Big-time prep tourney on tap
Shawnee College basketball coaches from each of the schools in the Big 12 Conference — as well as staff members from a majority of the leagues in the country — will descend on the area today through Saturday for one of the final events of the July summer evaluation period.
It’s time for the Metro Sports/KC Prep Invitational, which will be at Okun Fieldhouse, 20200 Johnson Drive in Shawnee.
“I know exactly how many coaches we had last year — 322,” said tournament director Tom Tietze of Tom Tietze Basketball. “I have to hand out the wristbands. I know how many I ordered and how many I had left, so it’s not hard to figure out who attends.
“I saw Bill Self and Danny Manning recently, and Bill was asking me about the tournament. He said, ‘I look forward to being here at the end of the month and being able to sleep in my own bed at night (after being on the road most of July).’
“This is great for the Big 12 area schools. They don’t have to go far,” Tietze added.
It’s also good for recruiting enthusiasts, who will be pleased to learn the tourney is open to the public. Cost is $27 for a tournament pass. Single-day passes are $7 today and Saturday and $9 for Thursday and Friday.
Brackets and schedules are available at http://www.tomtietzebasketball.net/.
Metro Sports will televise several of Thursday’s games via tape delay on Thursday night.
“We have a little bit of everything with players from the Class of 2011 and players emerging from the classes of 2011, ’12 and ’13,” Tietze said. “The great thing is, everything is under one roof. It’s the largest and most heavily attended high school tournament in this town. Coaches and spectators don’t have to drive all over town to different high schools. It’s all here, which is convenient for everybody.”
KU targets Ben McLemore of the St. Louis Eagles and Perry Ellis of Wichita’s Pray and Play Players both will be competing at the four-day event. Coincidentally, both play at 6:15 tonight. The Eagles are rushing into town after placing second at the AAU Super Showcase in Florida.
The 6-foot-5 McLemore, who first attended Wellston High, then moved on to St. Louis Eskridge High, plans to complete his high school career this year at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He has said several times that KU is his leader, with Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Purdue and others on his list.
Ellis, a 6-8 junior from Wichita Heights, has received offers from KU, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma and Wake Forest.
“Obviously, those two kids are very high-profile. Perry has been that way since the beginning of his freshman year at Wichita Heights,” Tietze said of the two-time state Gatorade Player of the Year. “Ben McLemore has gathered a lot of interest. I’m not sure a year ago how many people knew who he was. I’ve seen him for some time and thought he’d be a great player. He was at a tiny little high school. It has since closed.”
The Eagles also boast guard Bradley Beal, who last summer committed to Florida over KU and others.
Some of the other top programs to play at the KC Prep Invitational: Milwaukee Spartans, New Mexico Force, Chicago Mean Streets, Tennessee Travellers, Urban DFW and Brandon Bass Elite.
“One of the great things about the certified events in July is everybody gets to make their own evaluations and perceptions of youngsters,” Tietze said of coaches and fans. “I think it’s part of the great atmosphere of the tournament.”
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