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It is that time of year again. My favorite time of year! It’s time for the annual Tournament of Champions held at MSU. In the tournament’s history, the ToC has produced close to 70 NBA players and countless DI talent that is littered all across the country. Every year, I put out a massive full guide to the tournament with a full breakdown of all eight teams that will be released probably at the end of this week or beginning of next week but for now, Please enjoy this free preview of what is to come! (The Preview contains my breakdown of two of the eight squads. Check back for all eight coming soon)
Class 4 #1 Vashon Wolverines (St. Louis, Missouri)
Team TOC History
Appearances: 8th Appearance 14-7
Most recent Appearance: 2020 (3rd Place)
1st appearance: 1985
Championships: 2 (2002, 2006)
2nd: 1 (1987)
3rd: 2 (1989, 2020)
Vashon returns to Springfield for the first time since the 2020 tournament and the back-to-back-to-back state champions are ready to return to Great Southern Bank Arena as the top ranked team in Class 4 (MBCA) and #73 in the nation (Maxpreps). Coming with them is a familiar name in Dehrio McCaskill formerly of Kickapoo. But he is not the main attraction. The fast paced defense oriented approach will be tough for opponents to run their set offense. Coach Tony Irons does a terrific job with his squad getting them to match up with the likes of the teams in this tournament. They play very hard. They play great defense. They are more athletic than just about every team they will face. That is the kind of squad you want in an event like this. Nicholas Randall will be the main attraction coming in at 6’8 and garnering the attention of multiple Power 5 programs. This team may not win you over with flash and pazazz but they will be as fundamentally solid as anyone in the tournament.
NICHOLAS RANDALL 6’8 VASHON 2025 #135 4* (UNCOMMITTED)
Randall is just a hard nosed big that fills the Tony Irons blueprint perfectly. He has the athleticism, he is strong, he is smooth around the rim, and he has a tremendous motor. He is comfortable with the ball in his hand and can really move with it. He has several go to moves when he has the ball down low and combine it with several more countermoves, he is a tough guard. He is a pest on the defensive end and can really guard 2-5 and did so in the Iolani Classic against Pace Academy out of Georgia. His recruitment finally started to heat up last summer as he holds offers from MIZZOU, Ole Miss, VCU, K-State, Louisville and SLU. Randall will be perhaps the second best two way threat in the tournament behind only Ace Bailey and will be a guy that fans will enjoy watching.
Other Guys to Watch
DEHRIO MCCASKILL 6’3 VASHON 2025 (OFFERS FROM SIUE, BRYANT, JACKSONVILLE)
TREY WILLIAMS 6’1 VASHON 2025 (OFFERS FROM UC FULLERTON, JACKSONVILLE AND BRYANT)
CHRISTIAN WILLIAMS 6’0 VASHON 2025 (OFFERS FROM SLU, UT-ARLINGTON AND BRYANT)
NASSIR BINION 6’5 VASHON 2024 (OFFERS FROM WILLIAM WOODS, UT ARLINGTON AND LINDENWOOD)
JIMMY MCKINNEY III 6’1 2027 (OFFERS FROM MIZZOU, SEMO, SLU, AND JACKSONVILLE STATE)
What Makes Them Special
I hit on this a bunch in the overview but their play style is the number one reason why they are special. Obviously the talent that they bring in is impressive but it is the Tony Irons effect that gives me the feeling that they will be in a good spot in this tournament. They play a suffocating and relentless brand of defense and thier condiditoning is second to none. They are ready to outwork you for all four quarters and with their athleticism, that is a lethal combo. Be ready to not blink when the Wolverines are on the floor, you will miss something.
