Boys Basketball

Hardwood Heaven: Bank of O’Fallon Shootout features top area teams

Basketball extravaganzas come and go, but Rick Gibson is betting the inaugural Bank of OFallon Shootout on Saturday will be the exception.

“There are a lot of places that have started shootouts and a year or two later, they fizzle out,” said Gibson, the coach at O’Fallon. “I don’t think ours is going to be that way.”

Two years of planning have resulted in an intriguing six-game card at the 3,000 plus-seat Panther Dome. Some of the top teams in the metro-east and St. Louis will match up against central and northern Illinois powerhouses in a 10-hour event sure to satisfy the hunger of every hoops junkie.

“We got a lot of the top teams we were going after,” Gibson said. “They were all interested in coming down. You never know with some of those Chicago teams, if they want to make a trip all the way down to Southern Illinois.

“We were excited to be able to get the teams that we got, and now we already have teams lined up for year two.”

Play begins at 12:15 p.m. with Columbia facing Morris. The rest of the schedule is: Vianney vs. (Maple Park) Kaneland, 1:45; Collinsville vs. Normal, 3:15; Althoff vs. (Westchester) St. Joseph, 5:15; O’Fallon vs. Bolingbrook, 6:45; and East St. Louis vs. Chaminade, 8:15.

Chaminade features perhaps the best high-school player in the country in 6-foot-9 junior Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 26.9 points and 12.6 rebounds.

Gibson hopes Chaminade and St. Joseph, with their junior-laden lineups, will return in 2016 to join already-committed Althoff, East St. Louis and Columbia. New teams next year include Nashville, Carbondale and Hinsdale Central, whose five-star center, Peter Blust, already has received offers from most Big Ten teams, including Illinois.

“We’re really hoping to get St. Joe’s back because they’ve got the No. 1 junior in the state (Nick Rakocevic), where the kid from Hinsdale Central is the No. 2 junior,” Gibson said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Gibson said just 500 general-admission tickets remained. He is anticipating a sellout; if there are any tickets available Saturday, he believes they will sell quickly.

“My advice would be if you haven’t bought them ahead of time, get here for Game 1 on Saturday because they’re going to be gone by the time some of those big games in the afternoon roll around,” Gibson said. “I would hate for somebody who really wants to be there to miss out. Unfortunately, we only have so much room.”

Rundown of games

East St. Louis vs. Chaminade: Chaminade (14-3) has played in numerous shootouts and marquee events the last two seasons and the biggest reason is Tatum. Rated as the top junior player in the nation by Scout.com and other recruiting services, Tatum has been helping fill gyms throughout his career.

Already this season, Chaminade has played in Maryland, West Virginia and Massachusetts along with Missouri and Illinois. Chaminade was 30th in the latest USA Today Super 25 national rankings.

The son of former St. Louis University standout and current CBC coach Justin Tatum, Jayson Tatum also averages four assists to go along with his 28 3-pointers and 28 blocked shots. He’s as comfortable handling the ball as he is dunking it and is a strong outside threat.

Chaminade has five players at least 6-6 led by Tatum and including 6-9 junior power forward Tyler Cook (12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds). Junior Mike Lewis averages just under 11 points.

Cook has offers from Kansas, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri and St. Louis U. Tatum can virtually name his school; his suitors include Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, Missouri and SLU.

The Red Devils have won five straight since losing 77-75 to Chicago juggernaut St. Rita in a game that attracted a standing room-only crowd of more than 3,000 to the Highland Optimist Shootout.

East St. Louis (14-5), ranked seventh in the Class 4A state rankings, also suffered its last loss at the Highland Shootout, 70-62 to Normal.

The Flyers are playing in a bit of turmoil with coach Tony Young suspended with pay during the school district’s investigation into an audio recording of his remarks to the team last month.

Hank Harris, most recently a college coach and the son of former East St. Louis Lincoln coach Tree Harris, was appointed as interim coach and was on the bench last Friday for a 96-66 victory over visiting Belleville East.

Teams don’t come much more balanced by the Flyers, who feature one of the nation’s premier sophomore prospects in 6-11 center Jeremiah Tilmon (10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 58 blocked shots).

The Flyers’ offense also is ignited by Antonio Johnson (10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds), Antony Johnson (8.3 points, 27 3-pointers), Tyrone Riley (8.6 points) and Karon Randolph (8.3 points).

O’Fallon vs. Bolingbrook: Gibson expects an up-and-down struggle against the Raiders, who were 13-5 before their game Friday against Joliet West.

Bolingbrook sets the tempo with a three-guard lineup of 6-0 seniors Prentiss Nixon and Brodric Thomas, and 6-1 junior Devon Sams. Nixon has signed with Colorado State, while Thomas has an offer from Chicago State and is being recruited heavily by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Northern Illinois.

“All three of them are what I would call combo guards,” Gibson said. “They’re kids who can handle it, but also shoot it.”

Nixon is the ringleader.

“Nixon seems to alway be under control,” Gibson said. “When the ball’s in his hands, things seem to settle down. He shoots it from anywhere on the court. I’ve seen tape of him shooting it from 25, 28 feet. He’s got deep range and he’s super-quick, too.

“He can get by guys. He’s an unselfish player and his passing seems to be above maybe those other guys.”

