Third annual public vs. private basketball tournament kicks off at SM East Thursday

SM East's Lucas Jones won the tournament's MVP award its first two years, starting in 2012 when he was a sophomore.
SM East’s Lucas Jones won the tournament’s MVP award its first two years, starting in 2012 when he was a sophomore.

The idea for the tournament was natural enough for SM East head coach Shawn Hair.

Having played at Rockburst during his high school years and watched the great atmospheres that surrounded games where his SM East squad faced off against private schools, Hair figured it would be fun to put together an early season tourney pitting some of the best public and private high schools in the region against each other.

“I just thought it was a very interesting concept,” he said. “I think there’s a desire for people to get to see these good private and public teams face off.”

Three years later, and the annual public vs. private tournament, this year dubbed the Championship Showdown, that kicks off at SM East today has become a fixture in the local basketball scene — and this year it features some of the top talent in the metro. Among this year’s competitors are Olathe East, considered among the top two or three teams in the state this year, and Barstow, which features elite talent that has propelled the Knights to three easy victories so far this year.

“Honestly, I think this is the best eight-team tournament going on this season,” Hair said. “You’ve probably got close to 10 DI caliber players out there, and maybe 20 DII level.”

The tournament kicks off with Barstow facing Olathe East at 4 p.m. today. SM North will take on Rockburst at 5:30 p.m. SM East has its first game at 7 p.m., when it faces St. James Academy. The second round games will be played Friday with the championship and consolation games coming Saturday.