The Stevenson boys basketball team should be among the favorites to win a Class 4A state championship this season, but a significant part of the team’s journey will not take place in Illinois.
For the first time in program history, the Patriots will play out-of-state games.
On Jan. 2 and 3, Stevenson will play in the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, West Virginia. Later that month, the Patriots will participate in the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Stevenson Athletic Director Tricia Betthauser said the school chose those two events from several out-of-state options.
“We were invited to 20 events. We looked and evaluated ones we felt would be unique experiences for our young men and coaching staff,” Betthauser said.
Both trips will offer elite competition for the Patriots. At the Cancer Research Classic, they will face St. Louis power Chaminade College Prep. In 2009, the program won a Missouri state championship. The Red Devils feature Tyler Cook and Jayson Tatum, two of the highest-rated players in the Class of 2016.
According to Scout.com, Tatum is the nation’s top junior prospect.
Stevenson senior guard Connor Cashaw played against Tatum at a Nike AAU tournament in July.
“He’s a great player. Long, athletic, very skilled,” Cashaw said of the 6-foot-7 Tatum.
On Jan. 17, Stevenson will play Findlay College Prep of Henderson, Nevada, at the home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cashaw said talk of the Patriots playing out-of-state tournaments began earlier this summer. The uniqueness of the trips and level of competition has he and his teammates eager for the season to begin.
“It’s amazing. We’re so happy [for] the opportunity,” Cashaw said. “[The competition] is what makes it the most exciting. It’s a big challenge but will be so much fun.”
Betthauser said more details regarding travel plans will be released soon. She added that one downside to the trips is the Patriots will play a diminished home schedule in 2014-15.
“Seven [home games]. It’s the fewest in recent years. But we think its worth it,” Betthauser said. “It’s not every year you get to visit the basketball hall of fame.”