YOUNGSTOWN - This December, the Youngstown State University men's basketball team is trying something new.
The Inaugural Downtown Round Ball Classic is Dec. 8 as YSU hosts Hiram at the Covelli Centre, starting at 7:30 p.m. The time is still to be announced.
Eric Ryan, Covelli Centre's Executive Director, YSU Assistant Athletic Director Rick Love and YSU coach Jerry Slocum have been in talks about this event.
"Let's bring it down, take a baby step this year playing Hiram College," Love said at Thursday's news conference inside the YSU room at the Covelli Centre. "If there's a response community, then move forward."
So why not switch the Nov. 28 home game against Kent State or someone like that as the initial game?
"We had Kent already on the schedule at home," Love said. "We wanted to keep that game on our home court because it is such a big regional game. Hopefully, we might be able to reach out to some bigger schools in the future, see how this goes, talk to some sponsors in the community about bringing in a larger Division I opponent."
Changing a home site from Beeghly Centre to the Covelli Centre is big move for the Penguins.
"You need the coaching staff and team to play down here when they're used to playing on their home court with their home hoops, where they practice every day and asking them to come down here and play a game isn't the easiest thing," Ryan said. "Coach Slocum is willing to do it, which is the first step."
Slocum knows the benefits of playing a game at the Covelli Centre.
"Obviously, it's a touchy situation that you don't want to take away from one of your home events," he said. "In the same breath, it's an environment that can help prepare you for your year. You're going to be in big facilities and big event kind of issues as you go through our league play. Being able to play downtown in a facility that supports us and give back to the city is a positive."
Slocum sees this event growing each year.
"As we look at it and grow with it, we'd like to get a Division I school here that we have the opportunity to bring some bigger schools - people that can't get into our building, but could get into an arena like this and play us," Slocum said. "It's exciting to see where this might go in the next couple of years.
"Obviously, everybody that's involved that would like to see a team like Ohio State, Pitt or somebody that's a stone's throw from Youngstown State and have that kind of a game, whether that's a reality or not. Clearly as we go forward, we'd like to make it better."
Love said YSU women's basketball coach Bob Boldon is also interested in that team playing - possibly as part of a doubleheader with the men's team.
And, Ryan would like this event to become a weekend-long gala and maybe be as big as the former LPGA tournament was to this area.
"All of us want to build this thing," Ryan said. "We want this as a long-term relationship, as it relates to this event. We have some programs we're talking to about coming here and playing, which will be great.
"We have a lot of influential people from our town that have made it nationally. We're going to lean on them a little bit and have them help us. We've had those conversations and they're willing to do that."
Tickets are on sale the the Covelli Centre box office and at ticketmaster.com. General admission seats are $7, center court are $12 and a limited number of VIP seats are $15 each.
YSU students receive one complimentary ticket per valid YSU ID redeemed at the Covelli Centre box office only.