Over the past three days, Fort Wayne was the center of the high school basketball world.
The city hosted the Bill Hensley Memorial Run N Slam, an AAU tournament run by Gym Rats Basketball, at Spiece Fieldhouse, Turnstone and other sites Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Nearly 250 teams from across the country across four grade levels descended on the Summit City for the AAU event this weekend.
With an elite tournament comes elite talent, and there was plenty of that in Fort Wayne. Among those who showcased their skills was Gary native Jalen Washington, a five-star recruit who is considered the top player from Indiana in the 2022 class. Warren Central forward Tae Davis, who has committed to Louisville, also played, as did numerous other top prospects in the 2023 and 2024 classes.
The tournament also had plenty of local flavor. Indy Heat 2022 Red, featuring Carroll's Jalen Jackson, Homestead's Andrew Leeper, Woodlan's Joe Reidy and Bishop Dwenger's Owen Shively, went 3-2 in its five games, including a 58-55 win Sunday morning in which Jackson was nearly unstoppable going to the rim, and Reidy hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to ice the victory.
“It's fun because I've been playing with these guys for years,” Reidy said. “Even in high school when we play against each other, it's all competitive, but it's all fun. And then we get to come here in the summer and play against each other and show what we're made of. It's kind of like representing our own area. We take pride in that.”
Leeper's Homestead teammate, Fletcher Loyer, helped his Indy Heat 2022 Black team to a 5-1 record, including a 60-37 victory over Indy Heat Red in a matchup Sunday afternoon. Loyer, who has committed to Purdue, showed off his midrange game and creativity in transition all weekend. He plays alongside Davis, who flashed top-of-the-scale athleticism and instincts.
“It's pretty cool,” Loyer said of the Run N Slam, which was not played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Everyone's not on their own high school team, playing with different groups, playing with different guys. You get to see a little bit better talent, see some better teams. It's good to go against high-level competition.”
Some of the highest-level competition came from Washington's Meanstreets team, which went 6-0 to win the 17U platinum championship.
The 6-foot-9 forward, who has Indiana and Purdue among the short list of schools he's considering for college, is fresh off leading Gary West to a regional title. His length and athleticism are obvious, but he also has a soft touch from the post and can shoot at a solid clip from 15 to 17 feet. He's a good communicator on the defensive end and a willing passer when teams focus too much attention on him.
The tournament was attended by a large group of college coaches, including Saint Francis head coach Chad LaCross.
“It gives us an opportunity to see so many kids, so many top-level teams that come into Fort Wayne from across the country,” LaCross said. “It's a great event. ... To be able to watch that many games and that many players and still sleep in our own beds is great on our end.
“You look at our roster right now, we have so many local kids (Saint Francis had eight players from the Fort Wayne area on its 2020-21 roster) and we're still trying to target those local kids and a lot of them are playing on Gym Rats teams. It's great to see so many players and hopefully keep the ones we're recruiting here in town.”