It was three years ago when current Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum lifted St. Louis Chaminade past the Jordan Goodwin-led Althoff Crusaders in the marquee matchup at the Highland Scott Credit Union/Optimist Basketball Shootout.
On Saturday on the same Highland High School floor, the best of the best from both sides of the Mississippi will meet again.
The marquee match up has been billed as one of the Midwest’s top high school matchups of the season by shootout organizer Matt Powers.
Defending Illinois Class 4A state champion Belleville West, led by Ohio State University recruit EJ Liddell, will take on St. Louis Vashon and University of Missouri recruit Mario McKinney beginninjg at 8:15 p.m.
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“I think its comparable to the Tatum-Goodwin, Althoff-Chaminade game,’’ Powers said Wednesday. “You have the top two teams in the St. Louis area who have two of the top players in the nation. and they are friends, playing before what I’m sure will be a capacity crowd.
“Then when you add the Missouri-Illinois rivalry, I’m sure the atmosphere will be electric.’’
If this game needed any more hype, both the Maroons and Wolerines are ranked by several national publications. In the most recent USA Today Sports Super 25 Expert Rankings released on Wednesday, West (14-0) was ranked 17th and Vashon (10-1) is 25th.
Powers said a limited amount of tickets remain for the Highland Shootout which begins at 8:30 a.m. when the Highland girls play East St. Louis.
“We have about 300 tickets left and I would advise fans who want to go to get them today (Wednesday) or Thursday,’’ Powers said. “If we have any left, we will sell them at the door. I’ll be posting updates on the website the next couple of days as we get closer.’’
There will be two sessions. Tickets are priced at $8 for the first session and $14 for an all day pass. Those purchasing an all-day pass will be given a bracelet which allows them to come and go as they please. Tickets are available on line at www.highlandshootout.com.
While McKinney and Liddell are the top players on their teams, they both have plenty of help. In addition to McKinney, the Wolverines have six other players who are being recruited by NCAA Division I programs.
Following the East St. Louis-Highland girls game, the Edwardsville Tigers will take on Normal West at 10 a.m. in the first boys game of the day.
Nashville, ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A state poll and led by Bryce Bultman and Carson Parker, will play Effingham at 11:30 a.m. with the East St. Louis Flyers, led by St. Louis University recruit Terrence Hargrove, pl;aying Bloomington and its all-state forward Chris Payton, who will be attending SIU-Carbondale. That game is set for 1 p.m.
Poplar Bluff, Mo., led by all-state senior Dominique Hardimon, will take on host Highland at 3 p.m. The Bulldogs are led by University of Iowa football recruit Sam LaPorta and 6-9 senior Stephen Torre.
Two of the top players in Missouri will put their skills on the line at 4:45 p.m. when Caleb Love of St. Louis Christian Brothers College (CBC) take on Columbia Rock Bridge and 6-6 senior Isaiah Mosley.
That game will be followed at 6:30 p.m. when Chaminade, led by junior sharpshooter Luke Kasubke leads his team against Milwaukee, Wis. Nicolet.
Nicolet is led by high school all-Ameriican Jalen Johnson and three other Division I recruits. But Powers said the 6-7 Johnson is worth the price of admission.
“Jalen Johnson might be the top junior in the nation. He has opened up his recruting and is being recruited by everybody... Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky.... everybody,’’ Powers said. “We’re going to have a lot of (college) coaches here looking at kids.
“Before the last game you’ve got some of the top juniors in the nation Caleb Love, Kasubke and Johnson, all competing at one place. It’s a good chance for coaches to come in and watch.’’