AHSAA puts on successful Elite 100 basketball showcase

Published 8:10 pm Sunday, June 23, 2019

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

HOOVER – The sound of a hundred basketballs dribbling simultaneously in late June is usually reserved for AAU tournaments, but the inaugural AHSAA Elite 100 basketball showcase proved to be something similar yet different altogether as players, scouts and coaches from the high school and collegiate ranks gathered at Spain Park and Hoover high schools to see which big fish could swim in a much bigger, man-made pond.

The competition loomed large with a long day of basketball ahead, but players learned early in the showcase that there would be other aspects of the day.

After two sessions of scrimmages and lunch, participants rested while learning the finer points of nutrition and other fundamentals to help them extend their athletic careers.

Spain Park head coach Mike Chase knows each athlete can reach their potential, but only when they take on the full body of work required of a top tier athlete.

“Most of these kids have aspirations of playing at the next level and if they do they’re not going to be able to get there without taking care of their bodies, prevent injury and strength train,” Chase said. “We’re fortunate that we have the resources and facilities here, but there’s a lot of schools where there are kids playing multiple sports and there isn’t a lot of time to learn how to lift weights and eat right.”

Chris Laatsch echoed his Spain Park colleague and emphasized the new chance the day presented each student athlete.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “All of us as coaches and educators care about our kids and care about them as the whole kid and not just as a player and an athlete. It’s a great honor to be chosen for this and it’s a great opportunity to play against some of the best players and to be watched by as many college coaches as we had show up.”

Coaches from all levels of college basketball were in attendance for the event and even Auburn’s men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl was seen sitting on the sidelines evaluating and talking shop with other coaches.

The new showcase greatly benefited smaller college programs who saw the cream of Alabama’s crop without having to send their coaching staffs to multiple locations.

The University of Montevallo Falcons were represented by both their men’s and women’s head coaches Danny Young and Gary Van Atta who both had high praise for the AHSAA’s latest venture.

“It’s been an awesome opportunity to see the best players from Mobile to Huntsville all in one place,” Van Atta said. “When you add the fact that it’s at Spain Park, it’s a huge benefit to us and we hope that the AHSAA continues to sponsor this event for years to come.”

Being able to watch so many talented players in one spot compete against one another is the exact aspect of the event that Young loved about it as well.

“It’s great when you can get all the top players in the state in one gym, get evaluated all in one area and it’s like a one-stop shop,” Young said. “An event of this magnitude with multiple sites doesn’t come together easily–especially on the first attempt. It’s also an undertaking several states aren’t willing to do.”

Pelham High School’s Joel Floyd who coached at the showcase commended the state and the AHSAA’s leadership in pulling off a first class ordeal for everyone involved.

“I think it’s great that our state worked hard for the kids to give them this opportunity. It’s a new thing from the NCAA and our state just took the ball and ran with it,” Floyd said. “There are not very many states in the country that are doing this and they’ve done a terrific job putting this together, really well organized.”

After the event, Floyd even took to Twitter to not only commend the AHSAA on the event, but rattle off several of the players that stuck out to him, including Spain Park’s Cam Crawford and his own Kendan Maddox.

Both guys have an athletic upside that can take them far in the game with Crawford standing at 6-foot-4 as a rising junior, while Maddox is 6-foot-7 as a rising junior.

Maddox is a player that isn’t just tall, but looks like a college athlete already. While he’s working on his shot, he can not only get to the rim and finish, but protect the rim with ease thanks to his incredible vertical ability at such an impressive height.

Crawford is an athletic guard who has the quick dribble move to get by his man to the rim, or a player that can pull up and knock down the jump shot.

Those were just two of nine local players to take part in the showcase, as we got a good look at what to expect from several of the county’s best athletes heading into the 2019-2020 season.

On the girls’ side of the showcase hosted at Spain Park, Camille Chase and Mackenzie Culpepper represented the home court for the Jags, while Thompson’s Brooklyn Oden was in attendance for the Warriors.

Both Chase and Culpepper are rising sophomores at Spain Park and have already played an important role on the Jags’ team as freshman after contributing during their recent Elite Eight season.

Going into her senior season, Oden averaged the third most points per game in Shelby County last year at 16, while adding six rebounds and four steals per game. She put on display her height, speed and finishing ability during the showcase for college coaches.

Aside from Crawford and Maddox on the boys’ side of the showcase at Hoover High School, Oak Mountain’s Will Shaver and Evan Smith, as well as Chelsea’s Jacob Tierney and Crawford’s teammate Bennett Meredith all competed in the event.

Standing at 6-foot-8, Shaver is a rising sophomore who got plenty of experience as a freshman.

While he is still trying to get his feet under him with his height, he showed plenty of promise as a freshman, and has already shown improvement not backing down from any other bigs or athletic playmakers during the showcase.

He’s a guy that could get close to 7 feet tall by his senior season, which easily makes him one of the most sought after guys in the state solely for his potential around the rim.

Smith, who is also a sophomore and was Oak Mountain’s starting quarterback as a freshman, is a lightning-fast player that has finesse from the guard position.

Last year, Smith was a true point guard, but as he continues to progress as a shooter, he could become one of the most dangerous guards in the state by the time he’s a senior. The potential is there, he’s just got to put in the work to make it happen, and everything he’s shown on the football field and in the gym tells us he will do whatever it takes thanks to a high motor.

A rising senior for the Chelsea Hornets, Tierney was also in attendance at the event after stepping up during his junior season. This past season he averaged 7.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists, but picked up his game in area play averaging 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and one steal per game.

He played a key role in the team’s 4-2 area record this past season, and showcased his ability to do whatever he needs to do to help his team win games.

Meredith is also a rising sophomore at Spain Park, and is one of several young players for the Jaguars. He and Crawford should complement each other nicely as playmakers during the upcoming season for the Jaguars.