Archive for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Big names turn out for Metro Sports/KC Preps Invitational hoops tourney in Shawnee

July 31, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

Updated: August 1, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

Bill Self was there and so was Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, along with almost 200 other college coaches from around the nation. It was a pretty big deal.

The Metro Sports/KC Prep Invitational held at Okun Fieldhouse this weekend was a hot spot for college recruiters as several talented AAU teams from all over the country came to compete.

It’s not the type of venue one would expect for a tournament of this caliber, being in Shawnee and not in the middle of downtown Kansas City. There isn’t a lot of activity in the area surrounding Okun Fieldhouse, which is part of the MidAmerica West Sports Complex, but that is part of its charm.

“Aside from the phone service, it couldn’t be any better,” tournament director Steve Buek said.

Unlike high-profile venues in Las Vegas or Orlando, where coaches had to drive between games, you get four courts in one at Okun. Also, the parking lot can easily fit everyone and it’s conveniently near I-435.

And the simplicity has worked. Tournament organizer Tom Tietze has hosted a high school scouting service for 25 years, and this tournament was the natural progression, created 12 years ago. Tietze invites the teams himself, looking for quality programs for the sake of good competition.

And though he said he doesn’t reach out for the best players, they usually end up attending anyway.

Players such as Tyler Hansbrough, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose have all played in the past. This year, it was the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2014, Tyus Jones from Apple Valley, Minn.

It’s a way for the local fans to see quality basketball with their own eyes, Tietze said.

“They don’t have to go to some website and look at what some organization says the best players are,” he said. “They can come and look. We have good basketball fans in this town. They can make their own evaluations.”

The big-name team this weekend was the eventual under-17 tournament champions KC Run GMC (formerly Pump ‘n Run), who had a 78-64 victory against Jones’ Howard Pulley Panthers while everyone was watching.

As Buek makes his rounds during competition, mingling with coaches or referees, his main satisfaction comes from watching the players.

Ultimately, they are the reason this tournament gets so much attention and why it was started in the first place.

“It’s not so much whether the kid’s a good player or a bad player,” Buek said. “It’s when you see a coach talk to a kid about something and a few minutes later, he’s got it.”

He and Tietze both do this for the love of the game and youth basketball, nothing more.

The same can be said about the volunteers who help with the event. They have helped make Shawnee a relevant prep basketball site, and it’s still growing.

Tietze said that he was getting phone calls back in September from teams wanting to be in this tournament.

He has a momentary reprieve for now, he joked.

“Right now, the middle of September, I don’t even want to think about it,” he said.


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