Barry shoots the ball

Watauga basketball coach Laura Barry shoots the ball during the ACC Barnstormers game at Lentz-Eggers Gym in 2018.

BOONE — It might be the only basketball played by ACC players, at least in the next two months.

The ACC Barnstorming Tour rolls through Boone on April 24 with a game at Lentz-Eggers Gym. The game features seniors from ACC teams against local basketball players, likely seniors from the Watauga boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, and local teachers, coaches and VIPs.

Pet Sumner, who runs the Barnstorming Tour, was at Watauga High School to get interest in the game, which is brought to the area by the Watauga booster club. Sumner has been in charge of the tour for eight years after taking it over for his dad.

Sumner’s dad didn’t likely have to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has turned into a pandemic and turned the sports world upside down. He said a final decision about the tour will be made at the end of March and added that the safety of the players and the fans are the top priority when it comes to playing the games.

“Right now everything’s good to go,” Sumner said. “Obviously, we’ll keep the best interest of the fans and the players. We’re keeping in constant contact with our contacts at the schools and what they’re going to do and what they want to do. ”

Sumner said Brandon Robinson from North Carolina, Jack White, Justin Robinson and Javin DeLaurier from Duke may participate. Wake Forest senior Brandon Childress, and both point guard Markell Johnson and shooting guard C.J. Bryce from N.C. State may play.

“The crazy thing is that anybody can show up,” Sumner said. “The whole Duke team showed up in Durham. They all walked in the gym and we were very surprised.”

The Barnstorming Tour visited Lentz-Eggers in 2018. The ACC team was coached by former North Carolina All-American guard Phil Ford and is still coached by Ford today.

Ford could not make the press conference at Lentz-Eggers, but is expected to be there on April 24.

“The mountain area is always the best area for this game,” Sumner said. “We love it up here. We have a good fan base up here. It’s a huge gym and last time the players enjoyed it, we enjoyed it and I know the town enjoyed it. I figured why not come back?”

Sumner said there are autograph sessions after the game. In the last game, kids were brought on to the court to participate in dunks with the Barnstormers. Sumner compared the experience of being at a Harlem Globetrotters game.

“They are attuned with crowd,” Sumner said. “They talk to them. They’ll dance or stuff like that. They have a good time. It’s a family event and I think Boone is a perfect town for this.”

It’s not always easy for ACC fans in Boone to get off the mountain and to the triangle area to see ACC teams play. Sumner said the Barnstorming Tour allows those fans to see the players they watch on television up close.

“We always try to go to towns were people can’t them,” Sumner said. “It’s tough for people from Boone to drive all the way to UNC to see these guys. This gives them a chance to get up close and personal with these guys.”

The game itself is not designed to be a highly-competitive affair. The Barnstormers will take on members of the Watauga varsity teams, certain coaches and members of the school community.

“I think it’s great to have a state-wide event that is so sought after,” Watauga basketball coach Laura Barry said. “For it to be at Watauga, I think it shows that our community supports it and that our booster club does a great job of making these events possible.”

Sumner said boys are not the only people who are open to play on the Watauga roster. Barry played in the 2018 game as did several of Watauga’s senior girls’ basketball players.

“Girls can play,” Sumner said. “They usually don’t, but we’ve always been open to it. Most of the time it’s the guys’ varsity team, but we’ve had a couple of schools throw in some varsity girls’ players and why not? It’s for fun and everybody should have an opportunity to play.”

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