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PRINCETON — A tradition older than the players playing in the game, the ACC Barnstorming Tour will make a stop at Princeton High on April 15.
The tradition of bringing basketball players from the North Carolina colleges in the Atlantic Coast Conference to local communities has been going on longer than 41 years. But before the Sumner Group took over the individual players from North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Duke would tour individually. Players from each individual school would go to different communities, until the current event coordinator Pet Sumner’s dad decided to unite them under one umbrella.
“It used to be each school did it on their own,” Sumner said. “My dad came up with the idea of why not bring them all together and do it as one.”
It’s unknown if this is the first time that Princeton has hosted a Barnstorming Tour, but it will be the first appearance since the Sumner Group began running them.
“Somebody got in contact with me and the gym was the perfect size and great location and they (Princeton’s organizer) seemed excited about it,” Sumner said. “As long as the community seems excited about it and the gym has the right requirements and everything, we’ll go.”
This year’s roster includes UNC senior forwards Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams and Luke Maye; N.C. State senior guard Torin Dorn and Duke alumnus Nolan Smith. None of the players may be as famous as their “coach” — UNC legend Phil Ford. Ford said he will be doing less coaching and more observing from the best seat in the house.
“It’s just a fun, fun time everywhere we go,” Ford said. “The gyms are packed and the fans get their money’s worth. Mainly, I just try to keep an eye on them and make sure guys aren’t doing anything to get hurt, manage time and make sure everybody gets an equal amount of time — and make sure the Carolina guys get as much time as they want.”
Local seniors and recent graduates from Johnston County high schools will play against the ACC standouts. The night will also include a dunk contest and 3-point shooting contest. Sumner said they’ve had people from the community show up and end up getting opportunities to play basketball in other settings, like the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Even though this is a basketball game, it’s more of a family outing,” Ford said. “The referees are going to get dressed in my locker room, I’m undefeated, we will have a kid go out shoot free throws during the game, and it’s just a great night for an entire family. You don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy the evening.”
The tickets for the event are available at Princeton High, Milltown Java and Cricks Pizza Shack for $16 each. A limited number of VIP tickets for $65 has already sold out. The tickets are available online as well, but ticket buyers will have to wait in line for tickets at will call while people who buy from aforementioned places will be able to walk in when the doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door for $18. There are no assigned seats so first come, first serve.