Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
The Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions is regularly one of the top tournaments in the state. Christmas might belong to Pontiac, but Washington has Thanksgiving on lock.
The ToC has three levels — Shootout Series, National Classic and Washington Invitational — and draws teams from across the state and the country. The list of notable players to appear, then, is rather substantial.
More than two dozen current NBA players played in Washington during their high school careers including No. 1 picks like Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson and Andrew Wiggins. Then there’s guys like De’Andre Jordan, Tristan Thompson, Nerlens Noel, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Malcolm Brogdon, Mo Bamba and Tyler Herro.
The field for this year’s tournament was finalized this month. Here’s a look at all the teams who are at least for now scheduled to play in Washington from Nov. 24-28:
Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo
Chiefs are led by three-star senior guards Anton Brookshire and Isaac Haney, who are committed to Missouri and Missouri State, respectively.
Conyers (Ga.) Heritage
Patriots’ top player is four-star senior guard James White, who has nearly a dozen high major offers.
Semi-regular Class 3A contender is led by 6-foot-8 senior center K.J. Debrick, who averaged 12.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 blocks last season.
St. Louis (Mo.) Vashon
Wolverines got a talent infusion when three-star senior guard Keshon Gilbert, a UNLV commit, transferred in from Las Vegas.
Fort Wayne (Ind.) Blackhawk Christian
Braves have one of the better senior big men in the country in four-star power forward Caleb Furst, who is committed to Purdue.
Titans are led by four-star junior forward (and 2019 News-Gazette All-State First Team pick) AJ Casey, who has an Illinois offer among his growing high major interest.
Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook
Wildcats’ senior Eric Van Der Heijden hasn’t committed to Louisville just yet, but that seems like the inevitable conclusion for the four-star forward.
Chargers won a regional title in 2019-20 with senior guard Daniel Duncan leading the way averaging 17.6 points, three rebounds and 2.3 assists on the season.
Cane Ridge (Tenn.)
Ravens have one of the best wings in the country, with junior Brandon Miller a consensus five-star, top 15 prospect.
Redbirds got a serious boost last season from now 6-7 sophomore Ethan Kizer, who averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and three assists and shot 39 percent from three-point range.
Lions’ duo of Jordan Bell (first team) and Robert Woodyard (third team) both earned all-state honors last season. Woodyard has committed to Alabama … to play football.
Bengals are led by consensus four-star junior forward Julian Phillips, who already has 20 high major offers.
Tigers have to replace several talented recent graduates, but senior guard Jermale Young is back after averaging 12 points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals in 2019-20.
Mustangs boast one of the top shooters in the state in four-star guard (and Illinois target) Jaden Schutt, who cracked the top 100 of the most recent 247Sports update.
St. John Bosco (Calif.)
Braves are fairly loaded with four-star junior forward Jeremiah Nyarko, three-star senior guard and Loyola Marymount commit Lamaj Lewis, three-star forward Randi Ovalle (has Illinois offer) and unranked junior guard Scotty Washington (has Illinois interest).
Warriors have a decided small school advantage being led by 6-9 senior big man Ben Eberlin.
Rams will have to rely heavily on senior forward Emaryon Byrd after graduating the other two of their top three players.
South Iron (Mo.)
Panthers’ top player, senior guard Brock Wakefield, had only local-ish Division II offers (UMSL, Drury, Truman State, McKendree) before getting an offer from Elon earlier this month.
Panthers have to replace high-scoring guard Chijioke Nwosu but can turn to 6-9 senior forward Ola Ajiboye, who has seven Division I offers.
Red Foxes are built around 6-10 senior forward Cesare Edwards, who is a four-star recruit and committed to Xavier.
Panthers’ 6-7 senior wing Devon Vanderheydt gave off some Alec Peters-esque vibes in leading team to 19 wins and outright Mid-Illini title in 2019-20.