Posted On: 01/11/17 12:46 PM
The 33rd Annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions kicks off Thursday at JQH Arena in Springfield, Missouri and in just his second year running the event, Springfield Public Schools Athletics Director Randy Stange has put together a disgustingly good field. As of now, fans in Springfield will see four of the top 13 teams in USA Today’s Super 25 (computer) and a fifth team – Madison Prep (La.) – that comes in at No. 56. The event will see more than two dozen Division One prospects and several storylines unfold. Can it live up to the drama of last year’s finals; a Tyshon Alexander (Oak Hill) buzzer-beating 3 to beat Sierra Canyon? Here is the 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions by the numbers.
— Bass Pro T Of C (@BassProTOfC) January 17, 2016
In recent years the amount of elite talent we’ve seen at the TOC has been staggering, that won’t change with the top player in the 2018 class (Marvin Bagley III-Sierra Canyon) and 2019 class (R.J. Barrett-Montverde Academy) both in this year’s field. Bagley is the best high school player in the nation, regardless of class, according to ESPN and after seeing him workout last year in Springfield, I’m a believer too. His 98 grade comes because as of now he has zero holes in his game; there’s nothing he can’t do on the floor. Barrett isn’t far behind. The top sophomore in the nation is the best wing to come out of Canada since Andrew Wiggins and his game will remind you a bit of Wiggins too. He’s already 30-balled IMG Academy and Memphis East, he was the MVP of the City of Palms Classic and he has Montverde in a position to compete for yet another national title.
— LeftCoastRecruiting (@LC_Recruiting) January 4, 2017
— Overtime (@overtime) January 8, 2017
Canadian 6-7 F RJ Barrett was probably the best talent at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships. His Highlights: https://t.co/P2IGUAxoWz
— NBADraftProspects (@draftprosnba) July 5, 2016
It’s hard to believe that two schools separated by 800 miles could end up playing each other three times within three weeks in three different states. Mind blown. Montverde won in the City of Palms championship (63-54) – that game was played in Florida. East responded with a 75-73 win at the National Hoopfest last week in Tennessee. So, now if both teams win their opener we’ll get a trilogy that could only be topped by Bad Boys III. East’s win came on a game-winning dunk by 5-star 2019 F Chandler Lawson. That was Montverde’s only loss. East has just two losses this year. Many in basketball circles are praying to the basketball Gods for one more matchup of these two elite teams.
Memphis East’s Chandler Lawson with the game winning DUNK at the Buzzer! Phenomenal basketball game! pic.twitter.com/5rVP9a3igF
— ARHoops.com Dillon (@ARHoopsDillon) January 8, 2017
I remember watching the NBA Finals and thinking that we may never see another player lead both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. It’s a rare feat and Findlay Prep’s P.J. Washington is trying to get in on some of that action. The 5-star 2017 F has already signed with Kentucky and Big Blue Nation will lose their collective mind next year when Washington comes in dropping triple-doubles. He’s leading his team in points (19.2), rebounds (9.4), assists (5.6) and blocks (2.2) and logged a triple-double against perennial power Desert Vista (Ariz.). He’s second in steals with two a game. He reminds me of Grant Hill before the injuries, with a mean streak. He’s a silky-smooth 6’8 point forward that just understands how to make people around him better. There are more talented players in the 2017 class, but if I was building a team around one player it would be this guy. He’s also the reason his dad – Coach Paul Washington Sr. – might lead Findlay Prep to a national championship in his first season.
