Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - Updated: 10:05 AM
By David Green
DRAFFENVILLE – Of the 20 boys teams scheduled to participate in this week’s Marshall County Hoopfest, 14 are returning from last year’s event. The other five teams are making their first visits to the prestigious high school basketball event, at Marshall County’s Conder Gymnasium.
The 20th team was here last year, but now has a new identity – Mae Jemison High School of Huntsville, Alabama. It’s the first year for the new school, named for astronaut Mae C. Jemison, a native of Decatur, Alabama, the first African-American woman to travel in space.
The new school replaces J.O. Johnson High School, which appeared – with standout John Petty, an Alabama signee – in last year’s Hoopfest. The team’s nickname, Jaguars, was carried over from the old school. The Jaguars defeated Hopkinsville last year. Petty will be back at the Hoopfest this year as a senior.
There is another Jemison High School, in Jemison, Alabama, in Chilton County, near the center of the state. Huntsville is in the northeast corner of Alabama.
Returning teams without identity changes include the host Marshals, who split a pair of games last year, and national touring team Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, which has played 24 games in 15 Hoopfest appearances.
Oak Hill is the winningest team in the history of the event, winning 22 and losing only two. The Warriors defeated St. Louis Chaminade and Athlete Institute of Mono, Ontario, last year. The Marshals are 21-6 in 29 games in 17 Hoopfest appearances.
Also returning are Graves County and Massac County of Metropolis, Illinois, which have participated in 19 of the 20 editions of Hoopfest since it was established in 1996 at Massac County.
Graves is 11-8 in 19 Hoopfest games. The Eagles dropped a 62-50 decision last year to Bowling Green, which compiled a 31-3 record and advanced to the second round of the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen before falling to eventual state champion Paul Laurence Dunbar of Lexington. The Purples will be making their fourth Hoopfest appearance and will try to keep a perfect record (3-0) intact.
Massac County has a 6-13 record in the tournament. The Patriots will meet the host Marshals, with Marshall County winning both previous Hoopfest meeting between the two.
Dunbar will be back for its second Hoopfest appearance this year. The Bulldogs were scheduled to open their title defense season Monday night against Woodford County and will travel to cross-town rival Bryan Station on Thursday before heading to Draffenville for a Saturday clash with Jemison, Alabama.
Last year, Dunbar defeated another Alabama team, Madison Academy, in the Hoopfest debut for both teams.
Oak Hill will take on two more first-time visitors, Tennessee Preparatory Academy of Memphis and Prolific Prep North of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Other out-of-state teams include Althoff Catholic of Belleville, Illinois, which played in the 2004 and 2009 events; Chicago Curie, which is 1-1 in two previous Fest games; Prolific Prep of Napa, California, which won two games last year; Sunrise Christian Academy of Wichita, Kansas, which is 2-2 in four previous games. The Buffaloes are playing in their third straight Hoopfest.
First-time visitors include Aspire Basketball Academy of Phoenix; Hamilton Heights Christian Academy of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix); Jemison; Prolific Prep North; and Tennessee Prep.
Besides Marshall County, Graves County and Massac County, other area teams include McCracken County, which is 1-1 in two previous visits.
Kentucky teams also include Christian County and Hopkinsville.
This year’s event is the 16th consecutive tournament to be held at Marshall County. The first five Hoopfest events were held at Massac County.