Basketball shootouts have become the new wave of prep basketball. The Highland Shootout took place on Jan. 9 at Highland High with 3,000 people on hand to watch Chaminade and Althoff battle in a premier basketball showcase.
The O’Fallon Shootout began last year to rave reviews. These boys’ events are definite fan favorites. But where is the extravagant display for girls’ hoops in the Metro East?
That’s the exact question Alton head coach Bobby Rickman asked himself. Then came the next question. Why can’t Alton High play host to one?
Hence the birth of the Atrium Hotel Great Rivers Shootout on Saturday at AHS. There are 10 teams showcased in five games on the Redbirds’ floor for a full day of basketball.
“One of the things I saw when I got here is you always hear so much about the Highland Shootout on the boys’ side and O’Fallon last year started their shootout and I think you’ve got two of the best boys’ shootouts, maybe in the Midwest, happening over here in the Metro East,” Rickman said. “There are also a couple of good tournaments over in St. Louis and I said, ‘Why can’t we put together something like that here at Alton?’ We have the facilities for it and I feel like I have some connections to St. Louis and other parts of the country from where I’ve been, so I said, ‘Let’s try and get this put together.’”
Rickman is in his third season at the helm of the Alton program. Previously he spent three seasons at highly touted Incarnate Word in St. Louis and then two years at Memphis Central before that. Those will be two of the programs on hand Saturday in Alton.
Here’s a rundown of the schedule: St. Joseph’s Academy vs. Calhoun, noon; Parkway North vs. Civic Memorial, 1:45 p.m.; Regis Jesuit (Colo.) vs. Incarnate Word, 3:30 p.m.; Alton vs. Jennings, 5:15 p.m. and Memphis Central (Tenn.) vs. Francis Howell, 7 p.m.
That’s a good slate of basketball, including a slew of future collegiate athletes. Unfortunately Parkway North will be without Texas recruit Alecia Sutton, who is sidelined with an injury. North still boasted a 10-1 mark entering this week, so it won’t be a cakewalk for CM.
Rickman believes having teams of this caliber on hand for the Redbirds to watch can help show them what it takes to compete at a high level.
“Girls that have competed at the AAU level understand the competition, but a lot of our girls haven’t competed on that level where they understand it completely,” Rickman said. “They see Edwardsville and think it’s just Edwardsville, but when you start seeing these other teams you start to realize Edwardsville is not the only Edwardsville out there. There is Incarnate Word, there’s Memphis Central that’s ranked third in Tennessee and are undefeated. Regis Jesuit is ninth in Colorado and has a young team. Then there is a Francis Howell that has won some good games and ranked in the top 10 in Missouri. You’ve got all these teams that compete at a high level year in and year out. It’s an opportunity for us to see how they play and what they do and hopefully it’s something that helps us.”
There has been a ton of work behind the scenes to get these teams on the basketball court Saturday, too.
“Basically what we started with was just trying to get enough teams together to do this,” Rickman said. “Then we worked on sponsors and Brett (Stawar) down at the Convention and Visitors Bureau helped us get started with the local hotels and the Atrium stepped up and became the title sponsor for the event. They are providing rooms for Regis Jesuit and Memphis Central coming in, so they helped make it possible to get those out of town teams here.
“We’ve kind of approached this as a one-year perspective to see how it goes and if it works well for us and it works well for (Atrium Hotels). The Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes it’s successful and we can continue this on. We want to see how this first year goes, because it may be a colossal failure and we have 200 people show up and not have the crowds we hope we can generate.
“We’re not going to be a sold-out event like the Highland Shootout, because it’s girls’ basketball, not guys.”
That doesn’t mean there can’t be suitable crowds for it to be a success. That’s one reason why local standout programs CM and Calhoun are on hand to play St. Louis powers. Area fans should be intrigued to see how they stack up against the competition.
“It helps having a team like Civic Memorial and a team like Calhoun who are hopefully going to bring good fans to see them play some good teams,” Rickman said. “Hopefully we start there and then we get some interest from the St. Louis area saying, ‘This is one of the best one-day events I can go to and see some of the best teams in the area play.’”
Support from college coaches has been good, also. SIUE, SLU, Mizzou and Illinois all have showed interest in the event and Rickman believes there will be coaches in Alton to witness the talent first hand.
He hopes this is the beginning of an annual Alton tradition.
“We hope it can turn into something,” he said. “Liberty Bank is on board, as well as Atrium Hotel and other smaller sponsors. BSN Sports is providing polos for all our coaches. We hope coaches will see the benefit of it, teams and fans will enjoy it and we can continue this for many years to come.”
• • •
The answer to the Jan. 8 AdVantage News sports trivia question is the Texas Rangers. Former Marquette Catholic standout baseball player Chris Erwin played one season in 1998 in Rookie League for the Rangers organization. He hit .303 with 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs and 1 3B in 27 games.
Congratulations to Pat Moore, who answered correctly and wins a $10 voucher to Jack Schmitt Chevrolet in Wood River.
Follow #AdVsports on Twitter