High school basketball showcases have grown in popularity over the last few years to the point where there are seemingly a couple of them every weekend often featuring marquee teams and players.

However one this Saturday is even more important for the impact it will have off the court.

Central Regional High School will host their second annual Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase, a ten-team boys basketball event that has taken on greater meaning since word spread that Central coach Mike Clemente was diagnosed with Mediastinal Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

I first found out from Mike’s parents (Mike and Maureen) on the beach late last summer and from the get-go there was tremendous family and school support on behalf of the 32-year old who along with his wife Allison are the parents of a 16-month old daughter Emily.

Clemente endured what can only be described as incredibly aggressive chemotherapy treatments through the late summer and fall. Treatments that would keep him at Monmouth Medical Center for several days at a time.

In between when he was feeling up to it he would get around a bit and try and catch at least a portion of Central’s football games and while challenging was on the court when the Golden Eagles began basketball practice in late November. The Clemente family got the news they were hoping for just before Christmas…Mike was in remission and cancer free.  He is getting a bit stronger each day and hopes to return to teaching in the classroom by March.

Last year the inaugural Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase raised around $2000 for the American Cancer Society.  This Saturday’s event will blow past that thanks to tremendous support from the business community and all proceeds will go to the Monmouth Medical Center Cancer Services Program which helps implement new technologies and treatments for patients in their fight against cancer.

The first of five games Saturday will find Howell playing Colonia at 11 a.m. and following that it will be Donovan Catholic against Woodbridge (12:30), Mater Dei Prep vs. Red Bank (2pm), Central facing Point Beach (3:30) and then Toms River North taking on Highland Regional (5pm).

Tickets are $5 for an all-day pass, T-Shirts and wrist bands will be sold and donations will be accepted.  Something tells me that regardless of how his team does Mike Clemente will leave the gym on Saturday as a winner.

He’s already conquered his toughest opponent.