Duke WBB showcased at Annual V Foundation Dinner

Joe Faraoni, ESPN Images

Joe Faraoni, ESPN Images

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The V Foundation for Cancer Research and Team ESPN hosted the 19th Jimmy V Classic Dinner at Gotham Hall on Wednesday.

The event honored the six men’s and women’s basketball teams participating in this year’s Jimmy V Basketball Classics Presented by Corona Extra.

The men’s doubleheader, held at the famed Madison Square Garden for the 11th consecutive year, will tip off at 7 p.m. ET with Cincinnati facing former conference foe Pittsburgh, followed by Florida against Memphis at 9 p.m.

The 12th annual Women’s Classic will showcase the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies tipping off against the Duke Blue Devils at historic Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

“Well from the very beginning, we were fortunate to be in the very first Jimmy V Classic,” Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said.

“From that point in time, it’s been a tremendous event for us, for our players, for our coaches and for our university. There’s a lot of reasons why we do it, and we’ll keep doing it.”

In coming into Cameron Indoor Stadium, Auriemma knows that his experienced team will go head-to-head against a similarly experienced Duke squad.

“Sometimes you’re not quite sure what you have coming back after a national championship,” Auriemma continued.

“This is one of those years we’ve got just about our entire team coming back. Obviously the expectation is to win another National Championship. I know that’s how the players feel and that’s how we feel. We’ve played down there so many times. Playing Duke is always difficult no matter where you play them. At Duke, they’ve got a tremendous place to play. Cameron is always a difficult arena to play in. Given the fact that we’ve been so successful against them the last four or five years, I don’t think we’re going to get a warm welcome down there.”

Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie and her team will be ready to face the Huskies once again and appreciate the opportunity to do so as part of the Jimmy V Basketball Classic.

“I used to watch Coach Valvano religiously and I graduated high school the year the national title was won in 1983,” McCallie said.

“What does this event and The V Foundation mean? It’s what we do. It’s what sports does. Sports teaches life lessons, struggle, adversity and overcoming it. I was so moved by the way Jimmy V overcame so much. Meeting his family, being close with Nick (Valvano), that’s been a real treasure for me. We are coaches, we do coach basketball, but there are things beyond basketball that are very important.”

Along with senior guard Chelsea Gray, who will return after recovering from a season-ending knee injury last season, McCallie and her team will prepare to challenge UConn on its home court.

“We’ve had four straight years of making it to the Elite Eight and we’ve lost to some fantastic teams,” McCallie continued.

“Chelsea Gray has gone through some extensive diversity. She went through a knee dislocation in February. It hurt our team, but our team still found a way to the Elite Eight. It would be great to honor her in her senior year and see if we can march right through from that adversity. We’ve got a lot of different things motivating us.”

Gray was equally excited to play such a high profile game during a pivotal season for her and the Blue Devils program.

“It’s definitely great to have the community behind you and play at home,” Gray said of playing the game with the added exposure of it being part of the V Classic.

“Who doesn’t love to play in their own house? I’m excited for the game and definitely to just be able to get back on the court. We haven’t really focused on the opponent just yet, more so on The V Foundation cause.”