Ten participants from last year's Marsh Madness state championship boys basketball tournament, including four champions and four runner-up finishers, will be in the field for the Hamilton Christian Sunday Players Showdown in the Lake basketball tournament, which tips off today and continues through Saturday.
The tournament will feature the state's top two seniors recruits — Virginia signee Reece Beekman of Scotlandville and LSU signee Jalen Cook of Walker. Beekman is ranked 55th nationally by 247sports.com while Cook is 141st.
Local participants include hosts Hamilton, LaGrange, Lake Charles College Prep, Leesville and Washington-Marion.
Hamilton head coach and tournament director Dexter Washington said the event fulfills a career-long goal.
"When I was refereeing basketball when I first moved to the Lake Charles area, I always watched the LCB-American Press tournament and wanted to do something like that if I became a head coach," he said. "My second year here, I started reaching out to people about what I wanted to do, and year three is when it really got going. I have to give a lot of thanks to Madison Prep with Coach Jeff Jones and Ouachita with Coach Casey Jones. They came down and that showed that this thing could really take off. I started reaching out to coaches at the Top 28 tournament and coaches kept saying to count them in and we were able to grow to 16 teams."
Washington said the high quality field annually attracts college coaches and gives exposure to the participating players, as well as motivation to his own team.
"This is a chance to play against the best, a chance for our kids to see what it takes to become an elite player," he said. "It is a chance for teams to learn about themselves. When you play teams this good, you will learn you strengths and weaknesses, discover what you need to work on. It is a good way to prepare for the playoffs."
Among today's opening round games are Hamilton vs. Dunham, two state runners-up last season, at 7 p.m. at Hamilton Christian, followed by longtime rivals Peabody and Washington-Marion at 8:30 p.m. LaGrange opens with defending Class 3A champion Madison Prep at 5:30 p.m. at Lake Charles-Boston, followed by Lake Charles College Prep vs. Division I state champion Scotlandville at 7 p.m. Leesville plays Walker at 5:30 p.m. at Hamilton.
The tournament opens at 4 p.m. with Rayille vs. North Central at Hamilton Christian. Rayville are the reigning 2A champs while North Central are the 1A champs. Other top players in the field include freshman Chris Lockett of Newman, Kenny Hunt of Huntington, Dante Bell, a New Orleans signee, and Cody Deen of Bossier and Hamilton guard Michael Thomas, a UL-Lafayette signee.