Vermont Frost Heaves host ABA all-star tournament in Barre

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(Host) This weekend in Barre the Vermont Frost Heaves are playing host to a couple dozen very tall, very talented men.

The American Basketball Association slam dunk contest and All Star game will be at the "Aud" on Friday and Saturday.

VPR’s Jane Lindholm has the story.

(Lindholm) The Vermont Frost Heaves won the ABA championship last year in their first season in the league. This year, before they head into the playoffs, they’re treating Vermonters to a high-speed, high-scoring All Star Game in the Barre Auditorium. Heaves owner Alex Wolff says this is not your typical game.

(Wolff) "I think it will be the best example of the Barre Auditorium as a very intimate venue with just high-octane basketball. Here we’re having the very very best athletes pin-balling around on that small space. Any high school kid who’s played in the Aud will tell you it’s a great floor. So it should be just very very entertaining stuff."

(Lindholm) The ABA has teams from Canada to China to Vermont. So Wolff says this is a chance to see a lot of great basketball players that Vermonters may not be familiar with.

(Wolff) "They’re coming from Long Beach, Texas, Atlanta…we’re hoping to have a player coming from the Bahamas who plays for the Bahamas All Pro Show. His name is Clayton Miller and his nickname is ‘Smily Culture.’ He once scored 90 points in a game. We’ve got a lot of people who’ve scored a lot of points in individual games."

(Lindholm) For the players themselves, this could be more than just a chance to show off. NBA scouts are expected to show up for Saturday’s game. At a recent practice, Frost Heaves coach Will Voigt, who will be coaching the East All Star team, said he’s pleased that the big boys might be looking to poach his players.

(Voigt) "Expect a lot of scoring. (laughs) I’m sure anytime they know that there are NBA scouts in the stands that’s a little added incentive for them. You know, I think it’s a great opportunity exposure-wise. These guys definitely aspire to higher levels and more money, and anything that can help facilitate that is a positive."

(Lindholm) Antonio Burks, a 6-foot-5 forward for the Frost Heaves says in his younger days NBA scouts might have made him nervous, but the 24-year-old two-time All-star isn’t worried this year.

(Burks) "I’m gonna just try to stay focused and play my game. If they like what they see then they like it."

(Lindholm) Burks says a bigger distraction is the fact that the play-offs are coming up less than a week after the All-Star game. Last year Vermont hosted many of the play-off games. This year the games will be played in Quebec City as part of the city’s 400th anniversary. The Frost Heaves received a bye into the Final 8 in the tournament.

But for right now, Coach Voigt, and the two All-stars chosen by the hometown fans, Issa Konare and Antonio Burks, have to get through this weekend. The big game is on Saturday afternoon, and there’s a Hot Shots and Slam Dunk contest on Friday night. Antonio Burks says it’s bound to be a great weekend for the fans, but don’t expect to see him slapping any backboards:

(Burks) "No, you won’t ever catch me dunking anything. I can’t even jump over a piece of paper. I might do the three-point contest, but I’m more of a game shooter."

The East All-stars are hoping he lives up to his reputation on Saturday.

For VPR news, I’m Jane Lindholm.

AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Frost Heaves forward Antonio Burks battles with Quebec City Kebekwa forward Ty Brunson during a 2006 game.

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