The Making of the Annual Shirts vs Skins Basketball Classic

By Mike Preston

Brian O’Shea loves sports and entertainment, and he also wants to give back to the community, so he formed the Annual Shirts vs. Skins Basketball Classic, one of the premiere high school basketball showcases in the country. The two-day event will run on December 2 nd and 3 rd , and feature some of the top teams and talent from across the East coast including Putnam Science Academy with shooting guard Hamidou Diallo as well as St. Benedicts Prep and power forward Bourama Sidebe and Mount Saint Joseph’s duo of forward Jalen Smith and guard Darryl Morsell.

This event is also designed for teaching awareness and treatment of diabetes as well as a contribution to the American Diabetes Association. The 2nd Annual showcase will be played at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.  “You are getting a chance to see great basketball while at the same time helping in a charitable cause,” said Mount Saint Joseph head coach Pat Clatchey.  “It’s the best of both worlds.”

The showcase is the brain child of O’Shea, 56, a full-time loan consultant in the Baltimore area who is also a graduate of Loch Raven High and the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. O’Shea has kept his hand in the entertainment field for almost three decades along with occasionally raising money and working for other charitable causes. When one of O’Shea’s best friends, Dean Batlas, was struck with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, O’Shea helped spearhead a fundraiser for his dying friend. “It feels good to help other people.”

But it has become more personal now. His mother, Connie, and father Patrick, both have Type 2 diabetes. She is blind from the disease, while his father struggles with a burning sensation in his legs and feet. Brian O’Shea also has two friends whose parents have had foot amputations related to diabetes. At first, he was going to host a local pick-up basketball tournament, but after several meetings with committee member and Baltimore Basketball legend Kurk Lee, they decided to create an elite high school basketball showcase. The Annual Shirts vs Skins Basketball Classic was born.

“I wanted to do something in the athletic world and I picked basketball because of my love for March Madness,” said O’Shea, who will have experts in the field speak in between games about diabetes. “I wanted to do something for the community. When I spoke to my basketball buddies, they said that this would be a great community outreach and there needed to be an awareness of diabetes because it is so prevalent in the urban community.” O’Shea wants to educate the public about diabetes and dispel the misconception that just because you work out every day and you are a phenomenal athlete doesn’t mean you are immune to diabetes. “We want to educate and every year we want to grow it. While we have our target market in the arena, I feel we have to do something for the community, where it makes sense.  I want all of this to be relevant.”

This will be the second year for the showcase. In 2015, it consisted of five teams, Calvert Hall, McDonogh and St. Frances Academy from the Baltimore area and St. Benedicts Prep, NJ and Constitution, PA. But this year O’Shea has ten teams from as far as Connecticut to New Jersey down to Virginia. O’Shea has already been in contact with teams from New York, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Illinois, Georgia, West Virginia and Alabama for next year’s event, and has gotten commitments from several of them. “We’d like to make it into a pre-season national showcase or championship,” said O’Shea. “We want more teams like Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep. Huntington Prep said they are coming in next year. IMG in Florida said they are in next year. I have been talking with the best teams in the country.  They know we are out there,” said O’Shea.

But it’s not just about basketball and diabetes. O’Shea has gotten several local media personalities to participate and work with local high school and college mass communications students. They will be taught everything from how to conduct halftime interviews to asking the proper questions at press conferences to writing stories. According to O’Shea, he would like them to learn the business from top to bottom. This is another way of giving back to the Baltimore community. “Students that aren’t familiar with being in front of the camera can use our event to practice their craft,” said O’Shea. “The whole idea is to have students practice how to be a writer and be a sportscaster.  How do I speak in front of the camera or what questions do I ask at a press conference? “Even for the basketball players, when they speak during the press conference, we want to coach them,” said O’Shea. “We want them to sit up straight, use good diction.”

The Annual Shirts vs Skins Basketball Classic is still a work-in- progress. O’Shea has been putting the ideas and concepts together since 2012 working numerous hours to refine and perfect his project. “This event is proof that if you grow your network of friends and acquaintances at an early age, you can obtain your visions later in life. I knew that I could not pull off this complex endeavor alone, it’s all about the Team as evidenced by all the people offering their time to execute this dynamic athletic event. Since this event is really about making an impact on the kids and giving them guidance for the future, we want to convey to them to grow their network of good people early and be a good listener.” This event captures all those qualities.

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