Alexander, Curie unlikely to play in shootout
Brian Easter is working on the name.
And finding one more team.
But the Champaign Centennial athletic director who is in charge of the high school basketball event known in years past as the Shootout at the Hall is close to finalizing the field.
Even if it likely won’t feature one of the country’s top seniors in Chicago Curie’s Cliff Alexander.
Not that Easter didn’t try to get Curie to play in the event.
And received a signed contract from the Chicago high school.
But after talking with Curie officials, Easter was told the Condors are set to play in a shootout in Kentucky on Friday, Dec. 6 and then travel back to Chicago for an event with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Dec. 7.
However suspect that sounds, it does not appear Alexander — who took part in the 2011 event held at Parkland College when Curie beat Centennial 78-54 — will play in Champaign in December.
“I’m kind of disappointed because I think a lot of people would like to see Cliff play,” Easter said. “If they truly are being required by Rahm Emanuel to attend some function in Chicago, who am I to say they can’t.”
Easter said he emailed officials at White Station (Tenn.) High School, where Illinois target Leron Black plays, to gauge the school’s interest in playing, but received a one-word response back: No.
Easter has decided on times for the games at the State Farm Center.
The first one will start at 11 a.m., followed by approximate start times of 12:45 p.m, 2:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7:45 p.m.
“When the Shootout went to seven games, it always felt like the early morning game was too early and the late game was too late,” Easter said. “That’s not cool for those teams to be scheduled that late or for the teams that are scheduled to play at 10 in the morning. I feel 11 makes it feel like a real basketball game.”
Easter can confirm two games, but he’s not sure when they will start.
St. Joseph-Ogden is set to play Monticello in a rematch of last year’s Class 2A sectional title game in Tolono in one of the matchups.
Springfield Lanphier and Tennessee commit Larry Austin Jr. are scheduled to play Peoria Manual in another game.
Centennial, which has Illinois commit Michael Finke, Geneva, Mahomet-Seymour and Peoria Notre Dame were other teams Easter brought in to play by early March.
Since then, he has added Bloomington, Decatur MacArthur, which features Division I prospect Marcus Bartley, and Galesburg.
“Once I get that 12th team, I’ll feel so much better,” Easter said. “Then I can start figuring out who’s going to play when.”
And what to call it.
With State Farm acquiring naming rights to the former Assembly Hall, it also presents a precarious situation.
Country Financial is the event’s main sponsor this year.
“I believe that we’re OK with Country Financial still as the sponsor with everything I’ve been led to believe since it was something that was already prearranged to the State Farm agreement,” Easter said. “I sure would not like a surprise in that regard.”
Either way, Easter is anxious to put on the event.
“It’s fun to try to do, but at the same time, I don’t want to screw it up,” he said. “I want it to be successful, and I want people to show up. There’s some things that are just out of my control, but I’d like to build on it.”