The ninth annual National Prep Showcase took place this weekend in New Haven, Connecticut. The event featured 23 of the top prep school teams in the country and well over 100 division I prospects, including some of the nation’s highest-ranked players. By the time the weekend had come to an end, close to 200 college coaches had come through the doors to evaluate talent along with 30-plus members of the national and local media.
The three full days and 21 games of action provided insight on what to expect from the upcoming season as well as some intel on the world of college basketball recruiting.
Here are five lessons we came away having learned:
1. Khem Birch is a Panther…in 2011
The gym was abuzz on Saturday with news that Khem Birch had signed a National Letter of Intent with Pittsburgh, meaning that he was forgoing his intended post-graduate year at Notre Dame Prep and reclassifying from 2012 to 2011. The implications of the decision were widespread as Birch went from the second ranked player in 2012 to the ninth overall prospect in ESPNU’s Super 60, Pittsburgh’s recruiting class went from unranked to the 12th best in the country, and Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon solidified the highest ranked recruit he has ever landed. Birch was dominant with his performance on Friday and there is little doubt that he will be an instant impact type freshman next season in the Big East.
2. Brewster Academy has a chance to repeat
Brewster Academy was the consensus top prep school team in the country last year after scoring both the NEPSAC Class A title, as well as the National Prep Championship. And based on what we saw this weekend they have a very good chance of repeating. Head coach Jason Smith’s squad is loaded at every position and returns Naadir Tharpe, the Kansas-bound floor general who was at the helm of last year’s squad. That is really only the beginning as Brewster has two legitimate high-major big men inside with Markus Kennedy and Mitch McGeary, a pair of high athletic swingmen in Jakarr Sampson and Durand Johnson -- who are pledged to St. John’s and Pittsburgh, respectively -- a knockdown shooter in Max Hooper, and a scoring combo-guard in Elijah Carter. The squad was dominant both times they took the court this weekend, scoring blowout wins over Fishburne Military Academy as well as Princeton Day Academy.
3. New England is loaded in 2012
The local boys defended their home turf this weekend as all of the top players in New England’s class of 2012 played to rave reviews. St. Thomas More’s Andre Drummond, the top-ranked player in the country, was dominant on Saturday turning in a 22-point, 16-rebound, and six-block performance with his incredible physical talents inside. The St. Mark’s duo of Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski was no less impressive as Tarczewski established position inside and finished with power for 26 points and 12 rebounds. But it was Murphy who owned the glass as he pulled down a career high 17 boards while also handling most of the ball-handling responsibilities, creating for his teammates, and scoring 18 points of his own. Rhode Island native Ricardo Ledo was no less impressive on Friday night going for 30 points by showing his ability to create his own shot at virtually anytime. With all four players proving themselves against the highest levels of competition, it only reinforces that this junior class is among the best ever in New England.
4. High-Majors are desperate for big men and point guards
All six of the BCS conferences were represented by various coaches this week and almost all of them were looking for the same things -- big men and point guards. With 96 of the top 100 prospects in the ESPNU 100 having signed during the early signing period, high-major programs all around the country are starting to look for Plan B. The simple matter of fact is that there are more spots than there are suitable high-major prospects at those two crucial positions. The consequence will undoubtedly be a trickle down effect as high-major schools will settle for mid-major prospects, mid-majors will be forced to settle for low-major types, and so on.
5. Every game will be a battle in NEPSAC AAA
All eight members of the newly formed class AAA of the NEPSAC were in action this weekend. While Brewster was dominant, it was hard to establish much of a hierarchy after that. St. Thomas More, Northfield Mount Hermon, Bridgton Academy, Maine Central Institute, and South Kent all went 1-1 while New Hampton and Winchendon both suffered hard-fought losses to go 0-2. But even Winchendon and New Hampton proved plenty as the Green were arguably the grittiest team in the field and New Hampton will undoubtedly be dangerous once they get more experience with the team’s offensive strategies. Outside of Brewster’s supremacy, the only thing we can come away from this weekend having learned about the new league is that it will be as competitive as ever with virtually any team capable of knocking off anyone else on any night.