Looking for an excuse to watch some hoops in July? Here’s one: Some of the top high school basketball players in the country will descend on the area this weekend as the Hardwood Classic basketball tournament begins on Friday at The Fieldhouse of KC at 12140 W. 135th Street in Overland Park.
It’s the second grassroots tournament to begin this weekend in the Kansas City area — the KC Prep Invitational began on Thursday in Shawnee — and coaches from every major Division I conference are expected to be in town for the last weekend of the July recruiting period. Last year’s Hardwood Classic, according to tourney organizers, drew more than 100 college coaches, and a handful of elite recruits are expected to compete over the next three days.
The top player in the field could be Cheick Diallo, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from New York who has already earned a scholarship offer from Kansas. Diallo, rated as the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2015, grew up playing soccer in the west African country of Mali. The Jayhawks have had recent success in recruiting African players, tapping a similar player this year in freshman center Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon.
Diallo will play on Team Scan (Bronx, N.Y.) alongside 6-foot-9 senior Chris McCullough, a Syracuse commit who is ranked 19th in the 2014 class by Rivals. Another top players to watch is Keita Bates Diop, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who has committed to Ohio State. Diop will play for the U-17 Illinois Wolves, who also feature Marquette commit Malek Harris, a 6-foot-7 forward who is ranked 72nd in the 2014 class.
There are also a handful of area products to follow. Lourawls Nairn, a senior guard from Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, is rated as the 61st best player in the 2014 class. Nairn will play for the U-17 MoKan squad, while Blue Valley Northwest senior Clayton Custer (an Iowa State commit) is playing for local U17 squad Team Yobo, coached by former Oklahoma State and Wyandotte standout Victor Williams.