He’s a high school senior with more than 25,000 Twitter followers (check out @Im_ that_dude22).
His junior mixtape of highlights has already been seen by more than 135,800 people on Youtube.com. He’s frequently on national television and enjoys rock star status the minute he walks into virtually any gym in the country.
He’s Jayson Tatum, a 6-foot-9 forward and Duke recruit from Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis considered the No. 2 senior in the country by most scouting services.
One of five Division I recruits on Chaminade, an 11-3 team ranked 15th in the latest USA Today Super 25 poll, Tatum will lead the Red Devils against Althoff (11-1), the top-ranked Class 3A team in Illinois, in the Saturday night finale of the 25th annual Highland Optimist Shootout.
“This is crazy,” said Althoff junior Jordan Goodwin, rated the 71st-best junior in the country with offers from Illinois, Missouri, Saint Louis University, Virginia Tech, Purdue and several more. “It’s all over Twitter and everything, sold out. As far as big games for us, it’s definitely big.
“It’s a big game but we’re not nervous.”
LIVING UP TO THE HYPE
The finale is part of a six-game extravaganza that sold out 3,000 tickets way back in early December. Having Tatum, Chaminade-Althoff, Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton junior superstar Michael Porter Jr. and eight players ranked among the top 100 in the country will do that for you.
“It creates a great buzz with people wanting to see this game,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “We could have sold out Chaifetz (Arena, basketball home of Saint Louis University). It’s going to be a fun venue, but I’m sure Chaminade goes through it every week.
“If they’re not on ESPN they’re on some Fox regional coverage somewhere. For us this is as hyped-up a game that we’ve ever had without a state playoff connotation to it.”
I think that we’re the underdog, but they’re going to have to play their hardest to beat us. They’ve got an ‘X’ on their back, but we’ve got an ‘X’ on our back too. I think their ‘X’ is probably a little bit bigger because of the names they’ve got on their team.
Althoff junior Jordan Goodwin
Tatum averages a St. Louis area-leading 30.3 points along with 8.8 rebounds, featuring a smooth jump shot and stunning outside and mid-range game. He’s coming off a 46-point outing last week in an 84-83 overtime win over nationally ranked Huntington (W.Va.) St. Joseph Prep and has seven games with 30 or more points.
“He’s probably going to be a No. 1 draft pick in the future,” said Althoff senior and Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Brendon Gooch. “He’s a great player. He’s 6-9 and can handle the ball like a guard. We’ve got to do the best we can to corral him and keep him in check so we can win the game.”
Goodwin plays on the St. Louis Eagles’ nationally known summer travel team with Tatum, Iowa recruit Tyler Cook and several other Chaminade players.
“Me and Tatum, we’ve been battling since we were younger,” Goodwin said. “I played with the (Illinois) Tigers and he played with Team 314, we used to have battles all the time in St. Louis at the Sports Center. We won most of the games. I practiced against them the whole summer. I know their game, they know my game but it’s who wants it more I think.”
Despite being ranked first in Illinois, Althoff realizes it will be the underdog against Tatum and Chaminade.
“People thought we weren’t going to do it last year and we surprised them when we beat Morgan Park (in the 3A semifinals),” said Goodwin, who averages 18.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. “I think that we’re the underdog, but they’re going to have to play their hardest to beat us. They’ve got an ‘X’ on their back, but we’ve got an ‘X’ on our back too. I think their ‘X’ is probably a little bit bigger because of the names they’ve got on their team.”
There’s a lot of opinions from everybody. After this game if we get the ‘W,’ there isn’t going to be any other opinions about us.
Althoff senior Tarkus Ferguson
Althoff’s Illinois-Chicago recruit Tarkus Ferguson (13.6 ppg) agreed.
“This is pretty big for us,” Ferguson said. “(People in the region) give us credit, but I don’t think they think that we’re the best team that we can be. There’s a lot of opinions from everybody. After this game if we get the ‘W,’ there isn’t going to be any other opinions about us.”
Leib and other participating schools have been under siege for what has become one of the region’s hottest tickets in more than a decade.
“I heard from people I’ve never heard from before,” Leib said. “If we don’t come out and get after it, I may give them my ticket at halftime.”
Chaminade has much more talent than just Tatum. Cook is a 6-9, 253-pound center headed to Iowa and averaging 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds. There’s also Duquesne recruit Mike Lewis II (10 ppg, 23 3-pointers), 6-10 Princeton recruit Will Gladson, junior guard Reggie Crawford and 6-6 sophomore Jericole Hellums.
I heard from people I’ve never heard from before. If we don’t come out and get after it, I may give them my ticket at halftime.
Althoff coach Greg Leib on being hammered for tickets to the sold-out Shootout
“The Cook kid is just a beast and they’ve got a 6-11 kid they bring off the bench,” Leib said. “I’ve got three kids sitting on my bench that don’t measure to 6-11. It’s time to put up or shut up. You try to focus on what you do well and take that to them, not dwell as much on them.
“Geez Louise, you won’t be able to sleep at night wondering what you’re going to do with Tatum.”
Okawville (13-2) vs. Central (11-2)
This the rematch of the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament championship game, which Okawville won 48-40. Okawville is ranked first in Class 1A and is led by senior Division I prospect Noah Frederking (19.6 points, eight rebounds per game). The top player for Central is senior Logan Kohrmann (16 points, six rebounds per game).
Hazelwood Central (11-1) vs. Springfield Lanphier (12-1)
Kansas State recruit Xavier Sneed is the top player for Hazelwood Central, which also boasts 6-5 senior Domonique Dobbs and senior guard Steve Holloway. Easily one of the most exciting players at the Shootout will be Lanphier’s 5-8 senior guard and Division I prospect Xavier Bishop averaging well over 20 points per game.
Vianney (9-3) vs. Highland (8-6)
Vianney’s 6-8 sophomore Carte’Are Gordon (19.7 points, 12.7 rebounds per game) already has offers from Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas State and Purdue. Seniors Luke Theis (14.1 ppg), Austin Elledge (13.7 ppg) and Brode Portell (11 ppg) are the top players for Highland.
Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton (8-2) vs. Peoria Manual (11-1)
Peoria Manual’s main attractions are 6-3 junior guard Da’Monte Williams, the son of former Illini guard Frankie Williams, and 6-5 junior A.J. Youngman. Williams has offers from Illinois, Bradley, Indiana, Cincinnati and Illinois-Chicago, while Youngman’s offers are from Boston College, West Virginia, Dartmouth and Hofstra.
The 6-foot-8 Porter is considered the No. 2 junior in the nation and already has offers from Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and many more. Porter’s younger brother is the dominant 6-9 sophomore and Washington recruit Jontay Porter.
25th Annual Highland Optimist Shootout
Saturday at Highland High School
Highland vs. Triad (girls), 11 a.m.
Okawville vs. Central, 1 p.m.
Springfield Lanphier vs. Hazelwood Central, 2:45 p.m.
Highland vs. Vianney, 4:45 p.m.
Peoria Manual vs. Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton, 6:30 p.m.
Althoff vs. Chaminade, 8:15 p.m.