WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) – Shawn Powell was happy with what his eyes were seeing and ears hearing.
“We’ve had huge crowds with electric moments for 16 years, Powell said. “But never for an entire week like this week.”
Powell’s crazy week as a tournament director is over but what a week it was for the man who has overseen the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions for 16 years. He saw huge crowds create a huge buzz for the high school basketball tournament at Washington High School over Thanksgiving week.
It led to big smiles for Powell and his volunteer tournament organizing crew.
“What we saw this week, with the electricity and the super-charged fans, that’s what I envisioned from Day 1 in 2005. Coming off a COVID year, we were shut down, then we’re back,” Powell said. “Plus we had something nobody’s ever seen. Ever. That’s the incredible play for Hansel-Emmanual Donato.”
Donato, the one-armed player from Life Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Florida, stole the show. He dazzled crowds at Torry Gymnasium, bringing fans to their feet in the three games he played.
But the big winner might be the KB Strong Foundation, named after the late Washington coach Kevin Brown, who died of brain cancer in 2019. This year the tournament, which Brown helped start, raised $70,000 for the KB Strong Foundation.
“All the money always goes back to the event, now to the KB Strong Foundation,” said Powell, who works for the Chicago White Sox organization and calls the Tournament of Champions his offseason hobby.
Powell, who was the Tournament Director for the KMOX/Coca-Cola Shootout in St. Louis between 1992-2005, brought this tournament to Peoria in 2006 and moved it to Washington two years later. He has brought future NBA players, like Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson, to this Thanksgiving week tournament for years.
“When you put in a volunteer’s workload like I have for 16 years, this is what makes it worthwhile,” Powell admitted. “People are generous in giving to the Foundation to find a cure to fight glioblastoma. This is a great way to help get that done.”