LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The college basketball season is on the horizon, but ESPN hoops guru Dick Vitale has something else on his mind right now.
The focus of his attention is the fourth annual Dick Vitale International Collegiate Clay Court Classic to be held next month at the Athletic Center at Lakewood Ranch.
Tennis has long been a passion for Vitale, and it played a role in him moving from Michigan to Lakewood Ranch so his daughters could train at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
His daughters, Sherri and Terri, fined-tuned their skills well enough to have storied careers at Saint Stephen's and earn scholarships to Notre Dame, which will be one of the teams participating in the event, scheduled for Nov. 8-10.
Other participating teams include Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Memphis, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida Gulf Coast, Arizona, Princeton, Mississippi, Mississippi State and reigning men's national champion Virginia.
The tournament will consist of men's and women's singles and doubles with a 32-competitor singles draw and 16-competitor doubles draw.
The tournament also is at the top of Vitale's list because it gives him an opportunity to raise money for cancer research through the V Foundation, which has brought him worldwide fame off the basketball court.
"This is going to be a great
tournament, and I am so excited about it," Vitale said. "It's an honor to be part of this, and everyone who likes tennis should come out and see all these big-time, quality players. I will host a party for the players and myself, and Nick will to talk to them about the game of life."
The tournament will precede the Vitale's 35th year broadcasting college basketball games. A few days after the tennis event, Vitale will be behind the mike at the United Center in Chicago on Nov. 12th to do the Duke-Kansas game, which is part of a doubleheader that also includes Kentucky vs. Michigan State.
Vitale said this is the only clay court tournament in college tennis this year. More importantly, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the V Foundation efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
"You know how I feel about the kids. No kid should have to deal with that disease, and anything we can do to help we will," Vitale said. "We will sell banners, and the money from that will go to the V Foundation."
A donor who purchases a banner at a certain price will be invited to the Vitale players and coaches' party Nov. 7 at his Lakewood Ranch home.
Sponsorship level purchase range from $500 for a one-court banner to $10,000 for a title sponsorship that includes banners on all the courts.
Anyone interested in purchasing a banner or making a donation should contact Paul Lederman at 941-907-2255 or make checks payable to CP Tennis Productions and send to Athletic Center of Lakewood Ranch, c/o Paul Lederman, 8488 Legacy Blvd., Bradenton, FL, 34202.