Most recruiting rankings and experts say south Louisiana is home to most of the state’s top basketball talent.
But Northwest Louisiana produces a fair amount of successful players as well, including some who may get overlooked. I-20 Classic Foundation president Lee Hunter created the I-20 Classic All-Star Game eight years ago as one final chance for the area’s top players to showcase their abilities, which Rice freshman and 2015 Byrd senior Chad Lott said are often even better than their Southern counterparts.
“That’s totally the truth,” North Caddo senior forward Robert Williams said. “They overlook us. We’re not really big schools or prep schools, but we’ve got just as much if not more talent than they do.”
The 6-foot-8 Texas A&M signee and serious contender for Mr. Basketball honors in Louisiana won the MVP award while carrying his team to victory a week ago in the LHSCA all-star game at Bossier Parish Community College. He’ll join other standouts such as Lakeview senior and Arkansas signee Adrio Bailey in Saturday’s I-20 Classic at Centenary’s Gold Dome, the venue for the event the past four years.
Northwest Louisiana more than held its own earlier this month when Natchitoches Central, Bossier, Arcadia and Summerfield won four of the seven boys state championships. They’ll be well represented at Saturday’s game with Austin Guy from Natchitoches, Travious Fielding and Danquarian Fields from Arcadia, and Larry Robinson III and Travis Manning from Bossier.
“That’s going to be pretty fun, but we’re still competing,” said Robinson, who hopes to visit Grambling, Virginia Tech, North Texas, Houston and possibly others before choosing where to play in college. “I think the atmosphere is going to be pretty good.”
Hunter said the crowds generally come close to filling the gym and the event continues to grow, so he advises fans who don’t yet have tickets to arrive early. Doors open at 4 p.m. and the festivities begin at 5 with a 3-point contest, followed by a dunk contest before the actual game.
More talent than usual in the surrounding areas compared to the cities – along with three season-ending injuries to worthy Shreveport senior guards – led Hunter to divide the teams into Shreveport/Bossier high schools on the West against area schools on the East. Williams will be the lone exception to the rule for a West team coach Gerald Williams said features plenty of 3-point shooters in the mold of the Golden State Warriors.
It could be the first year the event features two future SEC players, although participants have included several Division I players such as Lott, Alcorn State’s Reginald Johnson, Little Rock’s Josh Hagins, Louisiana Tech’s Branden Sheppard and Northwestern State guards Jalan West and Zeek Woodley. That kind of talent gives Hunter hope the game will continue to expand and create more exposure for area athletes.
“Calls are coming in from across the state and I see this growing really big in the near future,” Hunter said. “I take pride in bringing all of these schools, their families, and the fans together.”