COLLINSVILLE — Senior Malcolm Hill and the Belleville East Lancers will put their undefeated record to the test this week in the 29th annual Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic.
The top-seeded Lancers are 9-0 and will be shooting for their second championship in Collinsville in the last three years when they open the tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday against Missouri entry Riverview Gardens (1-6).
The 6-foot-7 Hill was the tournament's most valuable player as a sophomore in 2010. The Illinois signee has pushed aside his summertime bout with thoracic outlet syndrome and is averaging 22.7 points and six rebounds.
"He has done some really nice things for us throughout the year, and he's becoming more of a leader, which we need him to be," first-year Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. "But the good thing about our team is we do have guys who are capable on any given night to step up for us offensively and defensively."
Junior Darreon Reddick, a 6-3 point guard, continues to polish his Division I resume by averaging 13.8 points and 3.3 assists. Cameron Hunter, a 6-4 junior, is a first-year starter averaging 10.4 points and five rebounds, while 6-1 senior Khalil Smith-Traylor averages nine points.
"Obviously, it's early on in the season," said Schrader, an Okawville High graduate who was an assistant at Belleville West for nine seasons. "I think we are playing harder. We're playing as a team pretty well. We're going to have to continue to get better as the season goes on, but we're looking forward to the opportunity to play some good teams in the Collinsville tournament.
"It's nice to be recognized as the No. 1 seed, but in order to be the No. 1 seed, you've got to come in and be ready to play and prove that you're worthy of that seeding. We have to be ready to go."
The Lancers went 3-1 and placed fifth last year, losing only to tournament champion McCluer North.
Schrader is pleased that the Lancers have developed enough threats around Hill to keep defenses honest.
"Teams have tried to take away Malcolm and Darreon a little bit, and we've had other guys like Cameron Hunter and Khalil Smith step up," Schrader said. "And (seniors) Terrance Akins and James White have come in and played really well for us.
"We're fortunate in that regard --that we do have good balance. In order for us to continue to have success, we've got to have that balance. We can't win games with just one guy, and I think our kids are buying into that a little bit."
Three teams from the Central State Eight Conference, Chatham Glenwood, Springfield Southeast and Lincoln, landed the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds, although the tournament is filled with possible contenders that did not land seeds, including Quincy (8-1), East St. Louis (4-6), Oakville (4-1) and Althoff (7-2).
Second-seeded Chatham Glenwood (9-2), which won the consolation title last year by beating Lincoln, opens the tournament against Decatur Eisenhower (2-7) at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. The Titans' only losses are to Jacksonville by six points and Lincoln by two points.
Guard Peyton Allen, a 6-4 junior, made the all-tournament team last season and already has received scholarship offers from Iowa, Oklahoma State, Bradley, Toledo, Idaho State and Southeast Missouri State, with others sure to come.
"Peyton has shot really well," Chatham Glenwood coach Todd Blakeman said. "He scored a lot early, but he's slowed down lately, which is expected. He's being double-teamed about every time down the floor.
"But he's a basketball player and he's a Division I player, so we're going to ride his wave."
Senior guard Miles McAdams has given the Titans a complementary scoring threat, while 6-5 senior Craig Fuchs, 6-5 junior Josh Matchuny and 6-2 junior Tyler Brown also are key contributors.
Allen and McAdams are sharing point-guard responsibilities while sophomore Cole Harper recovers from mono. Daniel Helm, a 6-5 junior, also will miss the tournament with a groin injury.
"We're short on the bench right now; we're short on role players," Blakeman said. "Our kids are going to have to step up and shoot the ball, guard and rebound like they're capable of doing."
Third-seeded Springfield Southeast is 6-2, its losses to Cahokia and Lincoln coming by a combined five points. The Spartans, who open against Granite City (6-4) at 4 p.m. Thursday, have a legitimate backcourt in 5-11 seniors Jagger Anderson and Herman Senor, an all-tournament selection as a sophomore in 2010.
Anderson and Senor make a difference in all facets of the game --steals and rebounds on defense, 3-pointers and penetration baskets on offense. Jalen Henry, a 6-8 senior, is capable of a double-double in any given game for the Spartans.
Fourth-seeded Lincoln (8-2), which will play Oakville at 1 p.m. Thursday, has lost only to Cahokia and Jacksonville by a combined seven points.
Max Cook, a 6-2 junior, and 5-9 senior Will Podbelsek, lead the Railsplitters. Gavin Block, a 6-5 sophomore, Joey Olden, a 5-11 junior, and Edward Bowlby, a 6-3 junior, complete the starting lineup.
East St. Louis senior Deshawn Munson returns as a top attraction. The 6-4 Munson averages 16.5 points, 11.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists, and has support in seniors Johnny McCray (15.2 points, 9.1 rebounds) and Daniel Williams (10 points).
Tony Young is in his first season as the Flyers' coach.
Althoff's backcourt has sparked its fast start. Junior Kevin Renner averages a team-high 16.6 points playing alongside freshman Brendon Gooch, averaging 10.1 points. Crusaders coach Greg Leib is comfortable using 10 or 11 players in each game.
Quincy returns three starters in 6-0 senior Cole Abbey, 5-11 senior Mason Fairley and 6-3 senior Martin Kvitle. Jason Salrin, a 6-7 senior, and Luka Radovic, a 6-8 junior, give the Blue Devisl scoring ability and defensive presence in the blocks.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.