Springfield has a couple of signature high school basketball tournaments that you will be reading about plenty in these pages over the next couple of months.
And many towns across the Ozarks also have their annual events.
Now, it appears Branson and Taney County have their signature showcase event.
The Ozark Mountain Shootout will debut tonight at Branson High School, and features 10 games between local and out-of-town teams over the next two days.
New Branson coach Brian McTague developed the tournament last year while he was still at Clever and brought it with him to Branson.
“There’s not really this type of format in this area,” McTague said. “Hopefully it continues to grow over the years.”
The event features five final four teams from Missouri last year, two state champions, and several future college players.
Today’s slate should feature the season debut of Nixa senior Jalen Norman, who missed the team’s first three games for disciplinary reasons.
Nixa coach Jay Osborne was initially excited to play at nearby Clever, a former Nixa rival, but sees advantages in heading south to play Little Rock (Ark.) McLellan, too.
“I don’t mind going to Branson because that’s where our district is supposed to be, and it’ll give us an extra game on that court,” Osborne said. “We’re going to play a quality opponent.”
McLellan features five players attracting interest from college programs, and three players that are 6-foot-8 or taller. McLellan freshmen Nnamdi Collins and Maxwell Omili are attracting interest from Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU, McTague said.
Scott County Central, the 16-time Missouri state champion and four-time defending Class 1 champ, is making its first trip to southwest Missouri in recent memory.
However, the Braves return just two starters from last year’s team, and face a pair of strong local undefeated challengers in Clever (7-0) today and Billings (6-0) on Saturday.
“Honestly, we feel like it’s a pretty good matchup for us,” first-year Clever coach Luke Brosius said. “I’ve been excited for this week because it’s a good test to see where we’re at.”
The Branson event is not the only local shootout to debut this weekend, as Waynesville’s inaugural Route 66 Shootout got under way on Thursday and continues through Saturday.
State powers McCleur North and CBC, along with two teams from Illinois, are taking part, along with local teams Waynesville, Strafford and Republic.