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Southland hosts Nike Spring Showdown

Hayden Witt Lincoln-Way West powers basket for Illinois Wolverines travel team 17-under divisiNike Spring Challenge AAU basketball tournment Rich East

Hayden Witt, of Lincoln-Way West, powers to the basket for the Illinois Wolverines travel team at the 17-under division Nike Spring Challenge AAU basketball tournment at Rich East, Sunday, April 21st, 2013, in Forest Park. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:38AM



Toi Baylor would have been excused Sunday if she looked a little tired, maybe dragging her feet a bit.

But she wasn’t.

The Nike Spring Showdown tournament director, Baylor was right in her element.

“I’m overwhelmed by all of this, and I love it,” Baylor said with a smile. “I’m satisfied because teams are getting that college exposure so athletes can get their scholarships. This is what we do. We try to provide the best service and quality tournament for these teams.”

Sunday concluded the three-day Nike Spring Showdown, an AAU tournament that welcomed 205 teams from 12 different states. Games were played across eight age divisions Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Matteson Community Center and high school gyms at Rich Central, Rich East, Rich South and Marian Catholic.

Baylor had organized similar events at Amherst College and in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, but neither had the scale of this weekend’s showdown locally.

“Our previous high for teams was 135 so we’re excited because when we promoted it we were able to increase the tournament,” Baylor said. “It was more local last year so we tried to expand with teams from around the country.”

In addition to giving basketball fans their share of games to watch, college coaches descended on the area for scouting trips with representatives from Michigan State, Illinois and Valparaiso heading a long list of Midwest and mid-major schools in attendance.

Hayden Witt, a 6-foot-5 junior forward at Lincoln-Way West, plays for the Illinois Wolverines 17U team, one of many area teams and players represented at the Showdown.

Readying for a college decision next year, Witt has had scouts from Ohio, Dayton, Chicago State, Illinois-Chicago and Northern Illinois at his games but has no official scholarship offers.

The opportunity to impress on a larger stage wasn’t loss on Witt.

“I don’t have any offers yet so I’ll wait and see what offers I get and take it from there,” Witt said. “I just try and play and not do too much. We’ve got a lot of good players so I try to play well with the group and fit in.”

Witt average 18 points and six rebounds per game this season for West.

The Wolverines played four games over three days, wrapping up the weekend Sunday at Rich East against Columbus King Andrews out of Westville, Ohio.

Another member of the Wolverines, Terrone Parham Jr. averaged 11 points a game for Marian Catholic this year in his junior season. A Richton Park resident, he certainly appreciated keeping travel ball a little closer to home for one weekend at least.

“It’s a great change of pace, and it feels great to have it local and around my neighborhood,” Parham said. “This is a great environment. A lot of people come out to see the games, and even my family, grandparents and great grandparents get a chance to see me play.”

Basketball fans who missed this weekend’s festivities need not fret. Baylor says an even bigger tournament awaits this summer as long as gyms continue to open up.

Nike will host a tournament in Waukegan July 12 through July 14th before returning to Matteson July 19 and 20.

“We’re hoping to keep this series going, and that it can be a yearly event that gets bigger and better,” Baylor said. The only issue we’ve had is gym space. If community leaders open up their gyms, we will make it bigger and better.”



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