Whatever national exposure Omaha Central gets this week at the City of Palms Classic will be an improvement for high school boys basketball in Nebraska.
The state has been virtually invisible on the national level. For instance, the City of Palms is in its 40th year, and Central is the first Nebraska team it has invited.
“If we go there and take care of business, I think it will be something that will be great exposure for the state and bring a lot of exposure for all the players,” said Akoy Agau, Central's two-time All-Nebraska player.
The 6-foot-9 Agau, who signed last month with Louisville, has experienced the national stage through club basketball and his college recruitment.
There were efforts in the past 20 years to bring in teams from across the country to play in Nebraska — the Nebraska Holiday Prep Classics of the 1990s and the Omaha Shootouts of the 2000s.
This season, 2012 national high school champion Oak Hill (Va.) Academy will play Central on Feb. 9 in the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island.
In the Omaha Shootout, Central lost to Reserve (La.) Christian in 2006 and to Montverde (Fla.) Academy in 2007. Montverde is in the City of Palms Classic field. Reserve Christian's draw was Tweety Carter, who set the national career scoring record.
“Both of those games were great for us,” Central coach Eric Behrens said. “We lost both, but we played really well after those and won state titles.”
In the 1980s, Nebraska gained some exposure through the Nebraska Basketball Development Association summer all-star team that was the first from the state to play in the Las Vegas Invitational.
The first year, 1981, a Nebraska team that included Ron Kellogg, Kerry Trotter, Dave Hoppen and Bill Jackman took fourth after losing to an Oklahoma statewide all-star team with Wayman Tisdale and Mark Price.
Much before that, the University of Chicago and legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg conducted a national high school championship from 1919 to '30 that included Nebraska's Class A champion five times. Sutton in 1922 and Lincoln High in 1927 each won their first game and lost the next. Opening-game losers were Omaha Tech in 1926 and St. Paul in 1928 and '29.
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