Alex Kline grows Mary Kline Classic into top showcase, raises $104,000 for cancer research


first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 20, 2015 at 10:00 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse Alex Kline slumped down in a folding chair next to the court, his hair mussed and sweat staining his red T-shirt.There was no air conditioning in the The Pennington (New Jersey) School gym. There wasn’t enough parking. Seventeen college-bound recruits played for a crowd thinned by the scheduling of the event — right in the middle of Memorial Day Weekend — and a 16-year-old Kline just wanted the day to end.Looking back four years later, Kline sums up the first Mary Kline Classic in one word:Deflating.“I get a complaint the next day from a father. He said, ‘You promised us dinner and we got cold pizza. My son didn’t get MVP and he led the team in scoring,’” Kline remembered. “And that’s the first call I get after the event.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I didn’t know if I could do it again after that.”He was a year into becoming a wunderkind with his basketball recruiting blog, now TheRecruitScoop on Yahoo!. He started the event to raise money for his mother, Mary Kline, who died from brain cancer when he was 10. And after pushing through what Kline calls a “humble beginning,” the Mary Kline Classic has raised $104,000 for brain cancer research and the fifth annual event is set for May 30 at West Orange (New Jersey) High School.Kline, a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at Syracuse, has molded the Mary Kline Classic into one of the top high school basketball showcases in the country and unveiled another impressive roster on Sunday night. But beyond the big name recruits and name-brand sponsors, the event has helped Kline achieve a decade-old goal of using basketball to connect with athletes, educate his expanding community and keep his mother’s name alive.“Alex Kline isn’t 20 years old. He just isn’t,” Bernie Gurick, Pennington’s head coach, said. “The passion he has and what he’s done with his cause in the last five years is just remarkable.”In middle school, Kline had a hard time making friends and gravitated to the athletes.But when he asked them to hang out on weekends they always told him they were busy. He’d sit at home and assume they were lying because they didn’t like him. Then he realized that they were constantly going to tournaments and practices and he wanted to get involved in the year-round basketball season.Kline went to Gurick, who was his eighth-grade math teacher, and told him he wanted to be a manager for Pennington. The next year Gurick gave him a job filling up water bottles, washing uniforms and handing players towels.He fell in love with being around the game and Gurick said Kline became the best manager he’s ever had.“This process has all been so crazy for me because that beginning really did test how much I loved basketball,” Kline said. “… But it was just about being there and interacting with the guys and that’s where the idea for the classic, from a basketball standpoint, came from.”On New Year’s Eve in 2012, Kline had just gotten home from a Temple-Bowling Green game in Philadelphia when his phone rang. He was close to wrapping up an Under Armor sponsorship with two Mary Kline Classics in the books, but the voice on the other end was offering him Nike’s allegiance.“Yeah, I think we can probably work something out,” Kline remembered saying, and added that that’s when he realized it was more than a high school all-star game.For the first game in 2011, Kline said he had to beg some players to come and saw it as a favor to him. Now he has prospects seek him out and ask to play in the game, some of which he has to turn down.The showcase has added an underclassmen game — for sophomores and juniors — to go along with the senior game. Players get a jersey, sneakers, shorts and a backpack. And after putting together a game of Northeast prospects in the first year, the 2015 rosters include players from Virginia, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, and others committed to play at Stanford, Texas, UNLV and UCLA, among other power-conference schools.It’s all laid out in organized spreadsheets on Kline’s computer. One for the roster breakdown, another for shirt sizes, family tickets, travel plans and so on — a puzzle looking to cure cancer one jump shot at a time.“I have learned so much about basketball and about life from Alex,” said Franklin Howard, who played in the 2014 Mary Kline Classic and is committed to Syracuse for next season. “Playing in the classic was special because I was able to connect with other players and also play for a great cause.”But even with all the growth in the last four years, Kline doesn’t have a clear vision for where he wants the event to go.He sees the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic as great showcase events muddied with politics on and off the court. He wants the Mary Kline Classic to keep its innocence and never lose sight of its goal of saving lives. He doesn’t know where his career will take him but loves the idea of people inadvertently saying his mother’s name for decades to come.Yet he’s a self-coined pragmatist who knows he may not be able to do it forever. So for now, the future for him and the Mary Kline Classic can be boiled down into three steps: four down, another to go and unlimited opportunities ahead.“You know no one’s really patient, whether you’re young or old, everyone wants instant gratification, and I think the same thing goes for cancer research,” Kline said.“We’re all looking for a cure tomorrow, but who knows when it’s going to come? All we can do is keep chipping away at it. I never thought we’d get here so let’s see where we can go.” Commentslast_img

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