By LARRY VAUGHT
The Marshall County Hoop Fest opens Thursday night in Benton and will again have an all-star cast of players and teams, including Kentucky signee Shai Alexander of Chattanooga.
Here is a look at some of the key teams provided by Hoop Fest officials:
5:30 p.m. Friday — Prolific Prep (CA) vs Hamilton Heights Christian (TN)
Prolific Prep – Prolific Prep brings in two elite guards, seniors Gary Trent, Jr. (Duke commit, No. 8, ESPN) and Paul Scruggs (Xavier signee, No. 28, ESPN) and highly touted Croatian big man Oton Janković (2019). Alongside these two, the Crew include returnees Abu Kigab (Oregon signee, 2017), Nathan Mensah (2018, offers from San Diego St., Oregon), and sophomore guard Pierre Crockrell (offer from Montana), who went 5 for 5 from behind the arc in last year’s event.
Hamilton Heights – Hamilton Heights is home to two of the top ranked guards in the country, cousins Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 43, 247Sports), a Kentucky signee, was offered by the Wildcats in early November and committed to them two weeks later. Alexander-Walker (No. 29, ESPN), a high scoring guard, has signed with Virginia Tech. Sophomore Wheza Panzo will also likely give the Hawks valuable minutes.
7 p.m. Friday — Hillcrest Prep (AZ) vs The Tech Academy (CAN)
Hillcrest Prep – Hillcrest will be led by 7’1” big man returnee DeAndre Ayton, the unanimous no. 1 senior. Ayton, a dominant force on both ends of the floor, is the top rated senior in the country and has signed with the Arizona Wildcats. Alongside Ayton in the post will be 6’10” senior Andrija Ristanovic, who holds an offer from IUPUI.
TTA – Newly founded program The Tech Academy features Matur Maker, who is the little brother of the #10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Thon Maker. Matur, who is continually improving his game, has offers from Indiana, Wake Forest, and Arizona State, and is drawing interest from Kansas. He is joined by his 6’11” sophomore cousin Makur Maker (offer from UTEP). Makur is still young but is a very coachable player with a high work ethic.
8:30 p.m. Friday — Oak Hill Academy (VA) v Tennessee Prep (TN)
Oak Hill – Oak Hill comes into this season as, once again, one of the top teams in the nation. Coming off of a Dick’s National Tournament championship, the Warriors welcome back senior guards Ty-Shon Alexander (Creighton signee, No. 64, ESPN), Matt Coleman (final list: Duke, Kansas, Stanford, Texas, No. 27, ESPN), Devontae Shuler (Ole Miss signee, No. 100, 247Sports), and Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State signee, No. 40, Rivals), who all will be counted on to provide leadership and experience. The Warriors feature a talented frontcourt, which returns junior Kenny Nwuba (offers include Maryland, VA Tech…, No. 39, ESPN). New to the team this year are elite senior Billy Preston (Kansas commit, No. 8, Rivals) and no. 20 ranked (ESPN) junior David McCormack, who has offers from nearly every major program in the country. Freshman Josh Hemmings is another player to keep watch of this season.
Tennessee Prep – The Diplomats are senior laden team with only two juniors and one sophomore. They feature 7’3” senior center Chris Sodom, who has signed with New Mexico. TPA also includes a trio of captains: 6’8” seniors Sean Pollack and Will Mangum and junior point guard Tyrese Ross-Patterson.
More info to come later on other teams, players.