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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Event to showcase top basketball talent from 4 states

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The 2021 Prep Ball Stars Midwest Challenge will take place on May 8 at Lawrence North High School. This is the 3rd annual Midwest Challenge between the top senior basketball players from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. 

“Everyone wants to be a part of something special,” said Tony Leach, founder of Prep Ball Stars. “But also everyone wants to compete.”

The day of hoops will tip off at 10 a.m. as Team Michigan will face Team Illinois, followed by a showdown between Team Indiana and Team Wisconsin. The winners will face off in the championship game at 6:30 p.m.

Each team will play two games, as there will also be a consolation game at 4:30 p.m. And before that, there will be an Unsigned Senior Game at 2:30 p.m. It will be a Saturday full of exciting basketball action featuring the most talented players in the region.

The Midwest Challenge began in 2018 and was canceled last year due to COVID-19. When planning the inaugural event in 2018, Leach says he “made four phone calls and within 10 minutes I had commitments from four of the top players in the state.” Those players, Eric Hunter Jr., Jarron Coleman, Kevin Easley, and Aaron Henry, all went on to play high-level college basketball and confirmed the legitimacy of the event to players from other states.

“I knew once I got those four that the other players would want to be a part of it,” said Leach. Notable 2018 players from other states include Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton, Purdue center Trevion Williams, and LSU transfer Xavier Pinson. Team Indiana defeated Team Illinois for the title in the first year. In 2019, Team Michigan beat Team Indiana at the buzzer to win the Midwest Challenge.

Players in the Midwest Challenge tend to take great pride in representing their state. “It says challenge for a reason,” said Leach, who is in his 10th year of running Prep Ball Stars. “These guys, they come here, they compete. They play as a team, they play hard.”

It takes a great deal of preparation to organize the Midwest Challenge. Between contacting players and coaches, booking a location, and sorting out other parts of the event, it is a day that is arranged months in advance. “I’ve got a list of 212 ‘to-do’ items now,” said a grinning Tony Leach. Leach claims the day is a “culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of individuals,” adding that the end result is well worth it. 

There are 500 in-person tickets available for the 2021 Midwest Challenge and they can be found here. There is general admission seating for $16 and a $38 VIP option which includes complimentary food and drinks. For those that can’t attend the event, PrepStream and FrontRunner Media will be broadcasting every game online for $20 here. The online stream will have a full live production crew with announcers, multi-camera views, etc.

The continuation of the Midwest Challenge after last year’s cancellation should be remarkably entertaining. Players from around the Midwest will be looking to display their state pride and come out as champions on Saturday, May 8. Hoops fans from all over should have their eyes locked in on this one. 

Zion Brown is a reporter for NextGen Sports. Reach out to him at info@thenxgen.org.

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