For some, the path to the NBA Draft passes through Springfield.
As the 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions approaches, some of the premier high school basketball players in the nation will visit for Springfield for three days of hoops at JQH Arena from Jan. 12-14. Fifteen players in this year’s field of eight teams are committed to play for NCAA Division I basketball programs.
In the past two seasons, more than half a dozen future NBA players have appeared in Springfield as part of the tournament.
In the NBA collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ratified in 2005, players must be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school before becoming eligible for the NBA Draft. Controversy aside, some players play one year of college basketball before declaring for the draft.
Here are some recent Bass Pro Tournament of Champions alumni who could fall subject to the “one and done rule” in the opening round of the 2017 NBA Draft, to be held June 22, 2017. Players have no later than April 23, 2017 to declare their intentions to enter the draft.
UCLA/Chino Hills (Chino Hills, California)
Chino Hills brought a high-octane brand of offensive basketball to the 2015 Tournament of Champions. Ball and his younger brother, LiAngelo Ball, both grabbed all-tournament honors. Lonzo Ball finished three games just shy of a triple-double average with 22.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game. The next year, Chino Hills went 35-0 and won the California Open Division state championship.
Ball went on to play for former Missouri State coach Steve Alford at UCLA (16-1). HoopsHype.com, a division of USA Today Sports, projects Lonzo Ball to be selected second overall in the 2017 Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Duke/Chaminade (St. Louis)
One of the stars of the 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and an eventual Class 5 state championship winner with Chaminade, the national Gatorade Player of the Year will likely be drafted with a lottery pick and could even be selected in the top five.
Chaminade was one of three teams from last year’s tournament to go on to win a state championship. Tatum missed the first eight games of his college career due to injury, but has since stepped into Duke’s lineup to score career highs of 22 points Dec. 6 against Florida and again Saturday against Boston College.
Kentucky/Bentonville (Bentonville, Arkansas)
Monk scored a tremendous 50 points in Bentonville’s 86-73 loss to Chino Hills for fifth place at the 2015 Tournament of Champions. When asked about his college recruitment as a junior, Monk responded that he was “just having fun being a kid.” As Monk trotted back out of the tunnel and into the arena for the inaugural Great South Bank Dunk Contest, the crowd cheered and other dunk contest participants motioned for Monk to go back to the locker rooms. Monk went on to win the dunk contest. “I had to win something,” he said while holding the trophy.
Monk presently leads Kentucky (13-2) in scoring with 21.9 points per game. NBA scouts know he can score, but want to see him round out his game. The 6-foot-3 guard projects to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
Duke/Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Virginia)
As a junior, Giles led Wesleyan Christian (High Point, North Carolina) to the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions first place game with 18 points per game in three games. Giles was a consensus top-notch college recruit in the country when he announced he would transfer to Oak Hill Academy, the very squad that beat Wesleyan Christian for the 2015 Tournament of Champions title, for his senior season.
Tragedy struck when Giles tore an ACL in one of his knees, and his college career at Duke has been further slowed by leg injuries.
The 6-foot-10 forward was once considered a lock to be a lottery pick, but despite concerns with past injuries and his recovery from them, he could still be selected in the top 10 picks of the 2017 Draft.
Florida State/Oak Hill Academy
Bacon led Oak Hill to the 2015 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions title. While he is a sophomore and not a “one and done” player, it’s hard to forget the 31.7 points Bacon scored in route to the Warriors defeating Chino Hills, Paul VI (Fairfax, Virginia) and Wesleyan Christian (High Point, North Carolina) to capture the tournament crown.
Bacon is all over different draft boards depending on what you like to read, but some have him going as high as the middle of the first round. Bacon leads Florida State (15-1) with 18.1 points per game.
Ivan Rabb—California/Bishop O’Down (Oakland, California) Rabb is a sophomore at California, but is considered a potential first-round draft pick this summer. He surprised some with his decision to return to Cal, but the 6-foot-10 forward leads the Golden Bears in scoring with 15.4 points per game and in rebounding with 10.8 points per game.
Zach Collins—Gonzaga/Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada) Collins posted a double-double in all three of his Tournament of Champions games. The 7-footer had 24.3 points and 13 rebounds per game to be the 2016 tournament’s leading scorer and rebounder. Collins left JQH Arena disappointed with the Gaels’ 1-2 finish on the weekend.
Bishop Gorman would go on to win the Nevada Division I state championship, and Collins would go on to Gonzaga. Collins is putting up 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs. He will likely play at least one more season at Gonzaga, but could begin climbing draft boards as soon as 2018.
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