Over the last three weeks, fourth-year tournament director Torey Hammett has been slowly — but surely — revealing the highly-anticipated field for the 2020 West Kentucky Hoops Classic.
Monday night, he revealed the biggest news of all.
Lausanne Collegiate School (Memphis), the 2020 Tennessee Division II Class A State Boys’ Basketball champion, caps what looks to be one of the strongest fields yet for the annual Christmas tournament — set for Dec. 28-29 at the CAB in Princeton.
The face of the Lynx? It’s 2021 five-star center Moussa Cisse, who earlier this week narrowed his college of choice to 10 teams: Kentucky, Memphis, the University of Southern California, Georgetown, Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Tennessee, Illinois and LSU.
Considered the No. 1 player in Tennessee and the No. 8 player nationally (according to 247sports.com), Cisse finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks in the state championship game against First Assembly Christian School: a 54-44 win on March 7 in Nashville.
And this is just one player.
Nine other boys schools — Murray, Caldwell County, Fern Creek, Memphis Bartlett (Tennessee), Montogomery Lee (Alabama), Birmingham Huffman (Alabama), Pontotoc (Mississippi), Independence (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Columbia Ridgeview (South Carolina) — are confirmed for the tournament, with four local girls squads (Mayfield, Caldwell County, Madisonville-North Hopkins and Lyon County) bringing their own talent.
“It’s just recruiting,” Hammett said. “It’s going out and selling them on why they should be in our tournament versus other tournaments that are trying to acquire them.
“It was more difficult in the beginning, but word-of-mouth and coach references have helped us pick up the past couple of years, where teams have actually been asking us to get involved to play in it. It’s not that it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s difficult. I spend tons of time on getting teams, recruiting, selling and texting to get coaches interested. But we do have some name recognition now, so we’re able to get teams interested that maybe weren’t interested before.”
With title sponsors in Goodwin Insurance Agency, First Southern National Bank and Williams, Faughn & Associates, the event helps bolster the Caldwell County High School athletic department, with all sports in mind.
Hammett noted one of the larger selling points for the tournament — aside from a promised strong field and two quality games for all squads — is the team breakfast, typically served on day two of the tournament.
Held at the First Baptist Church Christian Life Center, last year’s speaker was Cameron Mills. The former University of Kentucky basketball player now has his own ministry, and his weekly radio show airs on NewsRadio 630 from Lexington.
This year’s speaker is currently undetermined, but Hammett can sigh with relief.
The field is complete.
“Top to bottom,” he said, “I think it’s the best field so far.
“We’re just thankful for all of the local support, and especially from our coaches in Chuck Mitchell and Daniel Kukahiko, who coach their teams and also help with all of the organization of it. They are doing things invaluable things in and around the tournament.”
Between the hometown Tigers, the First Region-housed Tigers and the Sixth Region Tigers (of Fern Creek), it’s a lot of Tigers.
The three teams went a combined 67-29 last year, and Fern Creek (28-6, 2020 Sixth Region Champion) returns an entire roster that would’ve contended for the 2020 KHSAA State Championship behind the efforts of soon-to-be seniors Zek Montgomery and Jaden Rogers, who combined to score more than 30 ppg last season.
“We’ve always tried to pull one of the top teams in Kentucky,” Hammett noted. “But this is the first year to really pull what looks to be a top 2-to-3 team with Fern Creek.”
Caldwell County brings its own star to the field in soon-to-be senior Tripp Branch, who buried 79 3-pointers at 40% last season, while Murray boasts the talents of soon-to-be sophomore guard Grant Whitaker, who made the 2020 Paducah Sun All-Purchase Team after averaging 18.3 ppg on 55% shooting as a freshman.
Out of state power
Lausanne isn’t the only team touting state-champion hardware coming into the 2020-21 season.
Montgomery Lee finished 33-1 in 2019-20 and captured the Class 7A state title in Alabama, and 6A Huffman — with its 6A Coach of the Year Steve Ward — also captured a championship.
Ridgeview (South Carolina) is coming in as a three-time 4A state championship team. They’re moving up to 5A in 2020-21, and last year played three of top seven teams in the nation.
Lacing ladiesMadisonville-North Hopkins (29-2), Mayfield (19-12), Caldwell County (16-15) and Lyon County (13-17) comprise a strong girls slate, with its own talent on the table.
The Lady Maroons, Second Region runner-up to Henderson County, do lose five seniors, but have soon-to-be junior guard Camryn LaGrange in the fold (16.2 ppg, 51 3-pointers).
Bella McConnell graduates alongside Jada Boyd and Lucy Goffinet, but Chuck Mitchell and the Lady Tigers do return soon-to-be senior guard Jacey Jaggers — who averaged a team second-best 12.2 ppg and drilled a team-high 43 3-pointers on 36%.
The defending Second Region All “A” champs should have the talents of Cathryn Brown, Rose Smith and Calista Collins — who combined for more than 30 ppg last season.
Mayfield loses three of its top four scorers from a year ago (Madison Felts, Kyler Henson, Desiree Thomas), but soon-to-be senior guard Hayley Sullivan should average double digits in 2020-21.
- Three teams (Lausanne, Montgomery Lee and Independence) have recent Murray State ties. Former Racers PG and 2015 NBA Lottery pick Cameron Payne was Tennessee’s “Mr. Basketball” at Lausanne in 2013, while current forwards Demond Robinson (Lee) and Matt Smith (Independence) have their Alma maters in the field.
- This is the first time the tournament field will have a South Carolina representative, bringing the total to 11 different states in the past four years.