Schuckman: Anticipation for Quincy Shootout is matched by all-in effort to make it happen

Quincy Shootout 2023

QUINCY — Eric Stratman’s excitement is understandable.

For the last 12 months, since the day after the fourth Quincy Shootout ended, Stratman has been tirelessly working to assemble another stellar field. A former Quincy High School athlete and coach with a passion for community events, Stratman’s role as event organizer can be challenging and stressful.

When the event arrives Friday and some of the top teams and players across the United States walk onto the Blue Devil Gym floor, Stratman gets the chance to indulge like the rest of us in a showcase of talent.

Wednesday night, his anticipation for this weekend’s 18-game cornucopia of hoops reached a crescendo.

“Not sure about everyone else, but I look at the highlights of these players coming into town this weekend and I absolutely can’t wait. Elite level talent on every team,” Stratman tweeted.

That’s not hyperbole. That’s fact.

Link Academy is the No. 1-ranked team in the country in at least two sets of rankings. Wasatch Valley sophomore guard Isiah Harwell is the No. 5 recruit nationally in the Class of 2025 according to 247sports.com. The total number of top 150 recruits participating in the Shootout can’t be counted even if you use all your fingers and toes.

These are players fans will see on ESPN in the coming years playing for elite NCAA Division I teams. Some may end up in the NBA. It’s the kind of talent that will have fans saying, “I remember seeing him at the Shootout,” much like they have for players such as Shaun Livingston, Chasson Randle and others who have faced Quincy High School over the years.

So how does this happen?

It’s simple. Tradition, reputation, respect and diligence.

An inordinate amount of phone calls, emails and text messages, too.

Had it not been for Quincy being a hotbed of hoops with a tradition unlike many others in the state of Illinois — 13 state trophies and nearly 2,100 all-time victories — Stratman may have had a tougher time selling the value of playing in Blue Devil Gym when this event was launched in 2018.

Quincy’s reputation helped. So has the reputation of the Shootout, which by word of mouth among coaches and players had grown. It’s a widely respected event in which top-tier teams want to return to — for example, Link Academy, The Burlington School and Huntington Prep have all come back for a second time — and others have inquired about attending.

That revolves around the way they are treated, the level of competition they face and the atmosphere they get to play in.

Stratman sets the tone for that. He makes teams feel wanted and welcome from the initial contact through signing a contract to play through every minute they are in the Gem City. He works with them to meet their needs and provide the right experience.

Moreso, he’s diligent in staying connected. He communicates with coaches and administrators to build relationships that foster trust and appreciation. Teams know this isn’t a second-rate event because Stratman assures them it won’t be anything but top notch.

Their trust in him is rewarded with a tremendous experience in front of basketball-savvy fans.

Come Sunday, after watching four games Friday night and another nine games Saturday all while helping teams navigate travel, meals and shootaround times, Stratman will get a well deserved break and a day of rest.

Come Monday, the conversations about the 2024 Quincy Shootout will begin again because Stratman won’t allow this event to be anything but spectacular.

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