HORIZONS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SCOTT NUSS
To most people, January means a continuation of winter and all the fun stuff that comes with it. To sports-orientated people, it means basketball.

In Kansas, the third and fourth week of January is usually associated with high school basketball tournaments. This winter, thanks to my responsibilities as a stringer for the Pratt Tribune, I got to cover two separate basketball tournaments for the Greenbacks.

Just for the heck of it, I also decided to take in a night of Trojan Classic fun. Unfortunately, the night I chose was night of the HHS vs. TMP game, which I won’t comment about.

This month, I’ve decided to give my thoughts on the other two tournaments in comparison with the Trojan Classic. I’ll let you, the reader, determine how lucky or unlucky, we are to host this tournament.

After my night at the Trojan Classic, I drove down to Chaparral High School-four miles south of Harper, for those who have never heard of it. I had been assigned to cover Pratt High’s boys, who were competing in the Roadrunner Classic.

I got the tournament bracket as soon as it came out and immediately looked to see what kind of competition Pratt would have. I was disappointed with the tournament bracket. The first thing I noticed was that Andover Central, the top-seeded team, would have no competition. They were 6-0.

The combined record of the other seven teams was 14-34. The tournament was made up of a Class 3A school, four 4A schools and two 5A schools.

Before each game, each team’s top two shooters shot 25 free throws and 25 3-pointers in a contest that spanned the entirety of the tournament.

After the contest, the 20-minute pre-game clock started. No music was played, no band was present, no national anthem was sung after player introductions. There was no PA announcer and no contests to enter.

Hopefully, you get my point. The atmosphere was horrible, and I even caught one “fan” dozing off during a game.

The second tournament I covered was Pratt girls’ Tournament of Champions. The field of teams was much better. Each state classification except 6A was represented, and only the host team, Pratt, had a losing record.

This tournament also had a free-throw and 3-pointer shoot-out, but music and a couple bands kept the atmosphere from becoming boring.

At this tournament, the national anthem was sung before each game, a public-address announcer kept control of the gym for the entire game.

It was a much better tournament than the Roadrunner Classic, but I still didn’t like the shooting contest before each game. It didn’t carry the excitement from the end of one game into the beginning of the next game like the Trojan Classic does.

The aforementioned tournaments each ran on a four-games-in-three-days format. Each started with four games on Wednesday followed by the entire second round on Thursday. Teams got the day off on Friday before hitting the courts again for the final rounds on Saturday.

I don’t know how the coaches felt, but I thought that was a less than desirable set-up.

Maybe it’s a natural thing, but out of the three tournaments I got to see, I liked the Trojan Classic the best. The tournament field was stacked.

Nothing against Marion and Sunrise, but having four of the state’s top 10 teams in one tournament is something to brag about. The addition of Riley County and Wamego to next year’s tournament should make it all the better.

In the years that we have eight teams, I like our format a lot better than the tournaments I saw. I like how the Trojan Classic spans the entire week instead of getting crammed into three or four days.

We’ve also found a way to get teams with great fan bases in our tournament. Belleville and TMP, despite their long drives, always manage to bring great fans.

Hesston, Marion and Sunrise also bring lots of fans, and of course, we’ve got Bob Woelk to announce the tournament, and contests-galore to enter. We’ve also got great facilities for the tournament.

Hillsboro should be proud to have hosted such a great tournament for the past 10 years and I can only hope that it gets even better in the next 10 years.

Before I forget, I have to congratulate Trojan coach Darrel Knoll on his 300th career victory. I was fortunate enough to work for Coach Knoll for all six years I was in Hillsboro, and I have to say that he is without question one of the best coaches in the business, both on and off the court. He’s a super-classy guy and hopefully his players and students look to him as a role model. I sure did.

Coach Knoll, congratulations on reaching the 300 win mark! It’s a great accomplishment and I wish you nothing but the best in the coming years.

Finally, because everybody asks me when I come home, here’s an update on how the Pratt Beavers are doing. For those who didn’t know, I’m the manager for the women’s team after things fell through with the men’s coach.

The Lady Beavers are 17-5. We’ve beaten two nationally-ranked teams and have three of the nation’s top athletes on our team. It’s a fun group to watch.

On the flip side, the Beaver men are 9-13. I won’t say much about that team other than that they need different coaches.

Have a great February.

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