Posted On: 01/5/17 11:23 AM

The Kaminsky Classic gets underway with yet another diverse field from all over Missouri. St. Louis Christian is back to defend its title and Francis Howell will look to make it two championships in the last three years. Great guard play highlights this year’s tournament. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on.

Does Glendale have the most exciting backcourt in Missouri?

It’s tough to not have the Falcons as the early favorite. They were the runner-up at last month’s Blue and Gold Tournament and boast the best backcourt in the tournament in 2018s Monty Johal (26.3 PPG) and Jordan Walton (18.1 PPG). Both have surpassed the 1,000-point mark and both can score at all three levels. Johal holds a half-dozen D-1 offers right now and is just 240 points from breaking Glendale’s all-time scoring record; he will break the city record before all is said and done. If for some reason Johal doesn’t break school and city scoring records, Walton will. Their ability to attack to create for themselves and others is the reason Glendale is averaging more than 73 PPG as a team. In six of 11 games Johal and Walton have each gone for 20. When they have it going Glendale is tough to string together stops against. They also help 5’10 G Jaxson Davis (2018) to get his offense going – he’s had three 20-point games already – which also makes it even tougher to defend Johal and Walton. Don’t let their 6-5 record fool you. This is one of the most exciting teams in Southwest Missouri and one of the best Class 5 teams in Missouri.

Can St. Louis programs bounce back?

Francis Howell has gotten off to a strong start, but the Vikings are 0-2 in championship games this season. There is no better place than Joplin for them to get back on the right track. Howell has played in back-to-back Kaminsky Classic championships, winning it all in 2015 before finishing second to St. Louis Christian last year. 2017 F Mike Brohm is back and has been a load this year. He garnered All-Tournament honors at the MICDS Tournament and threw down a #DunkoftheWeek nominee in a 72-65 loss against Ritenour. Brohm is averaging a double-double (14.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG) and shooting 51% from the floor. He will be a matchup nightmare all weekend. So will his point guard. Daylan Dalton (2019) is electric off the bounce and in transition. He’s just 5’7 but is nearly impossible to stay in front of because of his quickness. Dalton leads Howell in assists (4.9 APG) and steals (2.4 SPG) to go along with 11.8 PPG. Patrick Schulte (6’3 G/2019) has been a third scorer for Howell and keeps defenses honest with his ability to stretch the floor (9.5 PPG, 24 3s). They have the best resume/body of work of anyone in this year’s field.

This isn’t a typical St. Louis Christian team. Last year the Cougars were loaded, winning the 2016 Kaminsky Classic behind the play of Mamoudou Diarra and Daniel Sackey. Both players transferred to 22 Feet Academy. Diarra signed with Washington and is a consensus 4-star prospect and Sackey has more than a half dozen D-1 offers already. That has left Casey Autenrieth reeling. His team has attempted to reload, but considering the level of competition they see regularly, it has taken them some time to gel. With all that being said, this is still a dangerous team. They have a ton of size with 2019s Jaden Feaste (6’9, 250) and Yves Bankita (6’9) and veteran Raymond Smith (2017) is also back. They opened the season with nationally-ranked La Lumiere and have also seen Wesley Christian and D-1 prospect Benson Lin. STL Christian won’t be intimidated by anything they see on the court. They also have the best draw of anyone in the field.

Can Kamari Balton keep it going?

There is no other word to describe Balton’s senior campaign besides buckets. The 6’1 combo guard has given people fits all season. He hit a game-winner against Fort Zumwalt North to give the Jays the Marshall Tournament title to open the season, dropped 29 points on Hickman 10 days later and scored at least 23 points in two of the three games at the Great 8 Classic. He can score at all three levels, finish above the rim and create offense for others as well. He will be one of several dynamic guards in this field. It also helps that Jefferson City opens with a Glendale team that is allowing nearly 72 PPG. This game will be a track meet which should give Balton the perfect stage to put up a ton of points.

Is Webb City morphing into a basketball school?

It’s easy to roll your eyes at this because Webb City Football isn’t going anywhere, but the Cardinals may be a year away from becoming legitimate state championship contender in Class 4. And really, that dream could even be realized sooner than expected depending on how quickly this youthful team matures. Webb City has just one senior in Trey Gibson and he does a little bit of everything for the Cards (15.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG) but the rest of Jason Horn’s roster is also skilled. 2018s Grant Ellis (6’3) and Alex Pickett (6’5) are long and athletic, but can also score and stretch the floor. Their versatility allows Horne the luxury of giving several different looks offensively and picking on mismatches. Alex Gaskill is one of the best 2019 PGs in Southwest Missouri (7.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG) and his size (6’1) and frame could allow him to become a sneaky prospect in the coming years. Arguably the most talented 2020 prospect in the Joplin area is 6’1 G Terrell Kabala. The freshman has taken little time to acclimate to varsity basketball after helping out the Cardinals football program during the fall. Kabala is averaging 12.4 PPG and leads Webb City with 1.6 BPG. His athleticism is elite and he is dynamic with the ball in his hands – especially when he’s in transition. Webb City has played just five games all season as they continue to knock the football rust off. This event gives the Cardinals the perfect stage to announce to the rest of Missouri that they’re back.

Has the sleeping giant finally awoken in Joplin?

I’ve heard several people question why Joplin struggles to consistently field competitive teams in the Ozark Conference despite being the largest school in Southwest Missouri. The reasons vary, but it seems like Joplin legend – and former Mizzou Tiger – Jeff Hafer is righting the ship. Joplin has won four of its first seven games, impressive considering the Eagles had totaled just six wins in the last two seasons combined. 2017 PG Nate Cox is leading the team in scoring (11.1 PPG) and assists (2.7 APG) and 2018 combo guard Braeden Testerman is right behind him at 10.3 PPG. Both guards also shoot above 40% from 3. The Eagles also have a budding star in the form of 6’3 2020 G/F Evan Guillory. He’s longer than his brother (Darrian) was at the same point, but also shares the same freakish athleticism. Joplin beat Webb City in December, overcoming a double-digit deficit for the win. That is a game this program wouldn’t have won in the past. The Eagles aren’t huge, but have several guys in that 6’1-6’4 area that are long and rangy. Joplin hasn’t won the Kaminsky in a decade, this is the best opportunity they’ve had to win in several years.