At the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night, there was one common enemy: cancer. The event began in 1995 to raise money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Started by charismatic North Carolina State coach and ESPN commentator Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer in 1993, the foundation has awarded more than $100 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide.
This was the 13th consecutive season that the classic has been played at Madison Square Garden, and this year powerhouse programs Duke, Florida, Purdue, and Arizona State were set to square off.
But before the action began, everyone was reminded of why this was a special night and a unique opportunity to remember Valvano’s legacy of determination, positivity, and leadership.
Purdue coach Matt Painter expressed how proud he was to be a part of this effort. “Being able to play in the Jimmy V Classic — just the thrill that he had, and the passion that he had, and the fight that he showed. And then battling cancer,” Painter said. “And for him to be able to now use this as a platform to raise money and try to hopefully beat cancer someday, it is pretty special.”
At every timeout, halftime, and between games, the crowd was inspired by clips of Valvano’s famous ESPY Awards speech, stories of brave survivors, and memories of those who died too soon.
The Jimmy V Classic raised awareness and more funds for cancer research, and fans were also treated to some great basketball, which will set the tone for conference play.
Purdue Has Every Right to Dream Big
In the first game, No. 17 Purdue dominated Arizona State, taking down the Sun Devils 97–64. Isaac Haas, the unstoppable 7’2”, 290-pound junior center, added 16 points and seven rebounds.
“I think we have very high potential, potentially a championship team,” Haas said. “We have to just continue to do what we’re told and follow our scouting reports and do our defensive and offensive assignments. If we just stick to those principles, we’re going to be just fine. We’re going to do great things with this team.”
Purdue is a not only a Big Ten team to watch, the Boilermakers are also contenders for the NCAA title with their size and outstanding guard play.
Duke Is Deep and Talented
Later, No. 21 Florida took on No. 5 Duke, with the Blue Devils coming out on top 84–74. This was Duke forward Jayson Tatum’s second career college game, and he performed on a national stage in Madison Square Garden. The freshman scored 22 points and pulled down eight defensive rebounds.
Coming into the game, Tatum was looking to show why he was the No. 2 recruit in the nation. He has overcome his injuries and already demonstrated that he is ready for the NBA, showcasing some impressive moves in the paint and in transition.
There may have been a lot of freshman talk about this year’s Duke team, but it was sophomore Luke Kennard and graduate student Amile Jefferson who put up the best numbers for the team. In fact, Kennard, Jefferson, and Tatum combined for 75 points. Florida only scored 74 points in the game.
Jefferson had another double double and a career-high 24 points and 15 rebounds. Kennard had a stellar game, scoring a team-high 29 points. When asked about the great shooting night he had, Kennard said, “It all starts with my teammates. We shared the ball really well. We are a great offensive team with a lot of playmakers. My shot felt good tonight.”
Photographs by (from top): Lance King/Getty Images; Max Bonnstetter