By Brandon Speck
Gary Caveness needed a good fundraiser for Corinth’s Lighthouse Foundation, a Christian nonprofit.
Caveness, the son of legendary New Site coach Gerald Caveness, loves basketball.
Combine those facts and get the best two days of prep basketball Mississippi has ever seen.
The inaugural Lighthouse Thanksgiving Classic, scheduled for Nov. 29-30, welcomes 19 teams to Corinth High School gym. This isn’t your father’s tournament.
“I’ll tell you what. I don’t think there’s been a tournament with the lineup that’s coming in, in this state, or in this part of the state, before,” said Lighthouse executive director Gary Caveness, who along with board vice president Vince Overholt, put the event together.
Two of the 19 teams in the two-day fundraiser are the top-ranked teams in their state. Wenonah is MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in Alabama. The Birmingham team has won three straight state titles and piled up 93 wins along the way. Memphis White Station is the No. 1 preseason team in Tennessee. DeSoto is Texas’ No. 3 overall and No. 2 public school.
“It’s going to be an amazing thing to see,” Caveness said. “We’ve made up our minds that we’re going to run the best tournament in the South. We’re exited about the field.”
Four players in the ESPN 100 will be there and White Station begins the season at No. 16 in the country in the MaxPreps Top 25. There are great players, but great matchups. Wenonah could be in the rankings by the end of the month and if DeSoto is in, Saturday night’s matchup with White Station will be the first-ever Top 25 matchup in Mississippi history.
Come-and-go tickets are $8, $5 for children.
Five-star Devin Booker is Mississippi’s No. 1 recruit. The Moss Point shooting guard is No. 18 in the ESPN 100. He committed to Kentucky over the likes of Florida, Missouri, Michigan State and Michigan.
White Station’s LeRon Black, a 6-foot-7 power forward, is an Illinois commit. The 4-star has offers that include Indiana, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida, NC State, Ohio State, Tennessee and UCLA.
Black’s teammate, 4-star Chris Chiozza, is right behind him at No. 42 in the ESPN 100. The 5-foot-11 point guard has committed to Florida over Auburn, Massachusetts, Ohio State, Richmond, Tennessee and hometown Memphis. The mates are Tennessee’s top two recruits. White Station SG Davell Roby has committed to Saint Louis.
Wenonah point guard Justin Coleman is an Alabama commit, No. 75 on the ESPN 100 who also has offers from Auburn and UAB. He is the state’s No. 2 prospect.
DeSoto (Texas), which sent 2013 graduate Matt Jones to Duke, has another two commits, 6-foot-7 post players Terry Maston (Baylor) and Devin Wyatt (Loyola Marymount). The two are No. 31 and 32 on Texas’ ESPN player rankings, Wyatt at 31.
Louisiana’s Madison Prep boasts the No. 42 player on the ESPN 60, shooting guard Brandon Sampson.
There are six games Friday, highlighted by a local matchup at 5 p.m. between Class 1A champ Biggersville – led by senior guard Daniel Simmons, who has an offer from Middle Tennessee State – and Class 6A Tupelo. Class 4A runner-up Corinth will follow against Moss Point.
“This is a win-win situation for our whole area. No. 1, it’s going to bring the best basketball we’ve ever seen in our area,” Caveness said. “It’s a win for the fans. It’s a win for the teams. They’re going to come and play competition that’s hard to find. And it’s great for the community.”
Friday, Nov. 29
12:30 p.m., Mt. Pleasant, Tenn. vs, Middleton, Tenn.
2 p.m., Shannon vs. Hardin County, Tenn.
3:30 p.m., Alcorn Central vs. Nettleton
5 p.m., Biggersville vs. Tupelo
6:30 p.m., Corinth vs. Moss Point
8 p.m., DeSoto, Texas vs. Madison Prep, La.
Saturday, Nov. 30
11 a.m., (G) Corinth vs. Hardin County, Tenn.
12:30 p.m., Middleton, Tenn. vs. Marshall Academy
2 p.m., Biggersville vs Mt. Pleasant, Tenn.
3:30 p.m., Southwind, Tenn. vs. Moss Point
5 p.m., Corinth vs. Jackson Tenn. South Side
6:30 p.m., Madison Prep, La. vs. Wenonah, Ala.
8 p.m., White Station, Tenn. vs. DeSoto, Texas