Kanayo Obi-Rapu Jr. couldn’t have imagined his high school senior project would turn into this.
Obi-Rapu, who is from Greensboro and plays basketball at East Tennessee State, was looking for a way to honor his good friend Josh Level, who died in 2013 while playing basketball from myocarditis, a viral infection that attacks the heart muscle. He was 17.
Obi-Rapu and Level both played at High Point's Westchester Country Day and New Garden Friends School in Greensboro.
As a way to honor his friend, Obi-Rapu in 2014 put on an all-star basketball game in Greensboro for his high school senior project. Right away the event drew some big names, including future UNC star Theo Pinson, and Caleb and Cody Martin, twin brothers who both started at N.C. State before transferring to Nevada.
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“Ever since then it took off from there,” Obi-Rapu said.
The event has grown, moving from Southeast Guildford High School to Greensboro Dudley High School, where on Saturday future college players such as Ian Steere (N.C. State), Coby White (UNC) and Joey Baker (Duke) will play in the 2018 Josh Level Classic.
The game will also feature some of the top prep players in North Carolina, including Cox Mills' five-star junior forward Wendell Moore, Jr., who is considering Duke, N.C. State, UNC and Wake Forest, and Jalen Lecque of Christ School, a five-star guard who is considering UNC and N.C. State. Lecque is ranked the No. 1 player in North Carolina in the Class of 2019, according to 247Sports, Moore is ranked No. 2.
Obi-Rapu said the game has grown to the point where players are reaching out during the year requesting to play — and sometimes they have to turn players away because the rosters are already filled.
“Joey Baker, who’s going to Duke, he’s reaching out asking to play and other guys who are big time are reaching out,” Obi-Rapu said. “It’s blown up bigger than I imagined. It’s no credit to me, it’s just like Josh’s legacy and the community really got behind it.”
Proceeds from the game go to "Smile For Josh," a non-profit Obi-Rapu started to raise awareness for cardiac health risk in high school student-athletes. Obi-Rapu said the event has gotten bigger since its inception, and he wants to expand beyond a basketball game and has plans to host a basketball camp soon.
“It’s just getting bigger and bigger and I have no idea where it’s going to go, and I’m grateful that we keep having the opportunity to make it better,” Obi-Rapu said.
Here are the 2018 Josh Level Classic players and where they have committed or where they are considering:
▪ Jalen Lecque - G (UNC, N.C. State)
▪ Aaron Wiggins - SG (Maryland commit)
▪ Jaelyn Withers - SF (Louisville, Boston College, Clemson, UConn, Charlotte)
▪ Trey McGowens - PG/SG (Pittsburgh commit)
▪ Keyshaun Langley - G/F (ECU, Va. Tech)
▪ Immanuel Bates - F/C (N.C. State commit)
▪ Wendell Moore - G-F (UNC, N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest, South Carolina)
▪ Isaiah Bigelow - SG (Wofford commit)
▪ Connor Crabtree - SG (Tulane commit)
▪ Jacob Crutchfield - PG (Fayetteville State commit)
▪ Jaden Springer - SG (N.C. State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Texas)
▪ Coby White - G (North Carolina commit)
▪ John Newman - G (Clemson commit)
▪ Greg Gantt - SF (Louisville, South Carolina, Va. Tech)
▪ Patrick Williams - SF (FSU, Louisville, Maryland, Illinois)
▪ Daivien Williamson - PG (East Tennessee State University commit)
▪ Ian Steere - F/C (N.C. State commit)
▪ Elijah McCadden G/F (Ga. Southern commit)
▪ Joey Baker F (Duke commit)
▪ Will Dillard - SG (Wake Forest, Notre Dame, UNCW)
▪ Jalen Cone - PG (Hampton, Ole Miss, Clemson, Ga. Tech, Kentucky)
▪ Ahmad Jeffries - SG (Unsigned)
▪ Hunter Tyson - SF (Clemson commit)
Josh Level Classic
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Greensboro Dudley High School, Greensboro
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 kids, 8 and under get in free