By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Silverton, Central, West Salem and Cascade were all were expected to partake in the 2020 Capitol City Classic this season, with the 4A Cougars making their debut in the annual tournament at Willamette University in Salem.
This year’s tournament, which featured teams from Texas, California and Washington as well as 6A Jefferson and 5A Wilsonville to name a few squads, was scheduled to take place December 18-23 before the announcement Tuesday that it will be canceled this year. Rancho Christian, who won the CCC tournament in 2019 over the Wildcats of Wilsonville, was scheduled to defend their title this year.
Below is the Press Release from the CCC:
The 2020 Capitol City Classic, scheduled to be played December 18-23 in Salem, has been canceled due to State of Oregon guidance relating to basketball during the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic.
“We are sad to share this new,” said Assistant Tournament Director Ben Collier. “And that is partly because this year we had our best field ever. For the first time in CCC history, we had five guys ranked in the top 50 in the country in their respective classes. We had mega-matchups in the works, and this was going to be an event that built on our outstanding 2019 tournament in big-time ways. Salem was going to have a tournament for the ages…and that is no exaggeration.”
Tournament officials, Collier said, explored every possible option for holding the tournament this year, but given the ongoing inability to play live basketball in Oregon, the uncertainty of the 2020-2021 OSAA High School Basketball season, the lack of clarity on the timing of when any such basketball season will take place, and the game and travel limitations likely to accompany any OSAA season, the ultimate decision that needed to be made became clear.
“We had to cancel this time around,” said Collier. “We didn’t want to do that, but there was just no practical and safe way to make the CCC happen in 2020.”
One year ago, the Capitol City Classic featured the nation’s #1-ranked recruit in 7’0 Evan Mobley of nationally-ranked Rancho Christian. Though injury limited Mobley to playing in just one game in the CCC-the Eagles’ hard-fought 70-63 Championship game win over Wilsonville- the excitement surrounding the Rancho’s appearance in the event fueled a 57% increase in tournament attendance in 2019.
This year, high-scoring 6’5 junior wing Keyonte Geroge of iSchool (Lewisville, TX), the first Texas team to ever participate in the CCC, was poise to lead the way. George is an electrifying scorer and 5-star athlete who has been ranked as high as #9 in the country for the Class of 2022. In addition to George, iSchool’s roster includes 4-star, 6’5 junior wing Trae Clayton, 6’3 3-star junior point guard Cruz Davis and 6’9 sophomore post Matt Reed, all of whom boast offers from numerous Division-1 Schools.
“Listen, I’m not saying it was clear-cut, but it would be hard not to wind up with iSchool as the #1 seed in the 2020 CCC,” said Collier. “They are loaded.”
If iSchool was not the tournament’s top seed, Coach Pat Strickland’s mighty Jefferson Democrats of Portland may have been. The Demos were poised to have one of their best teams in recent years in 2020-2021. Among the players to watch would have been 6’7 sophomore Mookie Cook, who was ranked as the #5 prospect in the country according to ESPN and is a player of considerable talent. But Cook was far from a one-man show, as the Demos also return 6A State Player of the Year Nate Rawlins-Kibonge, a 6’8 force to be reckoned with who has signed with Oklahoma to play both football and basketball; 6’9 Kam Robinson, a Division-1 talent’ and dynamic 6’4 Combo guard Lamar Washington, who led Jeff(erson) in scoring last year and has Power 5 conference scholarship offers in both basketball and football.
“We were thrilled to have Jeff(erson) in the field,” said Collier. “One of the storylines to watch would be whether Jeff(erson) could be the first Oregon team to win the CCC. We think they had a great opportunity to do that this year.”
Even so, neither iSchool nor Jef(erson) was assured of winning anything, at least not if defending CCC champions Rancho Christian (Temecula, CA) had anything to say about it. Coach Ray Barefield’s Eagles were coming back to the tournament with designs on becoming the first team to ever repeat as CCC Champions. Rancho would have been led by Ramel Llyod Jr., the #50-ranked player in the Class of 2022 and lightning quick point guard Jaden Byers, among many other Division-1 talents. “We were pumped to have Rancho back,” noted Collier, “because they were so well-coaches and such a quality program.:
Three other out-of-state schools-bringing the total number of non-Oregon teams to an all-time record of five- also were capable of making noise in this year’s CCC. Jesuit (Sacramento, CA) would have been led by 6’4 point guard and Stanford-commite Isa Silva, the #23-ranked player in the Class of 2021. Olympia (Washington) featured 6’11 Jackson Grant, the #34 player in the Class of 2021, and Corner Canyon (Draper, UT) would have been led by 6’9 Carter Welling, an athletic player with multiple D1 scholarship offers. “These are all really good teams, led by spectacular high school player,” said Collier. “Any one of them could have made a push for the Johnny Leonard Trophy. Even with iSchool, Jeff(erson) and Rancho in the field.”
Perennial OSAA 5A State Power Silverton, under Coach Jamie McCarty, was back in the field with Junior Combo guard Jordan McCarty likely running the show. While Salem powerhouse West Salem- with a team returning almost everybody from Coach Travis Myers’ 2019-2020 team-also was committed to be back in the field. “This CCC field is clearly deep and very good, but we really believed both West (Salem) and Silverton could advance on the winner’s side of the bracket,” said Collier. “These are exceptionally well-coached and good teams, and they can compete with anybody. They also are impressive programs, because they aren’t afraid to play in a good, tough tourney like the CCC. They embrace that sort of challenge, which I think may be part of the reason their teams are so tough and so good year after year.”
The Central Panthers from nearby Independence were returning to the CCC with a veteran team poised to have a strong season, while the Cascade Cougars under Coach Calvin Molan were going to be making their inaugural appearance in the CCC with one of the state’s premier 4A teams.
Wilsonville, a two-team runner-up at the CCC and winners of the three of the past four OSAA 5A State Championships , was slated to be back in the field. While Sunset and Mountainside of the Metro League; Canby of the Three Rivers League; Willamette of Eugene; and Crescent Valley of Corvallis all were scheduled to make their first CCC appearances.
“While disappointing we won’t be able to see how things would have unfolded at the 2020 CCC with such an amazing collection of talented players, coaches and teams, we are already excited about the 2021 tourney,” said Collier. “We will be back, and we are determined for the Capitol City Classic to be a can’t miss event for basketball fans once we are allowed to play again.”