In the eight years local organizer Matt Powers has been helping put together the Highland Optimist Shootout, and despite near constant star-level talent and teams, there has never been a complete sellout.
That could change Saturday thanks to an appearance by the Chaminade Red Devils from St. Louis and their No. 1 attraction, 6-foot-9 junior Jayson Tatum. Besides being the No. 1 junior prospect in the country according to Scout.com, Tatum does things that most 6-9 players can only dream about.
“We’ve never sold this out, but this is a unique year,” Powers said.
Tatum is averaging 27.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, but also leads the team with 19 3-pointers and 40 assists. He can take defenders right to the rim off the dribble with no problem. Last Friday, Tatum rocked powerful (Lincolnshire) Stevenson from Chicago, the top-ranked 4A team in Illinois that includes All-American point guard Jalen Brunson, for 39 points and 14 rebounds in an 88-81 victory.
That game was in Wheeling, W. Va., and included Kentucky coach John Calipari in the stands as his Wildcats are among 10 finalists for Tatum. Among the others are Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri and St. Louis University.
“He’s versatile, he’s a great rebounder, he can create a shot from anywhere and can create shots for others,” Chaminade coach Frank Bennett said. “He’s completely unselfish and is the consummate team player. He’s always looking to get other people involved. When one of your best players is doing that, you’re on to something good.”
Tatum and Chaminade are the marquee game at 5:15 p.m. Saturday against a 9-2 (Chicago) St. Rita squad led by Kentucky recruit Charles Matthews, Myles Carter (offers from DePaul, Memphis and Providence), Tulane recruit Kain Harris and Tennessee State recruit Armani Chaney.
Chaminade has five players above 6-6 on its roster, including 6-9 junior Division I recruit Tyler Cook (13.2 ppg) and 6-10 junior Will Gladson. Cook already has offers from Kansas, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri and St. Louis U.
St. Rita is ranked third among Illinois 4A teams. St. Rita’s only two losses are to nationally ranked teams (St. Joseph of Westchester and New York’s Christ the King). The Mustangs also have beaten state powerhouse Chicago Simeon.
“I think that game alone will definitely be standing-room only,” Powers said. “It’s not only just Tatum, but who they’re playing. We’ve had more demand for advance tickets than we’ve ever had by far. I think it’s because of the opportunity to see him play against the kid that’s going to Kentucky. Between both teams you’ve got eight Division I kids.
“We’re planning on setting up some additional seating.”
That’s almost mandatory since Saturday’s attractive schedule highlighted by Chaminade-St. Rita figures to pack the 3,000-seat gymnasium. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.
Powers said his dream Shootout matchup for next year involves getting Chaminade back to play against Althoff, which will return all but one player from a 12-1 team ranked fourth in the state in 3A.
“I’d like to see that happen, but they’ve got a lot of people pulling at them,” he said.
The 24th annual Highland Shootout continues to be among the most popular in the region. It has given local fans a chance to watch more than 50 eventual Division I players and more than a dozen future NBA players.
A look at other shootout games: