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Mars basketball, Robby Carmody invited to two national events

Chris Harlan
| Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, 10:57 p.m.
Mars Area’s Robby Carmody (24) battles Neumann-Goretti’s Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (10) during the PIAA Class AAA boys basketball championship on Friday, March 18, 2016 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Neumann-Goretti won 99-66.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Mars Area’s Robby Carmody (24) battles Neumann-Goretti’s Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (10) during the PIAA Class AAA boys basketball championship on Friday, March 18, 2016 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. Neumann-Goretti won 99-66.

The quarterback at Pine-Richland isn't the only Notre Dame recruit bringing national attention to the WPIAL.

Mars basketball's Robby Carmody, another four-star Irish commit, has his team headed to two invitational events this winter. Organizers announced this week that Mars was selected for the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., and also the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W.Va.

“It's maybe not on the same stage as being on ESPN like Pine has been able to do with Phil (Jurkovec),” Mars coach Rob Carmody said, “but any time you can get out and play nationally, it's a great thing for the kids in our program. It allows us to showcase what we're about.”

In Florida from Dec. 20-22, Mars is expected to open its City of Palms Classic trip against Wisconsin's Kaukauna High School, a team that features senior guard Jordan McCabe, a WVU commit ranked No. 84 nationally by ESPN. Robby Carmody is No. 80.

The City of Palms Classic is a decades-old event with a reputation for drawing top talent. Organizers list 128 alumni who became NBA draft picks since 1989. That list includes recent participants D'Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball. Schenley with DeJuan Blair participated in 2006. This year's lineup features Zion Williamson, ESPN's No. 2-ranked recruit, from Spartanburg, S.C.

“What's nice is they do such a nice job, it's so well funded that they basically cover your costs,” Rob Carmody said. “They get you hotels and food and vans and everything else. It's really kind of unique. Same with the CRC, they really take care of you.”

Mars and Kaukauna won't be matched with the national-caliber powers or prep schools. Instead, there's a four-team “signature series” for public schools much like themselves. The two others are Corbin, Ky., and Thomaston Upson-Lee of Georgia.

“They found four small-town America teams with less than 1,000 people in your town, like Mars and Kaukauna,” Carmody said.

In West Virginia, Mars will face Wheeling Central Catholic on Jan. 6 at Wheeling Jesuit University. Also picked for the Cancer Research Classic was First Love Christian Academy of Washington. First Love faces Findlay (W.Va.) Prep on Jan. 5.

The CRC is organized by Dr. Gregory “Doc” Merrick, director of Wheeling Hospital's Schiffler Cancer Center. Merrick visited a Mars practice last winter, talked with the team and invited them to Wheeling.

Mars, eager to accept, has traveled often in recent years, with trips to Orlando, Las Vegas and Elmira, N.Y.

“When I got the Mars job, one of the first things I did was I went to our boosters, and I said we need to create a buzz,” said Carmody, who's entering his 20th season as coach. “Mars had been down; it hadn't been in the playoffs. The boosters were great, the families and everyone else. We went to the old Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic. That was my second year. I don't think it's any coincidence that same year we made the playoffs for the first time in, I don't know what it was, 15 or 16 years.

“When you get these opportunities to do it, you run with it,” added Carmody, explaining how the trickledown effect can extend all the way to youth-league teams. “Obviously, it helps having Robby and him having the name he has, but it really allows us to showcase our entire program.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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