The Missouri high school basketball season officially began Monday, and it tipped off in Jefferson City for a good cause.
Lincoln University organized a basketball tip-off luncheon Monday afternoon at Big Whiskey's, hosting five local boys basketball head coaches to discuss their upcoming seasons to coincide with the first day of practice Monday.
"We're fortunate in Mid-Missouri to have really good high school coaches and really good programs," Lincoln men's basketball coach John Moseley said. "I've made it a focal point since I've been here to make sure that the high school coaches here understand that we're committed to them as well.
"All of these guys participate in our summer league. That has grown now to 40 high school teams that play at Lincoln in June."
The luncheon, which was free for all to attend, was also a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Moseley said more than $1,500 were collected in donations for the ACS.
"The high school coaches compete against each other all winter, but we're all on the same team in the fight against cancer," Moseley said.
Former Missouri men's basketball coach Norm Stewart also spoke at the luncheon. Stewart, a cancer survivor, founded the Coaches vs. Cancer program in collaboration with the National Association of Basketball Coaches during his head-coaching days with the Tigers.
"John Moseley has done a terrific job," Stewart said. "He's doing it grassroots, that's what we always tried to do."
The Norm Stewart Classic, an early highlight of the Missouri high school basketball season, will feature 24 games in 48 hours again this season. The event is also a fundraiser for the ACS.
"First of all, it's great for the sport, that's the reason we started it," Stewart said. "Gary Filbert and I started it, and it was his idea. He said, 'I'll use your name, and we'll get this going.'
"We probably will raise somewhere around $25,000 from the tournament alone for Coaches vs. Cancer."
This is the 12th season for the Norm Stewart Classic, which will be Dec. 6-8 at Mizzou Arena. The event was previously held at Columbia College.
"It gives us a chance to bring in young people, girls and boys, and they get to play in a major arena," Stewart said. "No one else in the United States is doing this, and we play all day and we play all night."
Stewart was also appreciative of the exposure the games will receive. All 24 games will be broadcast online at ESPN3, and two games have been selected to be nationally televised on ESPNU this year.
"It just keeps growing," said Stewart, who acknowledged there is a waiting list of teams wanting to play in his Classic.
Of the five boys basketball coaches attending Monday's luncheon, two are new head coaches for their teams this season.
Tony Phillips takes over as the head coach of the Jefferson City Jays after serving as the team's assistant coach last year. Phillips and his staff worked this offseason on improving the team's culture, developing "more explosive" athletes and aligning the middle school program with the high school program.
"I think we're going to surprise some people with how hard we play and how competitive we are," Phillips said. " Just by playing hard every night and being competitive every night, that's going to go a long way."
Darrin Young will lead the Capital City Cavaliers in their first season of basketball with just freshmen and sophomores. Young said the auxiliary gym at the high school was finished Monday, and the Cavaliers will have their home opener Jan. 2 against Iberia after the high school gym is completed.
"We're excited to roll the balls out and finally get some shots up and get in there," Young said. "I know the guys are just as excited as I am."
Helias coach Joe Rothweiler is starting his second season as head coach of the Crusaders, who are coming off a 13-14 season and lost by only two points to Warrensburg in the district championship game.
"We're looking forward to what we think will be a good year," Rothweiler said. "We still have a lot of unknowns because we lost four starters but in all, I think we have a chance to be pretty good."
Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick is coming off a 24-6 season and an appearance in the Class 3 quarterfinals. The Falcons lost several keys guards but return plenty of height with Eric Northweather, a 6-foot-9 senior, and his brother Luke Northweather, a 6-8 sophomore.
"We've got some young guys who are chomping at the bit," Fick said. "They got some time last year, especially early on when our football guys were still playing football. I'm looking forward to it and we had a good first day of practice."
The Linn Wildcats had their season end in districts against Blair Oaks. Coach Clay Crouch said the Wildcats are returning four starters, including two all-conference players.
"With the good group of kids we have, we're trying to bump up that schedule a little bit," Crouch said, "get some challenges going early in the year and prepare us for the postseason."
Moseley also previewed Lincoln's upcoming season, which starts Friday aganst Sioux Falls in the MIAA Challenge at Kansas City. He brought senior guard Marcel Burton — one of eight newcomers to the Blue Tigers — to the luncheon.
"As a coach, you're trying to figure out who your best five (players) are together," Moseley said. "With the number of new guys we have this year, that's really important."