They’ve come from as far west as Utah, as far north as Canada and as far south as Texas. Yet for every third week of March and forevermore, the players, coaches and teams that experience the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament are from here.
From all the greats, to all of the not so greats who have given us unforgettable performances on the basketball court for over half a century — from Carmelo Anthony to Dereck Whittenburg, from Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley and Rodney Monroe to Peter Giftopoulos, Jimmy Soto and the forever darling of this tournament, Sam Puckett — they belong to us, from generation to generation. Oh, yes, we claim them. They are ours.
That’s what’s in store for yet another impressive field of players, coaches and fans who will start filing into the Cumberland Holiday Inn on Wednesday afternoon. It all changes for them then, as, from that point forth, they will always be linked to us and we will always be linked to them — for the rest of their lives, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not. Oh, but with the hospitality they’re about to receive? They’ll like it. They’ll like it so much they’ll do everything in their power to keep coming back again and again.
The host school Bishop Walsh (21-7) and defending champion DeMatha (13-14), who is experiencing an inconceivable losing season, they’ve always known it. The Gonzaga Eagles (25-4) and Bishop O’Connell Knights (31-5), both with Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles this year, they’ve been privy to it for quite some time now. So, too, have Richmond’s Virginia state champion Benedictine Cadets (31-4) and the St. Frances Panthers (31-5) and Mount St. Joseph Gaels (30-3), both of whom have claims to Baltimore Catholic League championships this year.
The team you would think is in for a surprise, but apparently won’t be, would be the La Lumiere School of LaPorte, Ind. That’s right, real honest to goodness Hoosiers are going to be here to do what they love doing more than anything in Indiana — play some hoops.
These Hoosiers — actually, they’re Lakers — have played in tournaments everywhere this year, from Mitchell, South Dakota and Honolulu to Montverde, Fla., Kettering, Ohio and Saltsburg, Pa. But, by their own admission, it will be a trip to Cumberland and Frostburg, Md., that will complete them.
“They want to come,” said ACIT general chairman Joe Carter. “A college coach said to (La Lumiere head coach Alan Sluss), ‘You’re a Catholic school and you’ve never been to the Alhambra? You need to do something about that.’
“So, the coach called and said they wanted to come, which was great by us. He wants to make the nine-and-a-half hour drive to be here, and we couldn’t be happier.”
What you will see in the Lakers is the No. 11-ranked team in the country according to the USA Today Super 25, and what you will see in the Lakers is a whole lot of Lakers.
“They’re huge,” Carter said. “Go down that roster — 6-11; 6-10, 240; 6-10, 240; 6-8, 230; 6-7, 235 ... Geesh. Their guards are big, too.”
The Lakers have six players who will go Division I, led by 6-foot-3 guard Detrick Mostella, who has committed to Oklahoma State.
“Detrick might be the best scoring guard in the country,” said Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford “He’s a big-time scorer.
“He’s extremely athletic and has a knack for how to score, from the three-point line, pull-up jumpers, and (he) understands angles. He might lead the country in scoring when it’s all said and done this year in the prep school ranks, and that's with five or six Division I players on his team.”
Two of La Lumiere’s three losses have come to, get this, the two top-ranked teams in the country — 51-43 to No. 1 Findlay Prep in the Iolani Classic in Honolulu, and 57-38 to No. 2 Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla.
Joining the Lakers in this field will be the likes of Melo Trimble, the junior guard from Bishop O’Connell who committed to Maryland, DeMatha center BeeJay Ana, who is headed to N.C. State, La Lumiere’s Torren Jones, Missouri, Gonzaga’s Kris Jenkins, who will be a Villanova Wildcat, and Mount St. Joe guard Kameron Williams, who has signed with Ohio State. Not to mention Williams’ teammate, junior guard Phil Booth, and St. Frances junior forward Dwayne Morgan, who are entertaining offers from ... well, everybody. Name somebody ... Phil and Dwayne have heard from them.
“La Lumiere is ranked nationally,” said Carter. “At one time or another, Gonzaga, DeMatha, St. Frances and O’Connell were ranked in the top 25, so it’s a good field.
“There are some great young players, and it’s a good older field. There are going to be plenty of players to come watch.”
And there are going to be plenty of players who will never be the same after this weekend.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org