MOUNT ZION — It's a tale as old as time.
Graduating seniors leave gaps on high school boys basketball teams, and underclassmen step into the limelight to fill the gaps.
On Monday at Mount Zion High School, the fourth annual Mount Zion Shootout will offer an early look at young players stepping into the roles left by seniors who departed.
The shootout will have 18 teams, a mix of teams in all four classes — Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A — when play begins at 9 a.m. The shootout will run until approximately 6 p.m. when champions are named in each of the six pools. Admission is $5.
Teams like MacArthur will show what life after the Brummett twins, Amir and Armon, looks like. Eisenhower will get under way without Yansyn Taylor and Quylan Young. St. Teresa will show its young talent after losing seniors Isaiah Bond, Manny Green and Beau Branyan, and the host Braves will feature youth after the departure of a successful senior class that included standout Jonah Smith.
Games will take place in the main gym and in the fieldhouse on campus. The fieldhouse, which opened in 2015, is what prompted the origin of the shootout from Mount Zion head boys basketball coach Bryon Graven and assistant coach Bryan Smith.
"We have five courts under one roof," Graven said "Once they get to the high school they never have to leave unless they’re going to get something to eat or drink."
The breadth of the field has Graven excited. Schools from Monticello to Springfield-area teams will give teams a chance to play opponents they may normally not see without having to drive to an overnight camp at a campus.
And if a team plays a familiar foe, they didn't have to travel far to do so.
“That’s why we have a good mix like we have, we can mix up teams and make sure people are playing people they don’t normally see," Graven said.
Teams include: Mount Zion, Eisenhower, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, Chatham Glenwood, Jerseyville, Tolono Unity, Mattoon, Charleston, Jacksonville, Warrensburg-Latham, Meridian, Maroa-Forsyth, Williamsville, St. Teresa, Shelbyville, Pana, Monticello and Pleasant Plains.
“I think this year the field is obviously something that I’m excited about," Graven said. "The competition of it — we’ve got such a good variety."
The shootout offers chances for small schools to play bigger schools and file away that experience. It allows players like Shelbyville standout Malcolm Miller to pit his talents against bigger schools.
“I think it’s good for the 1A and 2A teams," Graven said. "Records don’t mean anything in the summer. You’re not winning a state championship in June.”
With summer schedules filling up for high school athletes, between baseball, basketball and football, the all-day showcase on a Monday is the perfect time for basketball, Graven said.
Graven said attendance has been constant in previous years, despite playing on Monday.
"I know it’s hard for people to come watch on a Monday, but for coaches and players, not having to fight for weekend spots, or fight baseball and football, Monday is perfect for summer basketball," Graven said.
Graven said he has plans for the shootout, which is sponsored by Sam Leman Toyota, to continue to increase in size, with the hopes of growing it to 24 teams.
There's also the goal of continuing to draw college scouts to the school. In the past, scouts from area Division III colleges have fluttered in and out and Graven would like to see area teams get the appropriate amount of attention moving forward.
Playing on a high school team in a system familiar to players, with familiar teammates, is a contrast to AAU-style games where teams can change from weekend-to-weekend.
“I would love that element," Graven said. "I would love to see Macon and Sangamon County schools benefit to to where you get these kids some exposure and exposure in a system they’re used to."