Boston High School: Hoophall Classic

Video: Hoophall Classic highlights

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
ESPN compiled this highlight reel of top plays from last weekend's Hoophall Classic, at Springfield College's Blake Arena. The mix includes players from some of the nation's top players, including Whitney Young (Ill.) center Jahlil Okafor, Curie (Ill.) forward Cliff Alexander and Wesleyan Christian (N.C.) forward Theo Pinson.

Enjoy these highlights:

Hoophall: Albany Acad. (N.Y.) 75, Springfield Central 73

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– Just when the Central lead looked insurmountable, Matt Knezoic gave the Albany Academy offense just the pick-up that it needed.

Knezovic (16 points), who knocked down four threes, nailed two treys in the final two minutes to bring Albany Academy from down 10 in the final minutes. Thanks to some big shots and high-pressure defense down the stretch, the Cadets managed to pull out a 75-73 victory over Springfield Central at the Hoophall Classic.

Zavia Williams led Springfield Central with 18 points, while junior center Chris Baldwin totaled 12 points and 14 rebounds.

[+] EnlargeWilliams
Brendan Hall/ESPNZavia Williams (18 points) came alive in Central's heartbreaking last-second loss to Albany Academy.
“Tough loss. We did so many good things out there: pressing, running, doing some real good things," Central coach Jack O'Brien said. "We turned it over, turnovers will kill you and turnovers killed us. We looked erratic against pressure and that just opened up the floodgates for them to get some momentum."

The Eagles committed 25 turnovers total, including 14 in the second half and six in the final three minutes of the game. When Albany Academy began pressuring Central’s guards fullcourt, the Eagles began to unravel.

“There’s nothing better than taking care of the ball. That’s the big thing, we had 25 turnovers and a lot of them came in that fourth quarter. When they’re going fast, we’ve got to go slow and take our time. We rushed, and that led to errors…stuff that you don’t see every day,” O’Brien said. “It was self-enduced turnovers. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but I thought it was more self-enduced turnovers and erratic stuff.”

Baldwin missed two free throws at the line to extend the lead, then Knezovic canned a three-pointer to tie the game at 73 with three seconds left, giving Central the ball with only a few moments to make an attempt to score following their timeout.

“Even at the end, we’re up three and if we make one of those free throws, that’s basketball, but if we make one then it’s a four point game," O'Brien said. "You always debate ‘do you foul or not?’ but I thought it was a real deep three and our guy was right there. It was an NBA three, a tough shot."

Out of the timeout, star quarterback Cody Williams made an attempt to throw a full-court pass to Baldwin, who was standing at the opposite high post. Williams put a little too much power on the pass though, as the ball bounced off the ceiling and therefore possession arrow was awarded to Albany Academy.

“There were three seconds to go, we were trying to get the ball to Chris in the paint. If we didn’t get it to Chris, he was going to try to tap it to one of those three guys -- it’s something we’ve done in the past,” O’Brien said. “We’re trying to get it to him and if he can’t get it, he’s going to pass it to one of those three guys on the perimeter.”

With inconsistent guard play for a lot of the second half, O’Brien was wary of trusting one of his guards to be able to get the ball down the floor in the little time left, the football-style pass was the only way the coach saw his team having the potential to score to win the game.

“We were struggling so much there, I was nervous of that," he said. "That’s why I brought Chris back in the end of the game. Five seconds, six seconds we might try to get it and go.”

Because the possession arrow was given to Albany Academy, the Cadets received the ball from the spot where Williams threw the pass, right under the basket, with three seconds left. In that time, Knezevich caught the inbounds pass and drove to the rim before getting fouled and hitting two game-winning free throws to complete the comeback victory.

Z. Williams a bright spot for Central: Zavia Williams, who was the game-high scorer with 18 points, has shown quite a progression playing for O’Brien after previously not having any varsity basketball experience. Williams, who plays AAU basketball in the offseason for Expressions Elite, has emerged as a reliable scorer down the stretch for the Golden Eagles.

“Zavia has never played varsity basketball and a lot of the other kids haven’t either. It’s a learning experience, there’s nothing else you can say. Even at the end he stepped out of bounds near our bench with a four point lead," O’Brien said. “Sometimes he’s erratic, but he does a lot of things well. He’s doing a good job. For three quarters I thought he was great. It was a game we should have won, I thought we totally outplayed them. You just have to move to the next one, that’s all you can do.”

The Eagles, with the loss, moved to 5-5 on the year. They’ll next be in action on Tuesday night at Commerce.

Hoophall: Putnam 77, Woodstock Acad. (Conn.) 45

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Less than 30 seconds into the game, Putnam’s Dizel Wright picked off a pass at half court and took off towards his basket. He elevated and threw down a rim-rattling dunk for the first points of the game. He held onto the rim to let defenders pass underneath him, which served as a metaphorical exclamation point on the play.

