LeBron James has already left quite the legacy in Northeast Ohio. This weekend in Akron might be the start of yet another one.
The city that made him famous as one of the most hyped high school basketball players ever will host the first annual King James Shooting Stars Classic beginning Friday and lasting through Sunday afternoon. It's a tournament hosted by the King James Shooting Stars, an AAU team he helped found and is sponsored by Nike.
Event organizers have put together a field that will leave you star struck, featuring over 25 of the top 50 players in the country in the scouthoops.com 2007 recruiting rankings as well as many of the top sophomore and freshmen prospects in the nation. It will bring 321 AAU teams (ages 10-17) to Ohio and arguably the most talent the state has ever seen at one time.
The tournament, which is certified by the NCAA allowing college coaches to observe prospects on Saturday and Sunday, will be played in nearly 50 gymnasiums in the greater Akron area. Pool play will feature three teams per pool and a guaranteed third game in the tournament – which begins Saturday afternoon.
"It's pretty much the place to be," remarked one college assistant coach, "although with so many games it's going to be a nightmare figuring out where to be."
Interested observers will want to have their maps of the Akron metropolitan area handy. Many of the 17-under games will be played on the University of Akron campus with many of the 16-under games will be at Kent State University. Many others, however will be smattered all points in between.
General admission for the Papa John's King James Shooting Stars Classic will cost $15 to $20 for weekend passes. These passes will guarantee entry to any games, which begin 6 PM on Friday.
The Championship game begins at 2 PM on Sunday at JAR Arena and will cost $8 for admission for that game only if you would rather not purchase an all-weekend pass. It can also be seen live on national television on the Fox Sports Network Ohio.
If the event is to be summed in one word, it's stardom.
Both James and Carmelo Anthony sponsor teams in this year's event. Michael Jordan's son Jeffrey plays for the Rising Stars Gold and many of the top talent in the country will gather.
The 17-under division features 96 teams, split up into 32 pools of three teams each. All teams will play each of the other two teams once and then will be placed into one of eight individual tournament brackets of 12 teams each.
The winners of each 12-team bracket will comprise the quarterfinal round of eight teams leading to the championship game aired on FSN Ohio Sunday at 2 PM.
In addition to the plethora of talent nationally drawing at least 200 college coaches to Akron this weekend, basketball fans will enjoy a double delight if you're there to see an Ohio State flavor.
Nearly all of the primary sophomore and junior targets in the classes of 2007 and 2008 are scheduled to be in attendance this weekend including commitments Jon Diebler, Walter Offutt and B.J. Mullens. Also playing is Kosta Koufos, who was recently cleared to play for the first time, Dallas Lauderdale, Dante Jackson, Herb Pope, Josh Southern, J.J. Hickson, Yancy Gates, Delvon Roe, William Buford and Kenny Frease.
If that's not enough, the tournament will also feature O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Nolan Smith and Alex Legion from the class of 2007, Tyreke Evans, Terrelle Pryor and Senardo Samuels from the class of 2008 and Lance Stephenson from the class of 20098.
Some of the more intriguing pools are as follows (Ohio State prospects or commitments bolded):
Pool A –Mean Street Express (PG Derrick Rose); Worldwide Renegades (PF J.J. Hickson, SG Chris Allen – Michigan State); Blessed IJN (SG Eshaunte Jones)
Pool B –Pittsburgh Jots (PF Herb Pope, 2008 WF Terrelle Pryor); Michigan Hurricanes (SG Alex Legion, SG Dar Tucker); D.C. Blue Devils (PF John Flowers – West Virginia)
Pool C –The Family (PG Kalin Lucas – Michigan State, SG Durrell Summers – Michigan State, SG Cooperryale Harris); Illinois Wolves (PG Demetri McCamey, WF Evan Turner); Triple Threat
Pool D –Atlanta Celtics (SG Senario Hillman – Alabama); New York Gauchos; Cleveland Basketball Club 17's
Pool E – Playaz Basketball Club (PG Antonio Jardine – Syracuse, SG Corey Raji); Wisconsin Playground Warriors, Mean Streets
Pool F –Team Final (2008 SG Tyreke Evans); Michigan Mustangs (C Josh Southern); Baltimore Stars (C Braxton Dupree – Maryland)
Pool G –D One Sports (WF Eric Wallace); Cleveland Basketball Club 16's (2008 PF Yancy Gates, 2008 C B.J. Mullens – Ohio State, 2008 WF RaShawn Goins, 2008 SG Devon Moore); AFE Wizards
Pool H –Queen City Prophets (WF Chris Wright – Dayton); D.C. Assault (C Anthony McClain, WF Adrian Bowie); Rising Stars Gold (SG Jeffrey Jordan)
Pool J –All Ohio Red (WF Jon Diebler – Ohio State); GC Ballers A; Illinois Bobcats
Pool K –Cleveland Titans (C Dallas Lauderdale); NY Panthers (2009 SG Lance Stephenson, may play 16-under); Conn Young Gunz J
Pool L –D-I Greyhounds (PG O.J. Mayo, WF Bill Walker, PF Aaron Pogue, 2008 SG William Buford, C Keenan Ellis); D.C. Assault (PF Julian Vaughn, WF Michael Beasley, SG Nolan Smith - Duke, PG Austin Freeman – Georgetown); SYF Players (SG E'Twaun Moore, WF Robbie Hummel, WF Scott Martin, C Evan Schmidt)
Pool M –Team Melo (SG Donta Greene – Syracuse); Fox Valley Skillz (PF Keaton Nankivil); King James Stars (PF Kosta Koufos, 2008 WF Delvon Roe)
Pool EE –Cincinnati Royals (SG Dante Jackson); Philadelphia Ballhawks; Wisconsin Force
Pool A (16's) –D-I Greyhounds (SG William Buford, if he doesn't play with the 17's); Metro Hawks (2008 C Senardo Samuels); Florida Elite
Pool B (16's) –Team Cbiz (2008 PF Kenny Frease); The Family (2008 SG Darnell Brown; 2008 WF Paul Williams); D.C. Assault
Pool E (16's) –Indiana Elite MG (2008 SG Walter Offutt – Ohio State); Team Melo; Reach All Stars
Games on Friday will be played at 6 PM, 7:20 PM, 8:40 PM and 10 PM. Games on Saturday resume at 8 AM at the same intervals and the tournament play will begin at 1:20 PM for the first round.
For more information, visit www.neobasketball.com and click on the King James Shooting Stars Classic link to see a complete schedule, list of teams and more.
Bucknuts will be in Akron all weekend with full coverage of all the action. We will have photos, video, interviews, scouting reports and much more of the top performers, Ohio State targets and everything else.
Akron will be the place to be this weekend if you're into stargazing.