HIGHLAND, Ill. — This weekend, Highland High School will open its doors for the 29th annual Highland Optimist Shootout, and the slate of games is the best its ever been.
What started out as a local tournament, has now turned into a must-see day of basketball featuring some of the top players the country has to offer.
Event organizer, Matt Powers, said he saw the tides changing after Jayson Tatum and Chaminade agreed to play in the tournament in 2015.
“Right before they came here, you could not go to any more Chaminade games because the demand was so high, and we were like one of the last local places you could go to see him play, and tickets sold out just like that,” Powers said.
Since then, Powers continues to draw the best high school teams, not just from Missouri and Illinois, but all over.
This year, Chicago powerhouses, Whitney Young and Simeon will be in attendance along with the top team in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Sussex Hamilton.
You also can't forget the top teams in our area like, Vashon, Mehlville, CBC, and Collinsville will all hit the hardwood trying to show who’s the best of the best.
Powers said this event is in such high demand, they’ve sold out the last five years, including this one. So, if you haven’t gotten your ticket already, you’re out of luck.
“The only place you can find them, possibly, would be if someone were selling them personally, otherwise no you cannot,” Powers said, adding there will be no ticket sales at the door.
Powers said a week like this is beyond stressful, but when you see some of the match-ups on hand, it’s impossible not to nerd out if you’re a hoops fan.
If the little brothers of Michael Porter Jr. aren’t enough to wow you, then Ray’Sean Taylor of Collinsville should knock your socks off when he and the Kahoks take on a deep, talented De Smet team.
Mehlville, which features a dynamic trio between Lamontay Daughtery, Dylan Branson, and Davion Bradford, will take on Trinity Catholic and their duo of Ryan Kalkbrenner and Rashad Weekly-McDaniels. Bradford has already signed with Kansas State while McDaniels signed to play for Central Michigan and Kalkbrenner signed with Creighton.
Following that game, Chaminade will take on Sussex Hamilton, who has the number two ranked player in the country in the class of 2021, Patrick Baldwin Jr. He’s verbally committed to Duke. He’ll go toe-to-toe with K-State signee, Luke Kasubke and Chaminade.
And it only gets better after that, Tony Irons and his Vashon Wolverines will take their 84-feet of pressure defense up against Simeon. The Wolverines have Kentucky signee, Cam’Ron Fletcher up against powerhouse Simeon who is known for producing starts like Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker.
And finally, UNC signee, Caleb Love and his CBC Cadets will battle Whitney Young. It’s not the first time this season the Cadets will play a team from Chicago, most recently going into OT against Morgan Park where they eventually fell by one point. Love has proved to everyone why his scholarship to North Carolina is legit He scores at will and makes dropping 24 points look like a walk in the park.
Powers said the best thing about a tournament like this is getting to watch them play in person, then watch them play in college and for some, the pros.
“I feel like I can turn on any college game and probably see someone that played in our shootout at some point in time,” Powers said.
As to where this shootout will go in the years to come, Powers said just wait, the teams they’re trying to bring in next year will be bigger and better, and it may just feature a few kids who’s Dad’s star or played in the NBA, although he said that’s not set in stone just yet.