New high-speed internet service allowed Jamestown/Bunceton game of the Norm Stewart Classic to be broadcast live to worldwide audience on ESPN3
(STL.News) When Jamestown High School squared off against Bunceton February 2 for its annual homecoming basketball game, many more people than the capacity crowd watched the game. ESPN 3 broadcast the matchup online to a live worldwide audience through its Norm Stewart Classic Game of the Week.
It’s not often that a basketball team from Class 1 — Missouri’s smallest designation — gets a shot at the national spotlight. Jamestown has just 211 students in the entire district and 105 in its high school. An opportunity for national exposure on ESPN 3 prompted everyone involved to pull out all the stops to ensure the production took place without a hitch.
Thanks to Co-Mo Electric Cooperative and its Co-Mo Connect high-speed internet service, that’s exactly what happened. Co-Mo stepped in when a problem all too familiar to rural schools popped up: Jamestown lacked the bandwidth to ensure the broadcast made it back to ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut.
“It takes a certain amount of bandwidth to transmit the signal,” says John Sprugel with Niles Media, the production company that films and feeds the games to ESPN for live streaming. “The bandwidth the school could give probably was OK but we needed it to be 100 percent sure. What they did was very generous and allowed for the signal to get back to ESPN. What they did was put in much more bandwidth than was needed. There was no doubt in our minds that this would be a clean signal.”
Adds Gretchen Guitard, superintendent of Jamestown C-1 School, “The evening of the event there were two representatives (from Co-Mo Connect) here on standby. They were boots on deck that night. They also sent a tech over to install ports. They really went above and beyond. There was absolutely no hesitation on their part to do this.”
Jamestown was one of 48 teams involved in the Norm Stewart Classic, a 48-hour, non-stop tournament honoring Mizzou’s legendary coach while raising money to cure cancer. Now in its 10th year, the classic itself provides great exposure for student athletes while raising money for a worthy cause.
This year three teams from the classic, including Jamestown, were chosen for the national Game of the Week spotlight. The sports network first brought coverage to teams from the classic in 2015 due to the involvement of Norm Stewart, whose success with the basketball Tigers led to his induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
A cancer survivor himself, Norm was happy to lend his name to the annual classic. He continues to make appearances at the tournament and was excited to watch Jamestown compete with its unusually tall lineup for a small school.
“Norm, his mission with the classic is to highlight high school athletes at all levels,” says Susan McNay, business manager of the Norm Stewart Classic. “The reason he was excited about Jamestown was he saw them play in the classic. It was a no-brainer to choose them for this.”
Jamestown will bring a 23-2 record into district tournament action. They currently are ranked third in the state in Class 1. Featuring a 6-foot, 6-inch center and an entire starting lineup taller than 6 feet, the Eagles have been formidable opponents in every game during the 2017-2018 season.
Coach Seth Thomas says the team uses its potent defensive pressure to feed the offense through countless turnovers. “We have six guys who can lead the scoring,” he says. “We play strong defense and attack the rim using our athleticism and size.”
As the school’s physical education teacher in addition to coaching, the coach says he saw students and faculty alike popping into the gymnasium all day long to watch as preparations for the broadcast were made. He says the national exposure prompted an extra effort but no anxiety from his team. “I knew this was going to be a special event. Once school was out people were coming in and reserving their seats.”
The game tipped off with ESPN commentators Neil Harwell and Doug Elstun shoehorned into the full house. Jamestown jumped out to a quick lead off its full court press and never looked back in an easy 86-27 win.
The victory was nice, of course, but ultimately the event went far beyond the gymnasium walls, uniting the community of 386 in central Missouri. Athletes watched the game later that night during the homecoming dance. At a local diner in town patrons clustered around a table to see the team in action. Opposing coaches tuned in to see if the Jamestown hype was real. Distant relatives continue to stream the game from ESPN’s archive at http://s.coop/eagles.
“What’s happened at Jamestown has happened in California and Tipton and other communities in Co-Mo’s service area,” says Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “This shows there is hope for high-speed internet service in rural America for rural schools and kids because of what Co-Mo has done.”
He points out that Co-Mo Electric Manager Ken Johnson recently was tapped by President Trump to head the Rural Utilities Service in large part due to his leadership in providing high-speed internet service to a previously unserved rural area.
In this role Johnson will spearhead the effort to bridge the digital divide that is harming the rural economy and forcing the best and brightest rural kids to move away.