Julian Torres is a 6-8 senior center who has signed with Wisconsin-Green Bay. Bolingbrook’s other starter is 6-4 senior Dimitri Akenten. Zach Grady, a 6-5 junior, is usually the top player off the bench. Gibson said Torres isn’t a shot-blocker like Tilmon or Collinsville senior Emondre Rickman, but he’s relentless on the offensive boards, turning rebounds into points.

“They’re a team that likes to put on a lot of pressure, but we’ve seen that,” Gibson said. “We’ve seen that from Alton, we’ve seen that from East St. Louis. So I don’t think their speed is going to overwhelm us or surprise us. But they’ve definitely got some athletes that can press you and get after you defensively.

“Offensively, they can score from a lot of positions. They’ve got guys who can shoot the 3 well, they’ve got guys who can go off the dribble, they’ve got some big bodies inside that can score. There’s not one quy, necessarily, to key on.”

O’Fallon, which is 14-6 heading into its game Friday at Belleville West, is led by 6-6 senior Donovan Franklin, whose 21.7 scoring average leads the metro-east.

“Donny’s a tough matchup for anybody,” Gibson said. “He can score from so many different spots, and that makes him a tough matchup. If you go bigger on him, you might give up some speed to where he gets to the basket or you have to play off him a little bit. If you put a smaller guard on him who is quick, he can pressure him, but Donny’s got the ability to take him inside and post him up.”

Franklin is being recruited by several Missouri Valley Conference and Southeastern Conference schools. He has received an offer from SIUE of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Althoff vs. St. Joseph: A pair of Class 3A state tournament contenders could put on the best game of the day.

Althoff, coached by Greg Leib, is led by juniors Jordan Goodwin (19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds), Brendon Gooch (14.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 29 3-pointers) and Tarkus Ferguson (13.5 points, 33 3-pointers).

Sophomore Marvin Bateman comes off the bench and averages 9.2 points and leads the Crusaders with 46 3-pointers. Junior Keenen Young recently returned from an ankle injury to make Althoff even more dangerous.

St. Joseph, coached by the legendary Gene Pingatore, features Rakocevic, Nebraska recruit Glynn Watson and Northwestern signee Jordan Ash.

Columbia vs. Morris: Columbia, which was 14-7 entering its Cahokia Conference (Mississippi Division) game Friday at Central, will try to contain Morris’ 3-point threats: 6-3 senior Austin Patterson and 6-0 senior Evan Bjelland.

“They’ve got three really good guards; the one kid (Patterson) has scored 1,000 points,” Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom said. “We can’t lose the Patterson kid. He’s a great shooter and one of the better players we’ll see the entire year.

“They’re big and they’re physical. They’re going to give us a lot of problems. They run a lot of nice stuff that we have to try to take away with little or no preparation because we’re playing Central on Friday night.”

Sandstrom said the game against Central is the more important of the two. His Eagles are 4-2 in the league, while the Cougars are in first place at 6-1. Columbia defeated Central 51-49 on Jan. 9 in Columbia.

“The kids are fired up for the weekend,” Sandstrom said. “We’ve got two really tough games, and they’re just excited to be invited to be part of (the shootout). It’s definitely an honor. It’s a nice deal.”

The Redskins are coached by Joe Blumberg, the son of longtime Freeburg baseball coach Fred Blumberg. Sandstrom is not acquainted with Joe Blumberg.

Columbia is led by 6-6 junior Korbin Farmer (12.7 points, 7.3 rebounds), 5-10 junior Jonathan Holmes (13.5 points, 44 3-pointers) and 6-3 junior Drew Huebner (9.4 points, 7.7 rebounds). Junior Kyle Gudeman has 74 assists and freshman Jordan Holmes has been steady at 6.6 points per game and 21 3s.

Collinsville vs. Normal: The Kahoks, who are 14-9 entering their game at Granite City on Friday, face a supreme challenge from the Ironmen (20-1), who are ranked No. 6 in the Class 4A poll.

Normal’s only loss came 54-52 to Rockford Auburn on a last-second shot Jan. 17 in the Rockton Hononegah Tournament.

Alex Peacock, a 6-7 senior, is averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds to lead the Ironmen. Peacock has received a scholarship offer from SIUE.

Tyler Seibring, a 6-8 senior who has signed with Elon University, averages 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and has made 33 3-pointers, second on the team to 6-5 senior Zach Thompson’s 39. David Boyd, a 6-1 senior point guard, has a team-high 64 assists.

Collinsville can bother opponents with its length, led by the 6-8 Rickman and 6-5 senior Sean Davis. Rickman, averaging 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds, has signed with Indiana State. Davis averages 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Other key players for coach Darin Lee’s Kahoks are senior guard Anfirnee Wilkinson (11.5 points, 39 3-pointers), sophomore guard Ronnie Midgett (10.4 points, 22 3-pointers), senior forward Harrison Wethers (5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds) and senior guard Brett Langley (6.1 points, team-high 43 3-pointers).

Vianney vs. Kaneland: Vianney was 13-8 and had won five of six entering Friday. The Golden Griffins are led by 6-7 freshman Carte’Are Gordon (13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds), 6-2 junior Zach Colletta (10.3 points) and 6-4 senior Danny Baker (10 points).

“Our opponent, Kaneland, is a well-coached team that is really hitting its stride,” Vianney coach Kevin Walsh said. “It will be a good challenge for us to play (against) a team and style we don’t see much of.

“We are looking forward to playing in the metro-east this weekend. We are thrilled to be invited to the inaugural Bank of O’Fallon Shootout.”

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