Prep Boys Basketball Inside the Shootout: An A-to-Z look at prime-time prep hoops event

QHS’s Blue Devil mascot James Henninger makes a smoky entrance onto the court during Quincy’s pre-game ceremony against Geneseo at Blue Devil Gym on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger

By Matt Schuckman Herald-WhigPosted: Jan. 23, 2020 12:01 am 

The third annual Quincy Shootout takes place Friday and Saturday with a 15-game slate — seven to be played Friday night between two gyms and eight games Saturday at Blue Devil Gym. 

Here is an A-to-Z look at the field, the event and the need-to-know to be prepared to watch some of the best basketball teams and players in the nation all in one place: 

A is for Andy Douglas, the head coach at Quincy High School. A 2000 graduate of QHS who is in his sixth season as head coach, Douglas won his 100th game with the Blue Devils with Tuesday night’s victory over Geneseo. His willingness to embrace playing high-level teams has helped shootout organizers create marquee matchups involving the host school. 

B is for Bagley, as in Marcus Bagley. The Arizona State signee is the younger brother of Sacramento Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III and the centerpiece of the Sheldon Huskies. Bagley is a McDonald’s All-American nominee and one of the top 40 seniors nationwide. 

C is for championships. Four teams that played in the shootout the previous two seasons went on to win their respective state championships. In 2018, Webster Groves (Mo.) and Bishop Miege, of Shawnee Mission, Kan., won state titles, while last year Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge and Oskaloosa (Iowa) both won titles despite getting beat in the shootout. 

D is for Devils, both the blue and the red. Quincy’s mascot is the Blue Devils and fans will be treated to the legendary pregame ceremony in which a student dressed as a blue devil dances around the gym with a flaming pitchfork. St. Louis Chaminade’s mascot is the Red Devils. 

E is for ESPN. The nation’s leader in sports coverage released its updated top 100 recruits in the Class of 2020 this week and four players participating in the shootout made the list. Sheldon’s Marcus Bagley is at No. 34, Hamilton Heights’ Samson Ruzhentsev is No. 53, Vashon’s Cam’Ron Fletcher is No. 58 and Henderson’s Julian Strawther is No. 59. 

F is for food. Fans wanting to make this a full-day event can dine on more than traditional concession stand fare such as popcorn and candy. QHS will hold its annual spaghetti supper Friday night, while soup, sandwiches and hot dogs will be available throughout Saturday’s games. 

G is for gym, in this case Blue Devil Gym. The venerable facility opened in December 1957 and seats roughly 3,900 fans. The north and south walls display some of the QHS program’s historic achievements and the addition of a video board has intensified the atmosphere. It was the site of the program’s 2,000th all-time victory during the 2017-18 season. 

H is for Hamilton Heights. A private school based in Chattanooga, Tenn., Hamilton Heights nearly had its doors closed for good last spring. However, support from the community and alumni allowed the school to remain open, and its basketball program has brought it additional national recognition. The Hawks have been ranked as high as No. 2 nationally this season. 

I is for Irons, as in Vashon coach Tony Irons. He is the son of Hall of Fame coach Floyd Irons, who guided the Wolverines to 802 victories and 10 state championships during a 33-year career and made Vashon a household name. Tony Irons took over in 2015 and has vaulted Vashon back to being the top program in Missouri with back-to-back Class 3 state championships in 2018 and 2019. 

J is for January, the month the shootout takes place each season. This is the third year for the two-day event, and plans already are in the works for next year’s event. Mark your calendars for Jan. 22-23, 2021, for the fourth annual event. 

K is for Kentucky, one of the bluebloods of college basketball and the future home of Vashon forward Cam’Ron Fletcher. The 6-foot-7 swingman who is averaging 16 points per game is the first Kentucky recruit to appear in the shootout. 

