Yesterday it was announced that both of Purdue’s 2022 men’s basketball commitments would take part in the most prestigious in-season tournament in the state, with a possible matchup against each other in the championship game. Fletcher Loyer’s Homestead and Braden Smith’s Westfield were both invited to the Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle, played in late December at the near 10,000 seat New Castle Fieldhouse.
This is the 45th edition of the tournament. For the longest time it was the only allowed in-season tournament and the only way teams could play more than 20 regular season games, but like exempt tournaments at the NCAA level, there are now dozens around the state during the holidays. The prestige is still there, however, as it is used to showcase some of the best returning players. This past season Mr. Basketball Caleb Furst led Ft. Wayne Blackhawk to the championship.
2021 Boys’ Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic
New Castle Fieldhouse – Thursday, December 30, 2021
11:00 a.m. (ET) Westfield vs. Connersville
to follow Homestead vs. Cathedral
6:00 p.m. Consolation Game
to follow Championship Game
Homestead spent much of this past season ranked #1 and was undefeated until losing to eventual state champion Carmel and Brian Waddell in the regional semifinal at Logansport. Westfield had a solid 18-5 season, but also lost to Carmel 53-27 in the sectional championship game. It was their second loss to Carmel during the season.
Westfield also has the unfortunate distinction of being the largest school in the state to never win a sectional, and they have been participating in the state tournament since it was founded in 1911. The first sectionals were played in 1918 and they are officially 0 for 104, but they have reached the championship round only to lose to Carmel in each of the last two seasons. Being in the same sectional as the Greyhounds, arguably the best team in the state this past decade, is a major reason why the streak has continued. In combined regular season and tournament games Westfield has lost nine straight to Carmel, 14 of the last 15, and have been eliminated but the Greyhounds in six of the last 11 tournaments.
Loyer is currently the No. 2 rated in-state player (I do not count LaPorte LaLumiere since they don’t play in the IHSAA) behind Purdue target Jalen Washington (No. 24 nationally per Rivals).