MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Bluff City Classic has been cancelled. Organizers pulled the plug on the tourney after a shooting near Lemoyne-Owen College.
The classic is a Memphis hoops staple. It attracts local basketball stars from high school to the pros.
"You've got the Penny Hardaway's, you've got the Todd Day's, you've got the Elliot Perry's," said event organizer Stanley Blue.
The list of players and alumni of the Bluff City Classic runs like a who's who list of Memphis basketball.
“Rudy Gay came out on opening night. Josh Shelby introduced himself to the city of Memphis through the Bluff City Classic,” Blue said.
But local hoop stars stopped shining in Memphis midway through the season. A scheduled 15 games were cancelled. The Bluff City Classic would have run until August 9th.
“We had growing concerns over the weekend from parents, from participants about coming over here and feeling safe,” Blue said.
When organizers could not lock down a bigger venue for the Bluff City Classic, LeMoyne-Owen College stepped up and offered to host it. The school is in south Memphis, in a neighborhood once known for rampant crime. To many, it still is.
Last week, 29-year-old Fredrick Poplar was gunned down as he headed to LeMoyne-Owen College to watch the games.
In the past month, there were 75 crimes reported less than a mile from where the shooting took place.
Even so, Stanley Blue says the South Memphis neighborhood has changed for the better.
“You got police precincts right across the street here. These houses have been redone I mean this really is a different community now,” Blue said. “I feel very safe here. My wife and my daughter ran a concession stand. My son runs around in the gym during the games. So if I didn't feel safe, I certainly wouldn't be putting my family in harm's way.”
But players aren't buying it. And for better or worse, that means no more Bluff City Classic this summer.
As of now, there are no plans to cancel the Bluff City Classic for next year.
LeMoyne-Owen College later issued the following statement regarding the cancellation:
We are deeply saddened by the events that occurred Thursday night in the community near the college. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Fredrick Poplar. Safety and security are a priority at LeMoyne-Owen College. As the proud host of this year’s Bluff City Classic, our security officials worked closely with the tournament’s security staff to successfully ensure visitors to LeMoyne-Owen College’s campus safely enjoyed the games. Our security officials have investigated and concluded that the event was isolated and unrelated to the College. The cancellation of this year’s Classic is unfortunate and we regret basketball fans will not be able to enjoy watching some of Memphis’ most talented players compete.