This past weekend, I watched a full day of basketball featuring some of the most highly recruited basketball talent in the country. From start to finish, fans were able to witness a number of memorable moments. Each year, the Highland Optimist Scott Credit Union Shootout seems to set the bar a little higher. Here is a summary of the MVP performances from the 29th edition of the highly anticipated annual event. 

Ray’Sean Taylor 6-1 2020 Collinsville – The gutsy guard showed fans why the 17-0 Kahoks remain unbeaten. In a David and Goliath style matchup against DeSmet, the Southern Illinois Edwardsville signee proved that he was not only capable of scoring the ball, but he is also a bona fide playmaker. The size of DeSmet posed a real challenge to Collinsville. Awaiting them on the inside were two towering defenders 6-10 Sekou Gassama and 6-9 Yaya Keita. Although it took a period or two for the 6-1 senior to develop a strategy to effectively attack the frontline of the Spartans, once he did, the rest was history. The dynamic guard was relentless in his downhill attack finding ways to score around and over the DeSmet interior defense. His MVP performance culminated with a game winning play in overtime. With the clock running down, Taylor drove into the lane drawing the defense and kicking out to his wide-open senior point guard Cawhan Smith who drilled the game winner at the buzzer. Taylor finished the game with 26 points, nine rebounds, six assists and steals.

Rashad Weekly 6-0 2020 Trinity Catholic – In a contest that was billed as the battle of the seven footers, the 6-0 Central Michigan signee stood the tallest when the smoke had cleared. It’s obvious that the Titan guard relished the opportunity to perform on the big stage. Drawing energy from the crowd, the senior point guard nailed five three pointers in route to a 36-point performance to earn the win for the Titans and MVP honors for his own efforts. As the war among the bigs raged in the interior, Rashad wowed the crowd with step back three pointers, shake-and-bake finishing moves and in-your-face long balls. Aside from his scoring performance Weekly also wowed the crowd with the occasional no-look dimes. The accomplished passer tallied five assists on the day. Weekly’s dominant performance led his team to a 77-67 victory over Mehlville. 

Patrick Baldwin, Jr. 6-9 2021 Hamilton – Baldwin was the best prospect to take the floor that evening. The best way to describe the MVP performance of the 6-8 junior is to start with the end – a standing ovation. Fans rose to their feet as the talented junior exited the court for the final time. Baldwin, a five-star prospect and consensus top three player in the class of 2021 finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, and was 5 of 5 from the free throw line. From the banter in the stands, it was obvious that fans were amazed to see a 6-9 player display a high level of ball handling, shooting, guard skills and other moves typically seen in players six foot and under. The Wisconsin native took little time in demonstrating why he was worthy of his top billing and national ranking. Baldwin was dazzling in his performance including, stellar passing, long range threes, rim rattling dunks, demoralizing shot blocking and rebounding with authority. In the end, Chaminade had no answer for Baldwin and fell to Hamilton 70-57. 

Phillip Russell 6-0 2020 Vashon – He’s back! The Southeast Missouri State signee was back from injury and looking like the floor general and sharpshooter of old. Russell earned MVP honors off a 31-point performance including dialing up seven out of nine from long range. Phillip also handed out six assists. Russell was quick, skillful and crafty with the ball on the run. In addition to surveying the floor for open teammates in transition, he was also more than capable of stopping on a dime and pulling up from deep with a quick release and deadly accuracy. He did a good job of reading off screens and taking advantage of late or absent closeouts. The Wolverines were happy to welcome the return to form of their senior lead guard who helped them to an 80-71 come from behind victory over Simeon. 

DJ Steward 6-4 2020 Whitney Young– The five-star Duke signee provided fans with the perfect closing act as he faced off against St. Louis CBC which was led by North Carolina signee, Caleb Love. The Chicago standout gave a heroic performance and let loose a 40-point barrage and scored from nearly every spot on the court. Steward’s heroic efforts led his team to a 66-64 come from behind victory over CBC. Although the athletic guard scored five three pointers, his most tantalizing shots came in the form of step backs, crossovers, mid-range pullups, and contested finishes at the rim. Steward used his ability to go from lateral to vertical in the blink of an eye and added good elevation with a speedy release that made it difficult for defenders to contest. He closed the night with a masterful performance on the big stage earning him an MVP award and a big team win for Whitney Young.