When Derby athletic director Russell Baldwin was approached about moving the Panthers' basketball doubleheader with Southeast to Koch Arena as part of a City League showcase, he didn't hesitate.
"We were trying to find any date to play that game and we were going to bend over backward to do that," Baldwin said.
The City League will have four boys and girls games tonight at Koch Arena and eight on Saturday. But it's the first time in a decade that a non-league game was made part of the weekend.
"We jumped at it," said Baldwin, whose boys team is 5-0. "We thought it would be a great idea."
Even Marc Haught, Maize district athletic director, was immediately on board. Even though his teams won't be there.
"The more of our schools that we have in those high-profile games, the better for all the schools in the league," said Haught, also the vice president of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League. "On behalf of the league, I want all our schools to be in those showcases."
Playing games at Koch Arena gives players a chance to play on a major-college court while allowing fans to watch multiple schools.
"It gives everyone a wonderful opportunity to see all the teams," City League athletic director J Means said. "If you go both nights, you would get to see 10 great basketball games for $12.
"... My ultimate wish is to get 10,000 people in there like the Shockers get. Now wouldn't that be exciting?"
The schedule could be much different next season. Haught said there are negotiations with area facilities to host a sort of City League-AV-CTL showdown. The nine City League schools would play AV-CTL schools at one or two area arenas.
The City League and AV-CTL already meet frequently. But the schedule would be over a one or two-day period.
"I think it's in the communities' best interest," Haught said. "J is very progressive and a good thinker in that regard. We both consider our leagues premier leagues in this area, and the more we interact with each other, it's good for our leagues and the community."
The matchups haven't been decided, but most likely some of the same matchups between the two leagues this season would remain.
As for this weekend's schedule, City League coaches are thrilled at returning to Wichita State.
"We love this opportunity to play at Koch Arena," East boys coach Ron Allen said. "And for fans, the ability to see the game in that setting — its got good visibility, the parking is great, everything is right at your fingertips."
There's top-notch players to see, too. North junior Conner Frankamp, who made an oral commitment to play at Kansas, will be in the spotlight when the Redskins play South at 8:15 tonight.
Kapaun and East boys play at 1:15 p.m. Saturday in a matchup of two top City League teams, and the game of the weekend is Northwest-Heights at 8:15 Saturday night.
Northwest and Heights, both 5-0, played in the Class 6A tournament in March — Heights is the three-time defending champ — and there are top players on both teams. Heights' Perry Ellis and Gavin Thurman have signed with Division I schools, and Northwest point guard Craig Nicholson is a Fort Hays State signee.
And the best part of it is, it's doubtful anyone will be turned away, as was the case when Heights played at North to open the season.
That game was a sellout by halftime of the girls game.
"I'm always in favor of giving the kids an opportunity to play on a bigger stage," Heights coach Joe Auer said."... And what a great game for 8:15 Saturday night. There's going to be a lot of talent on the court and teams that have had a lot of success."