The best high school basketball talent from the city and the state will determine whose stars shine brightest in the Columbia vs. South Carolina All-Star Game today at Benedict College.
The concept was developed and the game organized by Sixth Man Basketball and Lineage of Champions, two of the state’s grassroots basketball organizations.
“I felt like it was a way to showcase the local talent in Columbia and the state,” said Curtis Wheeler, of Sixth Man Basketball, one of the organizations promoting the new event.
“The joke around the state is that Columbia people think they invented basketball, and Greenville people think they invented it. And it’s barbershop talk. A lot of guys who are in the basketball community talk about it all the time, where do the best basketball players come from?”
To settle the dispute, organizers developed what they hope will become a regular event, putting the state’s top basketball players from all leagues and classifications on the court together.
“That’s the driving force, to get the best kids on the court together,” Wheeler said.
The Columbia squad boasts a formidable roster with Clemson-bound Austin Ajukwa, of SCISA champion Cardinal Newman, alongside future Gamecock Justin McKie, of Class 4A champion Irmo.
Lancaster native Sindarius Thornwell headlines South Carolina’s all-star team. His teammates include Hartsville’s Devontea Washington and Lake Marion’s Khalil Halls.
Wheeler said Thornwell, a four-star shooting guard and future Gamecock who plays for Oak Hill Academy, was among the first players to sign on for the game.
“We really appreciate the high school coaches for embracing another (all-star) game, and it’s been good because the kids really want to play,” he said. “It wasn’t hard to put the roster together. Kids like Justin McKie, they wanted to play.”
Although many of the players know each other through AAU circles, the Columbia vs. South Carolina game will be the first time many of them have played with and against each other.
“This is an all-star game that reflects all the talent,” Wheeler said.
And it’s a perfect way to settle, for now, a decades-old argument.
If you go:
Austin Ajukwa, Cardinal Newman
Devonte Anderson, Richland Northeast
Tony Dargan, Chapin
Nygel Gates, Lexington
Vincent Hicklin, Lower Richland
Matt Howard, A.C. Flora
Eric Hopkins, Keenan
Justin McKie, Irmo
Marcus Praylow, Columbia
Jose Roman, Ridge View
Aaron Scott, Richland Northeast
Dominique Taylor, Spring Valley
Daniel Bridges, Landrum
Justin Dotson, Daniel
Khalil Halls, Lake Marion
PJ Heath, South Pointe
Roderick Howell, Rock Hill
Jaylen Reid, Rock Hill
Tashombe Riley, Orangeburg-Wilkinson
Kevin Howell, Marion
Jaylen Shaw, Hartsville
Sindarius Thornwell, Oak Hill
Devontea Washington, Hartsville
Darren Williams, Flora MacDonald