It’s that time again! By mid-January we are all in need of a break from the engagement announcements littering your Facebook and Twitter timelines and the 32nd Annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions offers the perfect distraction. It is no secret that the TOC is the best event to come to JQH Arena each year and as has been the case lately, the field is again full of elite teams and players. Jan. 14-16 and will hold three days of excellent basketball. Here’s a look at the 2016 Tournament of Champions by the numbers.
2016 BASS PRO TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS BRACKET – CLICK HERE
Marvin Bagley III has never played a game for Sierra Canyon. But, after transferring from Hillcrest Basketball Academy on Jan. 2, the 6-foot-10 wunderkind (Uncommitted/ No. 1 in 2018) is on the Trailblazers’ roster and is quite possibly the best player in the nation regardless of class. ESPN graded him out at 98, making him the highest player prep in America. His game looks a lot like Harry Giles. He’s an insane athlete and does all the things that a traditional 4-man can do, but the lefty has a jumper and perimeter skills to make him a complete package. If he is cleared by the CIF to play here in Springfield he will be one of the most highly-touted prospects in the history of the tournament.
That’s how many high school kids I’ve seen break a backboard with a dunk attempt. Well, Cody Riley would technically be the first. The 6-foot-7 junior (Uncommitted/ No. 25 in 2017) started dunking in middle school (no joke) but it was a dunk attempt during the summer, a miss, that might be his most impressive dunk ever. He’s more than just a dunker though; the lefty has expanded his range and has a nice skillset to go along with some serious bounce.
The champs are here. For the second time in the last four years the defending champion is back in the field with Oak Hill Academy returning to Springfield for the second time ever. Last year was good to the Warriors as they won all three games by 20 or more points and ultimately finished the season as national runner-up, losing to former TOC champs Montverde Academy in Ben Simmons in the national championship game. OHA picked up a huge summer transfer in Harry Giles, who played for Wesleyan Christian in last year’s TOC, but unfortunately a torn ACL will keep him from making the trip. Fortunately for all involved, there is no shortage of talent as Oak Hill reps no less than 11 D-1 players, eight of which are ranked in the top 150 of their class according to Rivals and that number doesn’t include Giles.
Dwayne Bacon is gone and killing it at Florida State (17 PPG), but Mario Kegler (Mississippi State/No. 29 in 2016) has a very similar feel with his ability to score seemingly at will. He can get it however you want, getting to the rim, pulling up off the dribble or catching and shoot (shooting 56% from 3) and he has no problem finishing in traffic. He will be one of the most entertaining players you’ll see. Matt Coleman (Uncommitted/No. 29 in 2017) is a super quick, super athletic lefty that reminds me a lot of former Oak Hill star Brandon Jennings. Florida, Indiana and UCONN have all offered while many think that Duke and Kentucky will be in the mix by the time all is said and done. Braxton Key (Alabama/ No. 71 in 2016) is an uber athletic wing that cleans the glass and plays passing lanes about as well as anyone in the field. The dunks will be coming from a trio of bigs in Khadim Sy (Virginia Tech), Kenneth Nwuba (Uncommitted/No. 19 in 2018) and 6-foot-11 center Rodney Miller (Miami/ No. 114 in 2016). All three are rim-protectors and finish well above the rim. Nwuba has arguably the most upside of anyone at OHA because of how raw he is. Maybe the most exciting aspect of this team is a trio of junior combo guards Devontae Shuler (Uncommitted/No. 38), Ty-Shon Alexander (Uncommitted/No. 86) and Lindell Wiggington (Uncommitted/No. 98). All three are averaging double figures and shooting it at an unreal clip. Shuler is averaging 10.3 PPG, shooting 61% from the field and 43% from 3, Alexander is averaging 12.7 PPG, shooting 53% from the field and 45% from 3 and Wiggington is making a name for himself as a dynamic scorer, averaging a team-high 16.3 PPG and shooting 56% from the field and 47% from 3.
For as good as Oak Hill was last year, they might be EVEN BETTER this year. Expect them back in the national tournament.
This will be the second year of having the dunk contest and I’m not sure anyone can top the show Malik Monk put on last year. In fact, what he did last year was so impressive, it is worth seeing again. You’re welcome…
While there are no Monks or Kwe Parker’s in the field this year there should be several guys that could put on a show, depending on who ends up participating in the contest. Bishop Gorman junior Christian Popoola Jr. (Uncommitted/No. 93 in 2017) might be the early favorite after winning the dunk contest at last month’s MaxPreps Holiday Classic.
One name to keep an eye on is my sleeper pick to win it, Joplin’s Darrian Guillory. The 6-foot-3 senior has serious bounce and is no stranger to dunk contests. Here’s a preview of what he’s capable of.
The two winning dunks! pic.twitter.com/9lPcGdN8mX
— Joplin Eagle Hoops (@jhs_eaglehoops) December 29, 2015
Rivals ranks Jayson Tatum as the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2016, but many consider him the best high school player in the nation and the best player to ever come out of St. Louis. If you cheer for the right shade of blue, like me, you’ll be happy to know that Tatum is a future Duke Blue Devil, but he’s put on an absolute scoring clinic in his senior year at Chaminade. The 6-foot-8 wing has a game that screams Kevin Durant and it’s nearly that smooth too. He’s not a freak of nature athlete, but one of the most skilled guys you’ll see. He’s been in the USA Basketball system since 2012 and is likely a future lottery pick. The numbers are as equally staggering. He dropped 40 on Miller Grove, 40 on Bentonville, 46 on nationally-ranked Huntington Prep and has six 30-point games outside of that. He’s averaging a cool 30.5 PPG shooting 53% from the field. Oh, he also leads the team in rebounding (8.8 RPG), assists (3.2 APG), steals and blocks. I’m done talking, just watch the video…
Chaminade also has 6-foot-8 forward Tyler Cook (Iowa/No. 81 in 2016), as well as Mike Lewis (Duquesne) and Will Gladson (Princeton). The Red Devils lost to Oak Hill 69-61 back on Dec. 3 and I’m sure they are itching to get another shot in a potential championship matchup.