Forget all that happy to be here stuff that y’all want me on, I’m the big homie they still be tryin to lil bro me dawg???? pic.twitter.com/1y03UewzbM
— PJ Washington (@pjwashington_25) December 22, 2016
Aside from the Missouri schools, Madison Prep Academy is the only team in the field without a Power 5 commitment or signee. But that is slightly misleading. The Chargers are a sneaky threat to unseat some of the national powers this weekend led by Western Kentucky signee Josh Anderson. The 6’5 wing is a consensus top 75 recruit in the 2017 class, he chose Rick Stansbury and WKU over a host of major programs including USC, Florida, Texas A&M and NC State. His talent is undeniable and he has the ability to score or create for others. He reminds me of Dwayne Bacon when he came to the TOC back in 2014 and put on a clinic (Bacon dropped 30 a night and led Oak Hill to a title). Anderson has the game to be a nightmare. MPA also has another Josh, 6’6 2018 F Josh LeBlanc, that is on several radars. At this point he might be slightly under recruited considering how many facets he has to his game. He’s the biggest Charger on the roster but he’s accustomed to playing as an undersized big. Throw in 2018 F Kobe Julien and there’s enough talent for the Chargers to make a run. They’re the reigning 2A champs in Louisiana and have lost just five games over the last two seasons. They understand winning and are eager to prove themselves at a national level.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) May 9, 2016
— MPA Basketball (@MPABasketball) November 11, 2016
Greenforest Christian Academy has one of the biggest frontcourts you’ll ever see at the high school level. The Eagles can go 7’, 6’10 and 6’9 – which is bigger than 13 NBA teams. That’s crazy. At the center of it all is 4-star Florida State signee Ikey Obiagu. The 7-footer is a shot blocking machine (6.9 BPG) and already has one points-rebounds-block triple-double. In a tournament full of guys that love getting to the rim, Greenforest has the ultimate rim protector in the latest Nigerian phenom. Countryman and classmate Abayomi Iyiola is also a long and athletic at 6’10 and has several D-1 offers including SMU. Victor Enoh was offered by Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Vandy before deciding on Memphis. At 6’9 he’s a bruiser that cleans glass. It’ll be interesting to see if talented 2017 guards David Quimby and Jandan Duggan can do enough to help the Eagles make a run.
— BballWithinBorders (@Bballwithin_ng) July 27, 2016
Oh, how time changes things. The last time Republic was in the Tournament of Champions, Trevyor Fisher was a senior guard at Missouri State, Drew Hanlen was a backup guard for Webster Groves and Mario Chalmers went 0-3 in the 2005 Tournament of Champions (he did score 67 points in three games). Hanlen is now one of the best skill developers in the nation, Chalmers won a national championship at Kansas and NBA title with the Miami LeBrons and Fisher is now the head coach at Republic. In fact, you can make a case that Fisher is already one of the best prep coaches in Missouri just five years in and that field goal percentage might be the biggest reason why. Fisher’s teams at Republic routinely do two things; defend and value the basketball. That right there is enough to keep you in most games. RepMo has held opponents to 50 or fewer points in 12 of 13 games this season. Opponents are shooting 36% from the field, 25% from 3 and are getting outrebounded by eight boards a night. Offensively, they turn it over 10.7 times per game. Republic is about as fundamentally sound as you can get at the high school level. Are they an elite high school basketball team? Probably not. Can they beat an elite team on a given night? Definitely. It won’t be exciting, but when you defend, don’t turn it over and control (slow) tempo then you have your script for an upset. This is also a chance for 2017 guards Treydon Rackley and Ty Stevens to add to their stock. They don’t necessarily have D-1 talent, but they can help someone out at the next level, be it D-2 or NAIA. Rackley (13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 54% FG) and Stevens (10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 50% FG, 42% 3FG) both defend and are efficient scorers. If you’re a true basketball fan, you’ll enjoy watching the Tigers.
Kickapoo has a long and rich basketball tradition, which includes the 2005 TOC championship, and the duo of Ridder and Davis will likely add to it this spring. They’re both McDonald’s All-American nominees and D-1 signees (Ridder/Xavier, Davis/Navy) and both have been lighting up the scoreboard in their final campaign wearing brown and gold. The 6’6 Ridder is averaging a smooth 26.2 points and 6.6 rebounds for the Chiefs and Davis is adding 19.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists. They have also been lights out from deep, shooting the 3 at better than 45% collectively. They’re MOKAN Elite guys that are used to playing with and against elite talent so they won’t be overwhelmed by any part of this week’s tournament. They also played in the event last year and are eager to get that bad taste out of their mouths. The third head of the monster is 6’ sophomore guard Donyae McCaskill. He’s a dynamic point guard that has slid in the spot vacated by Drury star Isaac Johnson. McCaskill is averaging 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He will have three days to help himself get on the national map and competing head-to-head with Montverde sophomore Andrew Nembhard is a good start. Kickapoo’s 22 wins are the second-most in tournament history, trailing only Christ the King. Coach Dick Rippee is one of the best doing it Missouri and last year he felt like his kids didn’t come out with enough fire or take advantage of the opportunity that playing in the TOC is. The Chiefs will be ready to go this year.
— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) February 18, 2016
Sierra Canyon was last year’s runner-up, losing to Oak Hill on this crazy buzzer-beater. The good news is that the Trailblazers return basically everyone from that team. UCLA signee Cody Riley is one of the most imposing kids you’ll see on a high school court. He’s physical and skilled with an NBA-ready frame. Arizona State signee Remy Martin is a smooth point guard and San Diego State signee Adam Seiko is the ultimate “dude I want on my team if I’m playing at the rec” because of his high basketball IQ and ability to defend multiple positions. He has a bit of an old man’s game but he plays winning basketball. And we can’t forget about “Baby Bagley” AKA Marcus Bagley – Marvin’s younger brother. The 6’6 wing has already been offered by Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. This team is loaded and on a mission to redeem themselves after last year’s loss.
RT RonMFlores: RT Ballislife: Cody Riley Went Beast Mode in Sierra Canyon’s First Two Games! Watch Full Highlights… pic.twitter.com/jC4ZZwBbth
— Alan D. Miller (@AlanDMiller1) December 8, 2016
Death, taxes and Montverde having an abundance of basketball talent seem to be certainties in life. After losing a trio of the nation’s top juniors it seemed like the Eagles could be headed for a “down” year, but 2017s Marcus Carr (Pitt), Sean Mobley (VCU) and Cameron Healy (Albany) have helped keep expectations sky-high. There’s also 6’9 Canadian Grant Shepherd who made a name for himself playing for the Canadian U-17 National Team. Shepherd will be one of the most intriguing uncommitted seniors in the tournament. Kevin Boyle also has a loaded group of underclassmen. Rechon Black (2018) is a 6’7 F committed to North Carolina and 2019 Andrew Nembhard – also Canadian – is a 5-star point guard with offers from Villanova, USC, Florida and Baylor. When all’s said and we will probably be looking at close to 10 guys from this roster playing D-1 basketball.
Because I love good guard play, I’ll start with 2017 DePaul signee Justin Roberts. He creates offense for others (91 assists) without turning it over (31 turnovers) numbers that any coach would be pleased with. He also leads the team in steals. Then there’s the trio of Donnie Tillman (4-star/2017), Lamine Diane (3-star/2017) and Reggie Chaney (4-star/2018). They’re extremely intriguing because they’re all between 6’6-6’8 and when put on the floor with P.J. Washington, Findlay becomes extremely difficult to match-up with. And that’s before you throw in 6’7 sophomore – and P.J.’s little brother – 2018 wing Spencer Washington. They even come off the bench with guys like Chris Giles, a 6’3 2017 combo guard that has offers from Stanford, Ohio State, Oklahoma and SMU among others. The best part is that all those guys remain uncommitted – you can make a case that they’re under recruited – which adds to their hunger.
NOTE: Reggie Chaney may also attract football coaches to JQH Arena. He has a mature frame and freakish athleticism which makes him a high-level tight end prospect as well. He has Power 5 football offers already and is a better basketball player and athlete than guys like Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas were at the same age.
— Andy Johnson (@CoachAJohnson) July 2, 2016
East is an oddity in this tournament and not just because their coach is former NBA star Penny Hardaway. In a world full of basketball factories, East is a public school that has become one of the top programs in the nation. They enter with just two losses and the Mustangs are reigning state champs, offering and a roster that rivals even the top private schools in talent. T.J. Moss (4-star/2018) holds offers from UCONN, Arkansas, Florida and Memphis and at 6’4 can handle it, shoot it and attack off the dribble. His backcourt mate – 5’11 PG Alex Lomax – is also a 4-star recruit and has been offered by Cal, Memphis, Florida and LSU. He almost has a New York City feel to his game. He’s lightning quick and loves creating offense for others, but what sets him apart is his grittiness. He is a junk yard dog and that toughness might be his best attribute. The best prospect on this team is 6’9 sophomore Chandler Lawson. He had the game-winning dunk against Montverde, two of his 14 points. He’s long, athletic and skilled, which is why he’s a consensus 5-star recruit. Then there’s Penny’s son, 2017 G Jayden Hardaway, one of just a few seniors on the roster. He transferred from his school in Florida to play for his dad, which obviously comes with high expectations from the outside world. Hardaway is talented, but the comparisons to his dad are unfair because of the elder Hardaway’s rare talent. Regardless, this team isn’t afraid of anyone and they’ll look to be the first public school to win the tournament since city rival Memphis White Station won it all in 2010 behind an MVP performance from Joe Jackson.
— Bryan Fenley (@BryanFenley) January 11, 2017
— Bryan Fenley (@BryanFenley) January 11, 2017