AMERICAN FORK — The fifth-annual Utah Elite 8 Tournament tips off Thursday with some of the best prep basketball teams in Utah. Games will be played at American Fork High School and will feature 5A champion Bingham and a wide-open field of top-tier teams that include Olympus, Davis, Corner Canyon, Brighton, Bountiful, Copper Hills and American Fork.
“We are thrilled to put eight of the best basketball teams in Utah in one venue,” said tournament director Rob Geertsen. “Last year, Bingham won our tournament and they later went on to win the 5A state tournament. Olympus went 1-2 and played for the 4A state championship. This year's field of teams is stacked, and it really gives Utah prep fans a solid view of who will be standing in March."
How stacked is this year's field? In the latest Deseret News rankings, seven of the top 13 teams are playing in this year's tournament.
"The Utah Elite 8 is a great way to prepare your team for the region season. You play three tough games in three nights," Olympus coach Matt Barnes said.
Olympus has a 48-6 record over the past two seasons, and the Titans won the 2016 4A state title and were the 4A state runner-up in 2017. Olympus is just 3-3 in the Utah Elite 8 in that same time span.
Copper Hills coach Andrew Blanchard added, “Our team has played for the Utah Elite 8 title the past two seasons, which in my opinion has given us the experience of playing against the top teams in the state early in our season. That helps to prepare us for playing the top-tier teams in the state tournament."
Copper Hills won the 2015 Utah Elite 8 and later advanced to the 5A state final, eventually losing to the team it beat in the UE8 final — the Bingham Miners.
Bingham head coach Jake Schroeder agrees.
"I think this tournament more than any other is a great way to prepare for the state tournament," he said. "We are looking forward to another great tournament this year."
The tournament will feature some of Utah’s best prep players who are drawing a lot of college interest such as Olympus guard Rylan Jones (committed to the University of Utah) and American Fork's Isaac Johnson (offers from Gonzaga, Stanford, Wake Forest, BYU, Utah and Utah State and others). Other players to watch include Copper Hills forward Trevon Allfrey (24.5 points per game), Davis High guard Josh Sanders (17.7 ppg) and Bountiful guard Brig Willard (16.3 ppg).
“Our goal is to bring in the best returning teams where there is no clear favorite going in. Every team in the tourney could go 3-0, and any one of them could go 0-3," Geertsen said.
"The Utah Elite 8 is brutal, but gets you battle-tested for your season," Davis High coach Chad Sims said. "If you want to play the state's best, this is the place to be."
Davis was the 2014 UE8 Champion behind Gonzaga guard Jesse Wade's MVP performance.
Games will be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday at American Fork High School. Cost is $6 adults, $3 senior citizens and $1 for students with ID. Family passes are available for $50.
The tourney is a true tournament format and a champion will be crowned at the end.
Thursday's first round
Davis vs. Corner Canyon, 3:15 p.m.
Olympus vs. Bingham, 4:55 p.m.
American Fork vs. Brighton, 6:35 p.m.
Bountiful vs. Copper Hills, 8:15 p.m.
American Fork/Brighton winner vs. Bountiful/Copper Hills winner, 6:30 p.m.
Davis/Corner Canyon winner vs. Olympus/Bingham winner, 8:15 p.m.
Teams TBD, 5 p.m.
I have been running the Utah Elite 8 boys basketball tournament for the past four years. We enjoy hosting some of the top-tier teams in Utah each year in one preseason tournament. Each year our goal is to target the top returning teams in Utah.