by Brendan Bowers / @BowersCLE
As a high schooler in Ohio, watching him come through Columbus to lead his Buckeyes to the 1999 Final Four alongside Michael Redd, I was completely convinced that Scoonie Penn was the man. Always had mad respect for what he did and how he did it. Driving down to Columbus from Cleveland on Saturday morning, I was looking forward to catching up with him.
I had met Scoonie for the first time about an hour earlier. When I arrived at St. John’s Arena I introduced myself, and we talked some about what he’s been up to these days. Guy hits you like a tornado of positive energy when you meet him. With about five minutes left during pregame warm-ups, he walked off the floor to sit back down next to me under his team’s basket. I was in the first row, next to Team Columbus’ bench.
“This game is great to be a part of,” Scoonie told me before the Battle for Ohio tipped off on Saturday. “I’ve played basketball overseas for eleven years now. I’ve been on some great teams over there with some really good players, and I’ve had some tremendous experiences. I played with Olympiacos the year we had Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza for example, and we were really good. But it’s just always great to be back in Columbus. I live here now with my family, and we love it here.”
The people of Columbus love Scoonie, too. He wore a microphone for a local television station during the first quarter, and the first question every person I talked to in Columbus later that night asked me was whether or not Scoonie Penn was at the game. Then they’d tell me how much they loved watching him on that team with Michael Redd, who he was back in town with on Saturday.
“It’s great to be back with these guys, with Mike [Redd] sitting on the bench with us, lot of my old teammates here, it’s great.”
Free Agent Michael Redd was an honorary coach for Team Columbus. He sat on the bench with former number one overall pick Greg Oden, who also participated as a coach for the 614. Antonio Daniels, Samaki Walker, Terrance Dials, Jon Diebler, and others were alongside Scoonie with Team Columbus, headlined by the Sixers Evan Turner.
“My tournament also started this weekend, I’ve been busy this week,” Scoonie went on to tell me. “I have teams down here from Kentucky, Pennslyannia, Indiana, West Virginia and Michigan all playing in my T.O.U.C.H Hoops Classic right now. It’s a double elimination tournament that raises money to help out our charity, and the grand prize pays out $10,000 to the winning team. David Lighty came by last night to play in it for us. It’s been good working trying to get that off the ground, and I’m hoping to make that event even bigger next year.”
As we continued to talk, David Lighty was introduced as a starter for Team Cleveland, alongside the Cavaliers Tristan Thompson, who came down to rep for the 216. Huge roars from crowd followed, that got even louder as Evan Turner and the home 614 Team was introduced. Then Scoonie Penn’s name rang out over the PA, and we’d have to pick our conversation up later.
“Gotta go my man,” Sconnie said as he popped up, slapped me five, and ran out to take the court. “Talk to you later on.”
His Team 614 would get that 94-91 win over the visiting Team 216 in the first ever meeting between the two sides before it was over. I’m hoping to find that audio he recorded while he was mic’d up too, it’s gotta be some classic stuff I imagine.
After the game I caught up with Scoonie’s former running mate in that lethalist of Buckeye backcourts to see how things were with Michael Redd these days.
“It was great being a part of it today, I had a great time,” Redd told me about being on the sidelines for the game. “It was good to see Cleveland and Columbus get together for a great game, and it was a competitive game, so it was a lot of fun.”
Tristan Thompson went for 27 and 10 for Team Cleveland. Juby Johnson added 20 points and Chet Mason finished with 12 on 6-of-8 shooting for the visiting squad. Evan Turner had 17 and 7 for Team Columbus, Ron Lewis threw in 18, and Terrance Dials, Jon Diebler and Brian Brown added 12, 11 and 10 points respectively for the winning side. The game came down to the last possession, with Team 614 getting the defensive stop to seal it.
“It was great to for me to see guys like Scoonie again, see him out there playing, and just being able to hang out with him. Different guys like Antonio Daniels, Samaki Walker, Damon Stringer and Keith McLeod too, it was good to see all those guys you played with through the years; I hadn’t seen them in a while so it was good to see everybody.”
As far as what team Michael Redd may be suiting up for next year, he told me he hasn’t narrowed his decision down just yet.
“There isn’t anybody we are targeting in particular right now,” Redd said. “We have teams calling, and we’re going to negotiate from there. But I’m leaving all that to my agent right now. It’s still early for us, once we get more into those talks, I’ll figure out where I want to go from there.”
I asked Redd, who came back last season to appear in 51 games for the Phoenix Suns and average 8.2 points in 15.1 minutes per game, how he’s feeling right now.
“I feel real good man. I feel terrific. Last year, coming back with Phoenix I had a blast, and right now I feel real good. No set-backs, no pain, and I feel great.”
Clark Kellogg coached Team 216, who will look to avenge this weekend’s loss in the 2nd Annual Ohio Homecoming game next year in Cleveland. Hopefully Scoonie Penn, Michael Redd and everybody else from the 614 make the trip up to Cleveland next year. Should be even more fun next time around.