Crusaders, Jays host hoops extravaganza

The organizers of the Capital City Shootout are hoping that less is more.

The second annual event for high school boys basketball teams has shaved a day off its schedule, but will still be packing in as much action during the compressed schedule.

This year’s event, which kicks off today, will boast 42 teams playing 132 games in a variety of venues across town. Today’s sites include Fleming Fieldhouse, Rackers Fieldhouse, the Helias Gym, the Jefferson City High School Stage and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. On Sunday, the gym at St. Joseph’s School will join the rest of those venues.

Helias coach Josh Buffington, who joined with Jefferson City coach Blair Thompson and a group of volunteers to organize the event, said the main reason for taking it from three days to two is because of the rule set by the Missouri State High School Activities Association that only allows 25 contact days with athletes during the summer.

“We found that a lot of teams only wanted to come for two days last year, which is fine, but that makes it tough on scheduling,” he said. “So this new setup saves everybody a contact day. ... Now you’ve got everybody in for a full two days, which is really what you want. Last year, a lot of teams only came for one day out of the three.”

That may be the biggest change made to any aspect of how the event was run last year.

“Trying to push teams to stay for the duration is big,” Buffington said. “Last year, we’re trying to get it off the ground, so you’re letting everybody in, even if it’s just for one day. We really pushed and stressed that, ‘We want you for both days. We want you in our community.’

“... Other than that, most of the changes are from an organizational standpoint. We’ve made a ton of changes for the better to make it run even more smoothly, but they’re going to be changes a lot of people don’t see.”

Thompson said the organizing committee is constantly striving to make the event better.

“We did learn a lot last year, mostly that it takes a lot of people to make it work,” he said. “One thing is we didn’t have enough sponsors, there are a lot of expenses to put on stuff. From the financial aspect, we got a better grasp on things.”

All of that goes toward making it what Thompson and Buffington wanted when they decided to join forces.

“We both wanted to do a Shootout, and make it big and competitive,” Thompson said. “We’re taking pieces of Shootouts we’ve been to that we liked and tried to apply it to this. We plan on making this thing grow and become even more attractive.”

Not that it’s not plenty attractive already.

“We’ve got another good turnout,” Thompson said. “Last year we had a lot of interest and this year word spread throughout the season that we put on a quality event — the prices were fair, the kids had fun, we had good facilities. As word got out, we got in a couple more teams than last year.”

Most of the teams in the event are bringing multiple squads from a variety of levels, with Helias and Jefferson City both fielding five teams each. Other area schools taking part include Blair Oaks, Calvary Lutheran, Fatima, California and School of the Osage. Out-of-town schools cover various regions ranging from the west (Staley and Warrensburg), the east (Webster Groves), the southwest (Willard), the south (Salem, Waynesville and Rolla) and the southeast (Meadow Heights).

“We’re touching every part of the state,” Buffington said. “It’s only going to continue to get better. I know it’s going to be a high-quality event and it’s a great experience for the Jays and the Crusaders, because we’re able to play locally for a couple days in the summer and not travel.”

But that’s only possible with the large number of help the organizers have received.

“We have a lot more people on board in our community giving us even more support,” Buffington said. “I think that says a lot for the way it’s being run, because they know this can be an event that’s great for Jefferson City.

“It’s a lot of work. There’s always going to be day-to-day issues you’re going to have to handle, but we have the staffing to do that.”

The event is open to the public, as there will be an all-day pass available each day for $5 per person.

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