Colin Likas on prep basketball: SJ-O hosts event, Brown decides future

Colin Likas on prep basketball: SJ-O hosts event, Brown decides future

Tourney reaches second year

ST. JOSEPH — Prep hoops fans looking for a weekend attraction ought to consider hitting up the Christie Clinic Shootout.

Hosted by St. Joseph-Ogden on Saturday, the second version of this showcase features six games played by teams from both within and outside The News-Gazette's coverage area.

And it won't at all have the same look as last year's shootout. Of the 12 previous competitors, only five return: SJ-O, Danville, Watseka, Belleville Althoff and Normal Community. Variety always was going to be a key talking point for this one-day tournament, according to first-year Spartans coach Kiel Duval.

"We started this for that purpose, with that goal," he said. "We would get some good teams playing some good basketball. To get fans out to watch an event like this is exciting."

The matchups for this year's event — all Saturday at SJ-O's main gym — are as follows:

— Watseka vs. Mt. Pulaski, noon

— Decatur MacArthur vs. Danville, 1:30 p.m.

— Monticello vs. Cissna Park, 3 p.m.

— Belleville Althoff vs. Champaign Central, 4:30 p.m.

— Oswego East vs. Normal Community, 6 p.m.— Pleasant Plains vs. St. Joseph-Ogden, 7:30 p.m.

One benefit for Duval and his counterparts is the ability to see many different playing styles over the course of a single day.

"We'll watch quite a few of them," Duval said. "There are some good players and good matchups. Along with that conference team (Monticello) in there, too, it gives us a chance to watch them."

As for SJ-O's game with Pleasant Plains (5-4), Duval is giving his Spartans (9-6) the scouting report that the Cardinals "almost look like a Division II basketball team."

"They're one of the most physical teams that we'll play all year," he said. "They're so long — arms all over the place, legs all over the place. It'll be a good matchup."

Hilltoppers enjoy travels

DANVILLE — Keith Peoples was able to reflect positively on his Schlarman girls' basketball team's holiday tournament run, despite its imperfect finish.

And that's good news, considering just how far the Hilltoppers trekked to face three opponents in as many days.

Schlarman traveled a couple states east, to Ohio, for the Braggin' Rights Classic in Cincinnati. At that event, the Hilltoppers squared off with Butler (Ky.), Miller (Mo.) Career Academy and Africentric (Ohio).

Butler captured Kentucky state championships in 2014 and 2016. Africentric is a reigning Ohio state champion and finished atop the podium in 2012, 2014 and 2016 as well.

"It's night and day," Peoples said of the difference between Schlarman's Illinois-based opponents and the ones it saw last week.

"Even in the warmups, it's like, 'Oh, my goodness. What have we gotten ourselves into here?'" Peoples continued. "Our girls came out and played with so much heart and composure."

Two days after Christmas, the Hilltoppers arrived in Cincinnati with little time to spare ahead of their tournament-opening tilt with Butler.

But Peoples felt it may've helped his girls that they had roughly an hour to rest after a lengthy bus ride, before hitting the hardwood. It showed in a 39-27 victory.

"That set the tone," Peoples said. "Going into a different state, playing against quality competition, you never know what to expect."

Schlarman followed the next day with a 62-29 triumph over Miller Career Academy that Peoples said was closer than the score made it appear, primarily because of Miller's physicality.

Then came Africentric on Friday. Among the Nubians are future University of Tennessee athlete Jordan Horston, rated second in the Class of 2019 by espnW, and Sakima Walker, daughter of former NBAer Samaki Walker.

"We were clearly outmatched from a personnel standpoint," Peoples said. "But one thing we had going to our advantage was the two games prior."

Even so, Africentric ultimately came out with a 45-35 win. Peoples admitted his charges were disappointed by that outcome, but also quickly got over the setback.

"They didn't hold their heads down for too long," he said. "If you do so, it'll just give the next opponent the opportunity to take advantage of you."

Junior going Division I

DANVILLE — Schlarman girls' basketball already had two athletes heading to a Division I institution.

That number increased this week when junior Capria Brown committed to Xavier out of the Big East Conference.

She posted her decision late Tuesday night on Twitter after picking the Musketeers out of a lineup also featuring Western Michigan, Wichita State, Marshall, Indiana State and DePaul.

Brown joins senior Hilltoppers teammate Anaya Peoples (Notre Dame) and Sydney Gouard (Oakland) on the D-I path.

"It felt right for me. It was just the perfect school," Brown said on Wednesday. "It's definitely like what I'm used to now, so when I go to college, it's not going to be different."

Brown was taken in by Xavier coach Brian Neal describing her as "a playmaker." And Brown compared her visit to the campus in Cincinnati as similar to walking into her own house in Danville.

Helping with that was Musketeers employing Mark Stephens as an assistant. Stephens led Brown's AAU squad in the past. Though Brown, a 5-foot-9 guard who uses her athletic ability in order to get to the basket easily, is enamored with everything Xavier offers, it didn't make her choice any easier.

"Oh, my gosh, it was so hard," she said. "Especially calling (other coaches) and telling them I committed. I'm not going to lie, I cried after I called two of them."

Brown also will suit up for the Musketeers' track and field team in the heptathlon. She captured a pair of medals at the 2018 IHSA Class 1A state track and field meet in the 400-meter dash and long jump. Now, Brown can focus completely on her remaining time with Schlarman.

"I didn't think this was going to happen to me growing up," she said. "Now that it's become a reality, it's just great."