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Archive for Monday, April 1, 2002

Trade show vendors try to score with NCAA fans

April 1, 2002

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— Win or lose on the basketball court in the Georgia Dome, business at the Final Four moved Sunday at fast-break pace.

Two-dozen corporate partners of the NCAA Tournament demonstrated their dedication to intercollegiate athletics by trying to seduce 50,000 fans into switching brand loyalties.

"Let's see," mused former KU student Stephen Turner, now of Kansas City, Kan., "I know now to eat dinner at Taco Bell, top it off with a Hershey's bar, wash it down with Aquafina, drive a Pontiac, call my wife through Cingular, stay at a Holiday Inn and pay for it all with an American Express."

Next door to the Georgia Dome, where the Kansas Jayhawks lost Saturday to the Maryland Terrapins, the National Association of Basketball Coaches' trade show had the wares of 130 companies.

In that mix was a salesman who knows what it's like to win and lose in business as well as on the court.

Ernie "Kush" Kusnyer, who played basketball from 1969 to 1973 at Kansas State University, was selling a full line of athletic apparel with DC Sports of Upper Saddle River, N.J.

"I once held Bud Stallworth to 33 points," he joked, "but he had to put up 35 shots."

He said the 2002 NABC Expo was a tremendous opportunity to make connections with some of the association's 5,000 member coaches.

"If they want to find something to improve their basketball program, it's here," he said.

A nearby vendor, Tom Lee, had spent three days putting a successful spin on his company's Shoot-A-Way. The folding device has a 12-foot net that forces a player to shoot with high arch and an automatic shot return device that fires a pass back to the player.

"Coaches love it," said Lee, of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. "We're in trouble. We've sold more than we can make."

Price: $4,250 each.

"That sounds like a lot, but we're selling them to parents who want their children to shoot properly," he said. "It's an investment. Think of the value of a college scholarship. If you can shoot the ball, you can play somewhere."

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