92-26 WIN VS LIFT FOR LIFE ACADEMY
77-72 LOSS VS OAK PARK
83-58 LOSS VS MASTERS ACADEMY (IOLANI CLASSIC)
77-48 WIN VS PACE ACADEMY (IOLANI CLASSIC 5TH PLACE GAME)
CLASS 6 #6 Central Bulldogs (Springfield, Missouri)
Team TOC History
Appearances: 5th Appearance (5-7)
1st Appearance: 1988
Most Recent Appearance: 2009
The Bulldogs are a perfect fit for this year’s tournament for a few reasons. Firstly, they are the most athletic team in SWMO. (Outside of Link but we aren’t counting the national powerhouse) Speaking of Link, The Dogs matched up with the top ranked team in the nation earlier this season and genuinely looked like they belonged for the majority of the first half until the depth of the Lions took over. Secondly, They are legit shooters. Keion Epps, TayShaun Wells, and Tyrique Brooks along with the rest of the Bulldogs are efficient from deep and even if they aren’t falling, Bryce Walker crashes the boards as well as anyone in the area. It’s hard to say how well this team will be able to defend and rebound against some of the nations best squads but in terms of recent local participants, this may be the most intriguing. They can score the ball. They are athletic enough to match up. And they play pretty good chaos provoking defense that leads out to plenty of transition opportunities. When you look at the NCAA tournament, your Cinderella teams can all do a few things. Knock down shots, play defense, and outwork the favorites. This Central team does all three and with the athleticism they possess and the coaching of Jordan Epps, look out for the Bulldogs in a potential upset.
Keion Epps 6’0 Central 2025 G
Keion is one of the guys that I have my eyes on the most in this tournament. He has proven that he has what it takes to get it done on the biggest stages out there. He shined in the Norm Stewart Classic. He shined with a 20+ point performance over Father Tolton. He shined in wins over local powers Nixa and Ozark and most recently, he shined in the Blue and Gold. However, the performance that makes me think he is ready for this moment was how he performed against Link Academy early in the season which will be the type of talent he will see throughout this tournament. Keion is an elite three point shooter that will knock down every single open look he has. While in a tournament like this, you won’t expect many open looks, out of town teams tend to overlook the local squads and that could lead to a huge night from Epps. Keion is aggressive driving the lane and will use his athleticism to his advantage. I am super excited to see Central’s athleticism and shooting in this tournament and Epps will be at the forefront of that.
Tyrique Brooks 6’4 Central 2024 F
Here is my favorite for the dunk contest. Brooks absolutely punishes the rim in a way we haven’t seen in Springfield in a very long time. However, that isn’t the extent of Deuce’s game. He is a long forward that I would compare to a classic small forward that can do a little bit of everything. He is at his best in transition where he has a flair for the highlight reel but his ability to get to the rim is his biggest strength. His long arms and legs make him seemingly glide through the lane and he has the ability to finish through traffic. He, much like the rest of the Bulldogs can step back and knock down the three ball but I think he will want to be that dominating center presence against some of the best teams in the nation. The Waynesville transfer has shined at every opportunity this season and I expect nothing different when the lights will be brightest all season long.
Other Guys to Watch
Bryce Walker 6’6 Central 2025 F
Devin Sanford 6’2 Central 2025 G
What Makes Them Special
This team just feels like a team of destiny. Nixa Live’s Ryan Retone told us that coach Epps told them that his two immediate goals were to beat Nixa, win the Blue and Gold. Coach Epps and the Bulldogs achieved both of those within a 10 day spanThey have dominated every game they have been a part of with an average margin of 22 points. The impressive part about this team so far is they have played perhaps the toughest early season schedule in all of SWMO and maybe even the state. Wins over Nixa, Ozark, Father Tolton, Staley, Sparta, and Glendale gives them one of the best resumes in the area early on and with a few games remaining on the schedule I fully expect the Bulldogs to roll into the TOC 12-1. They do everything you want to see in the “underdog” whether be in March Madness or the TOC. If they shoot the ball like they have every game up to this point, I fully expect to see them knock off an out of town team.
80-44 Win VS STALEY (DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS)
83-71 WIN VS FATHER TOLTON (FINAL FOUR TEAM LAST YEAR)
75-74 WIN VS NIXA
77-47 WIN VS GLENDALE (BLUE AND GOLD CHAMPIONSHIP)