KANSAS CITY, Mo. Around Kansas City, there's not a more anticipated yearly event than the Hy-Vee Shootout presented by Metro Sports. Pitting teams from the Kansas side against those from the Missouri side of the metro, it's a fight for state bragging rights and a big stage for players to launch their reputation to the next level. That's exactly what sophomore Clayton Custer did on Saturday.
Custer makes stand
The 2011 Hy-Vee Shootout wasn't Clayton Custer's first appearance in the event. The six-foot tall point guard was impressive last year as a freshman. However, his Overland Park (Kan.) Blue Valley Northwest team was loaded with solid seniors helping to take the pressure off of him.
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This year as a sophomore, though, the team is all Custer's and he was clearly embracing the role as he led his team to a 64-50 win over Grandview (Mo.) High.
"Last year we had a lot of talented older players," Custer told Rivals.com. "This year, I need to do a little more. Whatever I need to do. If that means going and getting a bucket or making a play for somebody that's what I'm looking to do."
On Saturday, Custer did all of that. Offensively, he's developing an extra gear off the dribble that he uses to lose defenders and get where he wants to be. His pull-up jumper is a major weapon and pretty much automatic from anywhere between 12 and 17 feet and he distributes the ball with efficiency.
"I've been in the gym getting up a bunch of shots," said Custer after scoring 16 points and dishing out four assists. "I'm working on getting my shot more fluid. I feel like for me to be as good a player as I can be I need to be able to make every shot. I want people to think it's going in every time I shoot it."
College programs have certainly taken notice. On Saturday, Custer was watched by assistants from Kansas State and San Francisco and both schools have offered. Additional offers have come from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Houston while Kansas, Boston College and Illinois have all been in to see him and are keeping tabs.
According to Custer he's already tripped to Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and he'll be looking to hit some college games this winter. But, he's in no rush with his recruitment and is just focusing on his game.
"I feel like some kids kind of stop working hard when they start getting offers," said Custer. "For me, the attention just drives me to get even better. People are expecting a lot from me when they come to see me now.
Ellis efficient in win
Playing in front of a crowd that featured several fans in Kansas gear, future Jayhawk Perry Ellis was the model of efficiency as he led Wichita (Kan.) Heights to a 54-48 win over Raytown (Mo.) South.
The 6-foot-8 senior has already led his team to a state championship and been named player of the year during each of his first three seasons of high school. Now, he's working on making a complete sweep of his high school career and looked very good on Saturday.
Easily one of the most even-keeled players in the country, the five-star is never too high and never too low as he plugs away and gets things done. A fluid athlete who can really run, he's unique in that as a right handed player he much prefers attacking to the left via the dribble and spinning to his right shoulder in the paint. Ellis also sports a good jumper when set and finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds while making 9-of-13 (1-2 3PT) field goals and converting on 7-of-8 free throws.
Ellis isn't the only division one talent in the Heights frontcourt. 6-foot-6 three-star combo forward Gavin Thurman who signed with Missouri State is another unique player. Since the team lacks a true point guard, Thurman does a lot of the ball handling and is capable of initiating the offense or going and getting his own offense. He was good for 12 points (5-11 FG) and 13 rebounds of his own.
For Raytown South, senior wing Earl Peterson is a thin and very athletic wing. In the past Peterson has been more of a transition slasher but he's now handling the ball much better and was hunting jumpers. Cold from the field early, Peterson got going a bit during the second half to finish with 20 points (7-21 FG).
Also playing well for Ray South was junior combo guard Diago Tyson. The six footer is a fluid offensive player who looks to be in slow motion until the ball gets in his hands. Once he makes a catch, he's all business looking to get to the rim or knock down jumpers and he finished with 22 points on 9-17 shooting.
Final notes from Hy-Vee Shootout
The game between Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst and Olathe (Kan.) Northwest didn't feature much flow as Northwest slugged out a 41-22 decision. Northwest features four-star big man Willie Cauley and three-star wing Shavon Shields. A Nebraska signee, Shields gets a lot of opportunities to handle the ball and scored 19 points while grabbing four rebounds. The Kentucky bound Cauley was little used in the offensive scheme of things and was rarely posted up and fed the ball during a nine point and six rebound outing that saw attempt only four shots.
The best unsigned senior in Kansas City is Hogan Prep wing Broderick Newbill. The three-star wing is a lean and long athlete who usually sticks jumpers from 12 to 20 feet. While several of his jumpers were rattling in and out, Newbill made his presence felt by getting to the rim as he worked his way to 24 points.
Newbill's senior teammate Maurice Mason isn't too shabby himself. The 6-foot-1 point guard flirted with a triple double and totally controlled the action during Hogan Prep's 63-38 romp over Lenexa (Kan.) St. James. The skinny senior hit deep jumpers, got into the lane and pushed the tempo while doing an excellent job on the glass during a 12 point, 14 rebound and eight assist effort. Also impressing for Hogan Prep was sophomore guard Amaad Wainright. The younger brother of 2013 four-star Ishmail Wainright the 6-foot-1 guard is an explosive athlete and finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Grandview sophomore point guard Tyrone Taylor really struggled with his shooting on Saturday making just 2-14 shots. However, the 6-foot-2 Taylor is a good prospect who is very quick off the dribble and capable of creating space for himself and others.
He's only a freshman, but 6-foot-3 shooting guard Drew Lock of Lee's Summit (Mo.) High is in the conversation for best shooter in the KC Metro. Lock lets it go in a hurry and is one of those guys who makes you think the ball is going in every time he lets it go. He was good for 17 and a trio of three-pointers during a loss.
In the class of 2013, Montell Cozart is likely going to end up one of the most heavily recruited football players in the Kansas City metro area. The 6-foot-2 QB is clearly a high level athlete and a pretty good basketball player to boot. The Bishop Miege star showed his athletic prowess while racking up 10 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Finally, Stanley (Kan.) Blue Valley West junior forward Joey Lillis is on his way to becoming a division one basketball prospect. At about 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, Lillis is a smooth athlete with body control and the willingness to stick his nose into a crowd and mix it up a bit. He scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds while adding a pair of blocked shots.