South Dakota becomes the capital of the prep basketball world when the nation’s No. 1-ranked team and a collection of top-flight college prospects compete in the 2018 Hoop City Classic.
USA Today top-ranked La Lumiere (La Porte, Indiana) opens the stacked Hoop City Classic on Friday against perennial power Findlay Prep out of Henderson, Nevada. The marquee matchup includes two of the Classic’s elite recruits: La Lumiere center Isaiah Stewart and power forward Keion Brooks, ranked No. 5 and 34 respectively in ESPN.com’s Top 100 for the class of 2019; and Findlay Prep wing P.J. Fuller, a TCU commit and the No. 68-ranked recruit of 2019, per ESPN.
La Lumiere sweeps into South Dakota after a championship showing in Hawaii, which included a win over formerly top-ranked Montverde Academy out of Florida. Coupled with a title win over Oak Ridge of Florida, La Lumiere said mele kalikimaka to No. 1.
Findlay Prep, which sat in the top 10 much of last season, is currently unranked. However, the Fuller-led Pilots can make a statement with a win over La Lumiere.
Aiming to play spoiler on Saturday, local teams O’Gorman (Sioux Falls) and Aberdeen Central will get a shot at one of either La Lumiere or Findlay Prep. The winners of each game in the First Dakota National Bank Tournament side of the Hoop City Classic meet for the bracket championship. O’Gorman opened the 2018-19 season ranked No. 2 in the Class AA Argus Leader poll.
The trio of blue-chippers headlining Friday’s La Lumiere-Findlay Prep main event are not the only top prospects in the field. Also on Friday, De La Salle (Minneapolis) and No. 90-ranked Tyrell Terry faces Mountain Brook (Alabama) with No. 24 Trendon Watford.
Five-star Watford checks in sixth nationally among all power forwards. De La Salle’s Terry, a 4-star commit to Stanford, is the nation’s No. 12 point guard, per ESPN. The pitting of teams built around a post star and one on the perimeter offers an intriguing styles clash.
The winner of Friday’s De La Salle-Mountain Brook contest advances Saturday to face the winner of local teams, Yankton and Mitchell. Yankton tipped off the season the Argus Leader’s top-ranked team in South Dakota Class AA.
The Hoop City Classic opens Thursday with non-tournament competition, including an interstate showdown between De La Salle and Findlay Prep; Mountain Brook faces local team Lower Brule; and an intriguing competition between Dominican out of Wisconsin and Las Vegas-area Coronado gets things started on a fitting note.
Highlighting the Dominican-Coronado matchup are two more of the Classic’s blue-chip caliber individual talents. In action for Coronado is Carl Lewis, a 6-foot-9 center and the class of 2019’s No. 62-ranked player, per ESPN. On the Dominican side is rising 2020 prospect Alex Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-7 wing and the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Hoop City Classic features 28 games at two venues -- the Corn Palace and Sanford Pentagon -- over four days. In addition to the marquee non-tournament matchups and the concurrent First Dakota National Bank/Gary Munsen Tournaments, the event also includes the collegiate Doug Martin Classic.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.