of retirement, the trio decided it would be a process best served if they took their time in transition.

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"I'd say about three to five years ago, Tom and I had discussed retirement, getting a fresh face to OGBR, bringing fresh eyes for evaluation and moving forward, " Benson said. "But it wasn't until two years later that we actually sat down and talked about it."

Benson has been a part of OGBR 16 years one way or another.

"I started out as a camper and went all the way up," she said. "I've seen it from every angle but the business side, which is where we're at now. It started when I asked Tom, so where are you going to be in two, three years?"

From there, things got into a planning mode and everything moved forward. Their first event for 2017 will be The Berlin Resort Classic in the Country Challenge, Powered by Under Armour, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Jan. 14, 15 and 16 at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center in Berlin.

"We spent the last year getting familiar with the business, learning everything we can from Tom," McKey said. "We have both come up through OGBR. Tenisha played at Classic in the Country and went to camps. She played at Hoban, played at University of Cincinnati a couple years and then transferred to Ohio University to finish her basketball career.

"The Classic started when I was in high school at Hiland," McKey added. "Just watching it grow over the past 14 years is pretty cool. I graduated from Hiland in 2004, went to Malone and started coaching from there. We complement each other very well and like different aspects of the business, so the partnership made sense to move forward with two people. It allows us to provide a lot of energy and try to grow it in ways we can. But this ain't broke, so we don't have to fix it."

Benson proivded a detailed list of the events she will be running as Associate Director of OGBR.

"We start off the year with Classic in the Country, and then in April we have the Spring Special for eighth graders through seniors. This is just like the Top 64 Showcase, but it's just a one-day event held in Reynoldsburg," Benson said. "The next event is Skills Camp in July for middle school kids in seventh, eighth and ninth grade (also in Reynoldsburg). That's the opening day for college coaches to recruit. The next event is the Crystal Ball at Lakota West, kind of like a summertime version of Classic in the Country, where high school teams compete over the summer. It's kind of a little measuring stick to see where they are. Last year we had eight teams. This year we'll have 12, possibly 16 teams.

"The next event is the Border Battle in Toledo where Ohio teams compete against Michigan's best," she continued. "For the record, we have won every year and we look to continue to win. Then we hit the fall and Top 64, which is a very competitive, elite camp with 480 kids. That is held in Reynoldsburg. We end the year with the Journey to the Tourney, which is similar to Classic in the Country with a few twists.

"First off, it opens the high school season," Benson added. "Teams love to play there to get a chance to see where there team is at and how far hey have to go. they also get a chance to scout some of the teams they might see further down the road. This is another measuring stick, held at Lakota West. There were 23 varsity teams competing at this year's event, including three out-of-state teams."

While Benson compares the quality of basketball at their other events to Classic in the Country, she says the hospitality here is still second to none.

"We try to come close with Journey to the Tourney, but it really doesn't compare to Hiland," she said. "The community there is so authentic, so real. It's not something that they put on for an event. It's the way they are. You won't find hospitality like they have at Hiland anywhere else."

McKey, who grew up in Hiland country, says he is fortunate to work in Ohio, consistently one of the three top recruiting states in the country (New York, Texas and Ohio). "There are few people who can focus on one state and do what we're able to do," he said. "That's a credit to the level of talent and the level of coaching here in the state."


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