The Fantastic Four. The Big Four. The Four Horsemen. Whatever you want to call Kickapoo’s quartet of seniors Isaac Johnson and Niekie Thomas-Fontleroy and juniors Jared Ridder and Cam Davis, call them undefeated and call this the perfect opportunity for them. All four have D-1 games and now they get the chance to prove it against the nation’s best. Johnson, Thomas-Fontleroy and Davis all have eerily similar games; athletic combo guards that can score at all three levels. Johnson (6-foot) is the best defensively, Thomas-Fontleroy (6-foot-2) is a walking highlight reel and Davis (6-foot) is a natural scorer; all three are underrated shooters. The TOC provides them the chance to prove that they can not only defend their position against elite guards, but it will also test their competitive fire. Thomas-Fontleroy will reclassify and likely attend a prep school in 2016-17 which will only add to his value. Jared Ridder is the most sure-fire prospect of the four. He’s 6-foot-7 with range and sneaky athleticism. For him, he potentially has the chance to go from mid-major prospect to a Power 5 recruit. He will be one of the best shooters in the field, but the question is can he defend his position. He’s more than just a catch-and-shoot guy and showing that against high-level competition will only improve his stock. I like this Kickapoo team. Drawing Sierra Canyon in the first round is brutal, but don’t be shocked to see the Chiefs string together back-to-back wins on the backside of the bracket should they lose to SC.
Christ the King has a record six Bass Pro Tournament of Champions titles with the most recent coming in 2008. The Royals again have a guard-heavy roster, led by 6-foot guard Jose Alvarado (Uncommitted/No. 119 in 2017). SMU, Indiana, Georgia Tech and St. John’s have all offered. With 6-foot-5 wing Ty Cohen (Holy Cross), 6-foot-6 forward David Cole (Robert Morris) and 6-foot mid-major prospect Jared Rivers, CTK has enough to again be competitive. Also, 6-foot-4 senior Yashawn Bright is a darkhrose in the dunk contest… and to put someone on a poster.
Uhh Ohh , 2016 It's Going Be Ugly…Amen @PTHoopTeam pic.twitter.com/jkflrRkbgf
— RealRightJose (@AlvaradoJose15) January 1, 2016
Bobby Hurley handed out 1,076 assists in his four years at Duke, an NCAA record, and in his first year at Arizona State he is proving that his coaching skills are right in line with his playing career. The Sun Devils are 10-6, but the future looks bright thanks to Hurley’s first commitment, Rainier Beach combo guard Sam Cunliffe (No. 68 in 2016). He primarily plays point for the Vikings and there are very few holes in his game. He can shoot it with the best of them and has a high basketball IQ and has become a better slasher with a few finishes that will make you cringe. With Cunliffe playing, as well as ASU bringing in the mix for several players, don’t be surprised if Hurley makes an appearance in JQH Arena despite hosting Washington and Washington State that weekend.… 6-foot-7 senior Keith Smith is headed to Oregon, 5-foot-11 junior Khalil Shabazz will be one of the best pure point guards in the tournament and 6-foot-5 sophomore Kevin Porter Jr. has already been offered by Washington and will be another name to keep in mind for the dunk contest.
Sam Cunliffe @SamCunliffe_3 6'7 Guard Arizona State Commit – "Body Count" #BeachBoy #AWPro pic.twitter.com/4ojZ8LJaS7
— Al Ward (@AWProductions_) January 10, 2016
UCLA won the national championship that year, led by brothers Ed and Charles O’Bannon, who averaged 20 PPG and 13.5 PPG respectively. While their legacy in the state of California is sealed, Charles O’Bannon Jr. (Uncommitted/No. 44 in 2017) is now making a name for himself at Bishop Gorman. He will be one of the most entertaining players in the tournament because of the NBA fee he has to his game already. At 6-foot-4 he’s a big-time scorer with no shortage of moves in his arsenal. Gorman has a loaded roster top to bottom with including 6-foot-11 stud Zach Collins (Gonzaga/No. 32 in 2016).
1 in 292 million
No, those aren’t the odds of Bolivar upsetting Oak Hill in the first round, but your odds of winning Wednesday’s Powerball. Both are longshots but the Libs definitely have a better chance than you do of becoming an instant millionaire. Robby Hoegh returns all five starters from last year’s Class 4 Final Four team, led by 6-foot-6 D-1 tight end prospect Brandon Emmert. Emmert is Bolivar’s tallest starter, while Oak Hill could potentially start three guys 6-foot-7 or taller. Oak Hill is a tough, seemingly impossible draw, but with the amount of experience Hoegh returns and the overall competitiveness of this team, I don’t see them getting turbo clocked three days in a row and will certainly be pesky on the backside of the bracket. The TOC won’t change Bolivar’s hopes for a Class 4 state championship, but it will certainly be a memorable weekend for the Liberators.