SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Brooklyn power Lincoln High didn’t really know what to expect coming into Saturday’s Hoophall Classic showdown with Hartford, Conn.'s Capital Prep.
The Railsplitters (16-3) were a late addition to the Hoophall field, after previous entrant St. Joseph Central of Pittsfield had to back out because several players on the team have the flu.
USC commit Kahlil Dukes was the lone bright spot for Capital, scoring 29 points in a losing effort. Shaquille McFarlan led Lincoln in the scoring column, finishing with 16 as the Railsplitters picked up a 95-68 victory.
Isaiah Whitehead, ranked No. 41 player in ESPN's latest "Super 60" Class of 2014 rankings, finished with nine points. At 6-foot-4, the strong-bodied junior guard demonstrates a lengthy motor and consistent outside jumper. He told reporters after the game that he holds offers from Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Lousiville, Syracuse, and UCLA, amongst several other high-major Division 1 offers.
Coming into the game, he said Lincoln knew keying on Dukes defensively would give them a good chance of winning the game.
“After the first quarter, we were hoping to stop Kahlil on the break, he’s super quick," Whitehead said. "We felt like we had a good chance of winning if we did that."
Lincoln did just that, holding Dukes to just six points in the first half. Down 51-24 at halftime, the lead Lincoln had built in the second quarter turned out to be insurmountable.
Gillespie scores 1,000th: Still only a junior, Capital Prep guard Levy Gillespie, Jr. notched his 1,000th point late in the fourth quarter.
“It was pretty good, I just wish we could have won the game, or a close game at least,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie scored his 1,000th point on the first of two free throws with a few minutes left in the game. Quickly between free throws, he ran over to the sideline for a quick embrace with his father, head coach Levy Gillespie, Sr.
“He just said ‘good job’,” the younger Gillespie said of the exchange.
Gillespie’s scoring total was something that had been highly anticipated by Capital Prep for the last few games. Dukes hinted that reaching the milestone was most likely a relieving moment for Gillespie.
“It was huge, long season and we were trying to get it out of the way for him so he wouldn’t think about it so much,” Dukes said.
Dukes holds firm to USC commitment: USC head coach Kevin O’Neill was fired earlier this week, but Dukes left no uncertainty in regard to his commitment to the Trojans program. The 5-foot-11 guard committed to USC late last July, and signed a National Letter of Intent during the NCAA's early signing period in November.
Trojan assistant coach Bob Cantu, whom Dukes developed a close relationship with over the course of his recruitment, was picked as interim head coach following O’Neill’s firing.
Under NCAA rules, once a player has signed a National Letter of Intent, he or she must ask permission from the school to be released from their scholarship. But generally, when there is a coaching change, players are usually granted their request.
“I was pretty much in, I didn’t know [O’Neill] well, Coach Cantu recruited me," Dukes said. "For me it was just a matter of staying loyal to the program and loyal to the team. I’m a Trojan all the way.”
He added, “Sometimes it’s hard to stay together when stuff like that comes up, but after I spoke to Athletic Director Pat Haden and Coach Cantu, they told me about their plans going forward.”
Dukes, who also has high aspirations as a filmmaker, mentioned that he has a lot that he wants to accomplish at USC, on and off the court.
“It’s the number one school in the country for film majors, I wasn’t really worried about the [O’Neill] situation.”