Thanksgiving Hoopfest Returns to AAC on Saturday

Annual holiday high school basketball showcase will feature Duncanville, John Paul II, Lancaster and school from Ypsilanti, Michigan

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American Airlines Center is Luka Doncic's house. But Saturday night, the home of the Dallas Mavericks welcomes in even younger stars for an annual holiday basketball showcase.

"It's gotten big enough now to where we have a lot of different celebrities that want to come out, different athletes, different influencers, different dignitaries throughout the community as well as the state so it's really gotten legs of its own and I'm really excited about it," said Thanksgiving Hoopfest creator Glenn Smith.

Smith created this event 12 years ago and last year it moved into the AAC to meet ticket demands. Why has the event become so popular? Because it showcases athletes who will suit up in the NBA soon.

"For starters, I can start naming the kids that were drafted last week. You know a Tyrese Maxey, RJ Hampton, Jalen Harris. In previous years we had Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trae Young, Jaylen Brown. We've had a lot of good kids that have come through," said Smith.

The big headliner this year is Emoni Bates from Ypsi Prep Academy in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

"A lot of people are excited about (Bates) because he's a once in a generational type talent," said Smith. "There's only been two people that's been on the cover of Sports Illustrated while they were in high school. LeBron James being one and Emoni Bates was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last year as a sophomore."

And for those concerned about being in a crowd during a pandemic, Smith said not to worry.

"We have a social distance friendly seating chart so it'll be seats every other row," said Smith. "We've sold tickets in pods so that way people can sit together but also have the security of knowing that they're not going to be seated next to someone that they don't know and not having anyone sitting behind or in front of you."

Safety a top priority for basketball fans who will be on the edge of their seats Saturday night.

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