L is for length as 10 teams in the shootout field feature players 6-foot-7 or taller. Mehville senior Davion Bradford, a Kansas State signee, is the tallest player in the field at 7 feet and will face Hamilton Heights’ Samson Ruzhentsev, a 6-foot-7 University of Florida signee, on Friday night. 

M is for Memphis East, one of the top high school programs in Tennessee. The Mustangs won three straight Class AAA state championships from 2016-18 and finished as the state runner-up last season. Former McDonald’s All-American and University of Tennessee guard Tony Harris recently joined the East coaching staff. 

N is for new additions. While several schools have returned to the shootout, eight are making their first appearance in Quincy. Two of those are St. Louis Chaminade, which is the No. 1-ranked team in Missouri Class 5 and features Kansas State-bound forward Luke Kasubke, and Mehlville, which is ranked second in Missouri Class 5 and was a state quarterfinalist last season. 

O is for Orphans, the most unique mascot in the shootout field. Centralia adopted the Orphans nickname during legendary coach Arthur Trout’s heyday and are believed to be the only team in the nation with the nickname. The Orphans are the all-time winningest high school program nationwide with more than 2,400 victories. 

P is for the Pit, the home gym of Quincy Notre Dame. The Pit will play host to three games Friday night, and when packed with fans, the 1,900-seat facility can be one of the loudest and warmest venues for high school basketball anywhere around. 

Q is for Quincy, a community blessed to be in love with basketball. At the height of the QHS boys basketball team’s success, Blue Devils coach Jerry Leggett referred to Quincy as the basketball capital of Illinois. The town with a population of 40,000 will fill multiple gyms on a winter weekend and show fervent support for the two high schools and the two colleges. 

R is for Rock Island, which turned its yearly trip to Quincy for a Western Big Six Conference showdown into a full weekend by sticking around for a Saturday game. Rock Island graduate David Robinson is coaching the Davenport (Iowa) West team which faces QND on Saturday, and Rock Island senior big man Solomon Gustafson is the first player to sign with Quincy University for the Class of 2020. 

S is for Shootout organizers. QHS athletic director Scott Douglas along with Eric Stratman and Wills Nixon put together this star-studded field. Their efforts are never-ending as contacts for next year’s event are already being made in hopes of creating another top-flight field to draw in basketball fans from near and far. 

T is for tickets, which remain available. Tickets for Friday night at Blue Devil Gym will be $6 for adults and $5 for students with the same rates at the Pit. Both venues will be honoring season tickets Friday night. Saturday, tickets are $12 for the lower level and $10 for the upper level at Blue Devil Gym and are good for all eight games. 

U is for Ulis, which would be Ahron Ulis, the point guard for Chicago Heights Marian Catholic. The Spartans are making a return to the shootout and Ulis has signed with the University of Iowa. The younger brother of Tyler Ulis, 

V is for Vashon, one of the iconic high school programs in St. Louis and Missouri. The Wolverines were named one of the nation’s top 25 all-time programs by USA Today and was the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in 2005. Vashon will be featured in the final game Friday night at Blue Devil Gym. 

W is for website. All of the shootout games will be streamed live by Baller TV. The cost is $7.50 to subscribe to the service and all 15 games can be found at ballertv.com. 

X is for Xavion and Xavier Brown, the brothers who hold down the backcourt for the Sheldon Huskies. The Browns are receiving NCAA Division I recruiting interest and were all-area selections by the Sacramento Bee last season. Sheldon is traveling the furthest of any team in the shootout field, making the 1,900-mile trip from Sacramento, Calif. 

Y is for youth. The shootout crowd the first two years was filled with kids dreaming of playing on the Blue Devil Gym floor. Those kids were treated to players from all teams being willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures. 

Z is for Zags, as in the Gonzaga Zags. Julian Strawther, the top scorer in the shootout field averaging more than 30 points per game for Liberty out of Henderson, Nev., has signed with Gonzaga, which has been one of the teams to hold the No. 1 ranking this season in the Associated Press Top 25.