By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Find everything you need to know about the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions below. Watch a video break down with Chad Plein & Jordan Burton above.
1 – Oak Hill or La Lumiere
At this point it’s more of a question of national prestige instead of current ranking. Oak Hill is No. 3 in USA Today’s Top 25. La Lumiere is at No. 11. The Lakers are defending national champions while Oak Hill won it all in 2016… beating La Lumiere in the title game. Oak Hill has four players ranked nationally and several others worthy of consideration, while La Lumiere has three (led by Tyger Campbell who we’ll get to in a bit). Montverde and Memphis East seem to be the cream of the crop, but it’s also hard to pick against the two teams that have claimed titles most recently. Should Oak Hill and La Lumiere advance and meet for the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions title, it could be a preview of the national championship.
3 – The Best Point Guard in the Nation is…?
This field may not have the insane top end talent that it’s had in previous years with guys like Ben Simmons, Marvin Bagley and Lonzo Ball, but it does offer maybe the best crop of point guards ever with Darius Garland, Courtney Ramey and Tyger Campbell. All three guards are currently ranked inside ESPN’s Top 100 for 2018.
Darius Garland has some serious basketball in his bloodlines. His dad is former Missouri State great Winston Garland – you know, the guy who has his jersey hanging in the rafters. His son isn’t too far off. ESPN ranks him at No. 11, in a virtual deadlock with Tre Jones for top point guard in the class honors. He’s lightning quick with serious range on his jumper. He’ll be one of the most impressive lead guards the tournament has seen since Malik Monk. He picked Vanderbilt over Duke, Kansas and basically every other program in America.
Courtney Ramey has been robbed of the first half of his senior year due to a wrist injury. But, the former Louisville commit has been cleared and should be on the floor at JQH. He’s not going to overwhelm you with athleticism, but he’s super skilled, shoots it well and is a fiery competitor. He’s also going to be one of the major reasons coaches will be taking sideline seats. His recruitment is still wide open with Mizzou, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma State and Villanova all still in play.
Tyger Campbell will remind you of another TOC alum, former Sierra Canyon star Remy Martin. It’s not just the big hair, but it’s the fact that Campbell has a running back-build with a ton of physicality to his game. He’s a willing passer and the least likely of anyone on this list to go for 40 on a night (the other two might get there on one of the three days). Campbell decommitted from DePaul and it this point it seems like a two-horse race between DePaul and Purdue, with Maryland, Memphis and Alabama being in the mix.
The Basketball Gods will be blessing us with matchups between these three cats.
3.14 – The infinite number of blocks (and dunks) we could see
This year’s field is full of point guards and bigs. All the beef and athleticism in the paint will make for some intriguing matchups. Here are the posts you should know.
Kofi Cockburn is the No. 34 player in the ESPN 60 for 2019 prospects. He’s physically overwhelming to opponents because of all of his gifts. He may be the most projectable big in the entire tournament to the NBA.
David McCormack is a future Jayhawk, so there will be no shortage of support in JQH Arena for the 4-star big. But, he’ll likely win over many fans when they see how hard he plays. McCormack is a high-motor guy that tries to dunk and block everything.
His overall ranking has dropped in nearly every scouting service, but Carte’Are Gordon is still a monster at the high school level. ESPN has the SLU commit at No. 67. Keep in mind he turned down Kansas, Mizzou, Iowa State and Notre Dame. At 6-foot-8, 260lbs he’s a powder keg of explosiveness and has been dominant without Courtney Ramey, averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 rebounds at City of Palms.
Bryan Penn-Johnson is one of the biggest, longest 7-footers in the nation for Wasatch Academy. He’s still really raw, which is why he’s at No. 86. However, his limitless potential is why people like Cal, Oregon, West Virginia and USC have.
He’s the smallest of the “bigs” but Isaiah Stewart might be the most explosive. What makes him so appealing is because of how mobile he is despite having a physically imposing frame. Duke has already offered the La Lumiere junior. Syracuse, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Maryland have too. He should draw tons of traffic from Power 5 coaches throughout the weekend.
30-30-30 – Keldon Johnson is a STUD
That is the only way to put it. I won’t even try to be unbiased about it, but outside of Darius Garland, this is the player I’m most excited to see. The future Kentucky Wildcat has a pro build already at 6-foot-7, 225lbs and his game screams NBA. A few years ago Oak Hill came to the TOC, walked away with a title and current Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon walked out with MVP honors after dropping 95 points in three games. Johnson could 100% be in that mold. He’s averaging 21 points on 55 percent shooting from the field.
His partner in crime – Florida commit Keyontae Johnson – might be the favorite to win the dunk contest should he participate.
417 – Local Teams
The best part about this tournament is the local teams. Are they the two best to ever be in the field? No. Are they two of the most exciting teams we’ve had locally? Yes. Neither team will hide from the challenge, nor will they try to take the air out of the ball. Both teams are high octane offenses that love to get up and down and shoot the 3. Both teams also have star power that has played at high levels during summer ball. Monty Johal and Jordan Walton have combined for well over 3,000 points and will likely finish their careers as 1-2 on the all-time SPS scoring list. Then there’s Ozark senior Quinn Nelson, who is on the verge of rewriting the Tigers career 3-point record. All three of those seniors will play college basketball, the question remains what level? This is an opportunity for the three guards to greatly improve their stock on a national stage. They may not win games, but they’ll be competitive and entertaining at least.