Memories of a seventh-place finish at the 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions still hang with Kickapoo Chiefs coach Dick Rippee.
The 2017 version of the tournament features six out-of-state teams plus Kickapoo and Republic converging on JQH Arena for three days of premier high school boys basketball Jan. 12-14. Kickapoo will appear in a record-setting 18th Bass Pro Tournament of Champions.
“One thing that’s difficult about this tournament is the hype of the individuals that are coming in here,” Rippee said. “Our program is really based on team, and we try to make our team the best team that we can make it during the season.”
Kickapoo (8-2) went 29-3 in the 2015-2016 season, with all three losses coming to Tournament of Champions competitors. Kickapoo lost in the 2016 tournament to Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California) and Christ the King (Middle Village, New York). The Chiefs’ third loss was to Chaminade in the Missouri Class 5 state championship game at Mizzou Arena.
Jared Ridder scored 25 points and Cameron Davis scored 21 points in a 71-64 win over Bolivar in the seventh-place game at the 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Rippee said his team wasn’t satisfied with winning the battle of 2015 Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament champions.
“We were disappointed. We felt like maybe our guys got off the team aspect and tried to show out a little bit, if you will,” Rippee said.
Ridder and Davis draw the most attention from fans due to their NCAA Division I basketball scholarship agreements. Ridder is signed with Xavier, the No. 15-ranked team in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Davis is signed with the U.S. Naval Academy.
Ridder scored an average of 26.9 points through the first 10 games of the season. The 6-foot-7 forward with a penchant for draining 3-pointers scored a season-high 40 points in a December win at Central.
“Jared Ridder is probably the most improved player on our team from last year,” Rippee said. “He’s a wonderful player and a great young man.”
Davis tallied double-digit point totals in every game the Chiefs have played this season. He is scoring 15.2 points per game.
Davis is also on track to graduate as one of Kickapoo’s 2017 valedictorians.
“(Davis) wants to be a nuclear physicist. As I’ve told him several times, I don’t know what the heck that means,” Rippee quipped. “Cameron is a special young man and he’s excited to serve his country, and we’re excited to have him for the rest of this season.”
Davis plans to play four years of basketball for Navy and then serve five years of active duty.
“I want to have an impact on the world, that I’m going to be able to look back on it and go, ‘wow, I really affected a bunch of people.’ At the academy, I’ll get the leadership training that I need,” Davis said on the day he signed his letter of intent for the Naval Academy.
Kickapoo returned starting forward Travis Vokolek and key reserves Mitch Closser and Isaac Blakeslee from last season’s state runner up. Guards Donyae McCaskill and Corey Dye have emerged as contributors this winter.
In addition to preaching a team-first approach to his players, Rippee is also stressing that Kickapoo’s 18th Tournament of Champions berth is just as precious as its previous 17 appearances.
“I don’t want to belittle the fact that our guys were here last year and they don’t appreciate that. We will make sure they know how special this tournament is, and we’re really looking forward to participating,” Rippee said.
2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Jan. 12-14, JQH Arena, Springfield
Reserved seating, lower level: $45 for three nights or $15 for single night
General admission, upper level and bleachers:
Adults: $36 for three nights or $12 for single night
Students: $30 for three nights or $10 for single night
Thursday, Jan. 12
5 p.m. Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nevada) vs. Madison Prep (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
6:30 p.m. Republic (Republic, Missouri) vs. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California)
8 p.m. Kickapoo (Springfield, Missouri) vs. Montverde Academy (Montverde, Florida)
9:30 p.m. Memphis East (Memphis, Tennessee) vs. Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Georgia)
Friday, Jan. 13
4:30 p.m. Consolation semifinal
6 p.m. Consolation semifinal
8 p.m. Championship semifinal
9:30 p.m. Championship semifinal
Saturday, Jan. 14
2:30 p.m. Seventh place game
4 p.m. Fifth place game
6 p.m. Great Southern Bank Slam Dunk Contest
7 p.m. Third place game
9 p.m. Championship final