Thirty-eight teams featuring some of the nation's top high school players will converge on the District for the Amateur Athletic Union's 17-and-under National Championship Basketball Tournament beginning today at Georgetown University's McDonough Arena.
The Reston Youth Club and the District's Rabaut Ramblers are the host teams of the round-robin tournament that includes players from as far away as Keizer, Ore. Opening ceremonies begin at McDonough at 6 p.m., followed by a game at 7 between Reston and the Memphis YMCA team.
That game is the first of 95 to be played up to the championship game. The teams, divided into eight divisions, will play round-robin Tuesday and Wednesday at six sites: McDonough, the No. 10 Boys and Girls Club and Georgetown Visitation, Mackin, St. Albans and Gonzaga high schools.
The top two teams from each division will advance to the single-elimination round of 16 Thursday, after which all games will be at McDonough. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be Friday and the final is Saturday at 1.
The top seed is the Oklahoma Rams of Oklahoma City, the runner-up in last year's championships in Jacksonville. The Carder Buick Lakers of Little Rock, Ark., are No. 2, Idlewood Silver of Memphis is No. 3 and Kansas City's Missouri Valley Mongooses are No. 4.
"But don't be surprised if you see either of the two Washington teams in the final four," said tournament director Ann Ruppert. Reston is seeded fifth and Rabaut ninth.
Another team to watch is unseeded Monroe (Mich.) Trophies, which has five players 6-feet-5 or taller and eight who played on the 15-and-under AAU national runner-up team. Monroe is led by 6-10 1/2, 280-pound center Michael Peplowski, one of the nation's top high school players.
"We're talking about a monster of a kid," said Monroe Coach Dave Williams of Peplowski, a 15-year-old junior. "He has the potential to be the best big man in the country by his graduating year. He runs the floor well and is not clumsy for his size."
Eugene Westbrook, a 6-6 forward from Parkview High, and 6-8 forward Anthony Tucker of McKinley will lead the Reston team. Byron Hawkins, a 6-3 guard, and 6-10 center Donald Hodge, both of Coolidge, are on the Rabaut squad.