Even though he’s probably used to it by now, Chaminade star and Duke recruit Jayson Tatum was more than a willing participant Saturday night after the Highland Optimist Shootout when it came to signing autographs and posing for photos.
Dozens of youngsters were waiting and the 6-foot-9 National Player of the Year candidate did his best to accommodate them all after scoring 32 points in the nationally ranked Red Devils’ 81-66 win over Althoff.
“I thought it was really cool that he did that,” said Highland Shootout organizer Matt Powers, whose six-game event attracted an overflow crowd of more than 3,100, “The games were great and certainly entertaining. All the stars shined in every one of them.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a basketball gym look like that before, with that many people.”
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Powers said a live audio-video feed of the Shootout games, broadcast throughout the day by Bruce “Moose” Lloyd and Darren Altadonna, attracted a peak audience of more than 1,300 during the Althoff-Chaminade finale.
Powers has confirmed that Althoff, Peoria Manual, Chaminade and Vianney will return to the field next year.
Powers is also hopeful that Father Tolton, from Columbia, Mo., will be back, with its twin-tower brothers of 6-foot-10 sophomore Jontay Porter and 6-9 junior Michael Porter Jr. Jontay Porter has verbally committed to Washington and Michael Porter is being sought by Duke and most of the country’s top programs.
Powers said Belleville East and Stevenson, from upstate Lincolnshire, will be in the field next year. East will have one of the top players in the state in Javon Pickett, as well as guard Rico Sylvester. Both will be seniors.
Stevenson features Justin Smith, a 6-7 junior, and 6-2 guard Willie Herenton. Smith has received interest from several Division I schools, while St. Louis University is one of the teams interested in Herenton.
Missouri teams went 4-0 against Illinois teams at the Shootout. Chaminade beat Althoff, Father Tolton beat Peoria Manual, Vianney beat Highland and Hazelwood Central beat Springfield Lanphier.
On deck, the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout
Some of the top teams and players from Chicago and the St. Louis region will be on display Feb. 6 at the second annual Bank of O’Fallon Shootout at O’Fallon High School.
The inaugural event was a success, capped off by a double-overtime thriller between Althoff and Westchester St. Joseph that saw both teams meet again for the Class 3A state championship. Tatum and Chamimade also played at O’Fallon last year.
“You’re at the mercy of the games themselves as far as the Shootout goes,” said Cory Patton, O’Fallon’s assistant athletic director. “We got real lucky last year with St. Joe’s and Althoff having such a great double-overtime game and then being in the state championship.
“We’ve got great teams again and great matchups again. You always want to improve it, so you’re always looking at small things.”
Patton said there will be two separate sessions at the Shootout, the first including the first three games and the second including the final four contests. Tickets are $10 for each session and go on sale during normal business hours Jan. 18 at C&C Sports in O’Fallon and Jan. 19 at the Bank of O’Fallon.
Some tickets will also be available at participating schools.
The gym will be cleared after the first session and no all-day passes are available. One recent game scheduling change involved O’Fallon and Columbia switching times and opponents.
Bank of O’Fallon Shootout Schedule
O’Fallon vs. Peoria Richwoods, 10:30 a.m.
Nashville vs. St. Joseph Ogden, noon
Centralia vs. Hinsdale South, 1:30 p.m.
Columbia vs. DeKalb, 4:15 p.m.
CBC vs. Westchester St. Joseph, 5:45 p.m.
Hazelwood Central vs. Morgan Park, 7:15 p.m.
Althoff vs. Chicago Kenwood, 8:45 p.m.
“Mr. Basketball in Illinois is probably going to come out of our Shootout somehow,” Patton said, mentioning a group that includes Morgan Park star Charlie Moore, St, Joseph’s 6-11 center Nick Rakosevic and Hinsdale South’s 6-9 Northwestern recruit, Barret Benson.
Morgan Park (12-1), which lost to Althoff in the 3A state semifinals last season, is ranked 16th in the latest USA Today Super 25 poll and first in the Chicago Sun-Times Super 25 rankings. Kenwood (11-1) knocked off recent Class 4A top-ranked Curie last week.
Marissa star hits 1,000 points
Before Friday’s Cahokia Conference game against rival New Athens, Marissa High junior guard Kyle Smith needed 23 points to reach 1,000 points for his career.
Smith not only got those 23 points Friday, he collected them in the first half and went on to score a career-high 35 in a 47-26 victory by the Meteors.
“I don’t think he had any idea because we hadn’t really talked about it with Kyle,” said Marissa coach Scott Wine, who was happy when the home-team New Athens public address announcer let all the fans know about the accomplishment. “Kyle was on fire that night. He put on quite a little show.”
The last of the previous nine Marissa players to reach the 1,000-point mark was Smith’s older brother, Joey Smith. Marissa’a all-time leading scorer is Brad Schoenbeck with 1,596 points from 1974-77.
“He’s one of the best players in this area that nobody knows anything about,” said Marissa assistant coach Jason Smith, no relation.
Wine said his talented 5-9 junior guard loves to score but is also extremely unselfish, even on a 5-9 team currently playing without three injured starters.
“I think what stands out to me more than anything is just his court awareness,” Wine said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’ve never had anybody that can handle the ball and see the court like him. I know everybody looks at his point total, but his assist total is what stands out to me.
“He’s definitely not a selfish player. We need him to get his shots up for sure because we struggle a little offensively, but he likes to get his teammates involved, too.”
Smith averages 17 points as a sophomore and 16.7 points as a freshman.
When Wine spoke with his Smith following his sophomore season, the one major piece of advice he imparted was to go get stronger. Smith still isn’t approaching Division I linebacker size, but Wine is happy with the improvement based on a full offseason of workouts.
“He’s still pretty thin, but he spent the whole summer in the weight room and he’s noticeably stronger,” Wine said.
Smith is on pace to break Marissa’s all-time records for both scoring and assists.
“Who doesn’t want a guard that can handle the ball like him and can shoot it — and is an assist guy first in his mind,” asked Wine, who believes Smith can definitely play at the college level. “It’s always nice when your best player is your hardest worker. He knows that he has to get stronger to do to play at the next level.”
(David Wilhelm also supplied information for this story).
Belleville News-Democrat Boys Basketball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses; records through Sunday:
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
East St. Louis
Also receiving votes: Columbia (12-1), Granite City (8-6), Mater Dei (9-3), Highland (9-7), Collinsville (5-8), Civic Memorial (10-4)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Wesclin (6-8), Roxana (9-6), Madison (4-7), Carlyle (6-9)