That set the tone for the rest of the game as No. 1 Putnam beat Woodstock Academy (Conn.), 77-45.

“That was really important,” said Putnam (10-0) junior Tyonne Malone (19 points, 9 rebounds). “Dizel always gets those dunks. It gets the team hyped on the bench so we come out with a lot of energy.”

Woodstock (9-2), the defending Connecticut Class L champion, came out in a zone defense to try to slow the game down and keep the ball on the perimeter. Putnam , the defending MIAA Division 1 champion, likes to play in transition and work quickly, but they appeared more than happy to play in its half court offense. Even though his team never trailed in the game, Putnam coach William Shepard was not happy to see that zone early on.

“Obviously, if they’re setting up in their zone, that means they scored, so I wasn’t happy with that,” he said. “As far as teams getting into their zone, if we’re playing defense like we’re capable of playing, we’re getting transition baskets because they don’t have time to set up the zone. But our defensive intensity wasn’t there like it was supposed to be at the beginning of the game. We came into halftime, talked to them, made an adjustment, and they responded well.”

As a team, Putnam shot 50 percent from the floor, including 8-of-18 from the three-point line.

Putnam went into halftime with a 36-27 lead and for the second game in a row, blew the game open in the third quarter. The Beavers outscored Woodstock 25-8 in the third frame to put the game out of reach.

“We’re trying to change it from last year where we would do that in the fourth quarter,” said Putnam senior David Murrell. “We’re trying to switch things up because everybody knows our style from last year where we’d start the fourth quarter and try to hop on them. I don’t know, it seems like we’re not getting our heads in the game early.”

For a team known for consistently playing only a few of its bench players, Putnam’s bench outscored Woodstock’s 15-0.

Woodstock junior Adam Converse lead the way for his team with 14 points and 6 rebounds.

After playing two games in three days over the holiday weekend, Putnam will have a day off on Sunday, but then it is right back to practice on Monday. They're already halfway through its 20 game schedule, so there has not been a lot of time to get in quality practices. Shepard said with the team’s game schedule, he was concerned about conserving the team’s energy level and not wearing them down outside of games.

Putnam will be back playing a game again Tuesday against West Springfield.

Beasts on the blocks: The Beavers outscored Woodstock 46-22 on points in the paint. For a team that is known for its ability to push the pace and getting out and running in the open court, Saturday was the opposite of that. The game was played mostly in the halfcourt, and Putnam adjusted accordingly.

Murrell and Malone were active on the glass, finishing with 15 and nine rebounds respectively. Thirteen of those came on the offensive end, with both players out-jumping and outmuscling Woodstock’s post players to the basketball. As a team, Putnam out-rebounded Woodstock 49-29.

“First thing coach says all the time is you gotta box out,” said Malone. “That’s the first thing he says, put a body on somebody and see the ball. If you can’t get it, just keep boxing out and someone else is going to come and get that rebound.”

As the season rolls along, how each player asserts themselves on the backboards will go a long way to determining Putnam’s success. It will go up against teams with taller and heavier post players in the postseason, but if Murrell (6-foot-3) and Malone (6-foot-4) play like they did Saturday, their lack of size will not be an issue. Coming off a 27 point, 12 rebound performance Thursday against Springfield Central, Murrell had another double-double Saturday with 15 points to go along with his 15 boards. Malone was one rebound away from a double-double of his own.

“We challenge Tyonne and David to control the boards,” said Shepard. “If you’re capable of dominating, dominate for however long you’re out there. Tyon really took heed today and really took care of the boards and David was his normal self.”

Hoophall: Holyoke 59, Springfield Cathedral 48

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– Keying defensively on Cathedral star guard Darrick Boyd, Holyoke (7-3) was able to hold off a late run from the Panthers on Friday night at the Hoophall Classic.

Boyd, one of the best guards in Western Mass., was held to just four points in the first half. Despite a late run from Boyd and the Panthers, the Knights were able to pull out a 59-48 victory.

The Knights jumped out to a 31-19 first half lead, thanks in part to the play of guards Adonis Camby and Luis Vasquez. Even though they committed 17 first half turnovers, Holyoke was able to build an early lead because of their dominance on the glass and defense on Boyd.

“That’s what we talked about, just trying to cut down on our turnovers and continue to play good defense. I thought we’d have a good chance to win the game as long as we didn’t turn the ball over and create some scoring opportunities for us,” Holyoke coach William Rigali said. “We tried to double-team [Boyd], obviously their best player—get the ball out of his hands and make the other guys create their own shot. It was a little bit of man-to-man and a little bit of zone.”

Cathedral (4-5) made a somewhat successful defensive attempt at slowing down Holyoke’s guards in the second half, but the extra attention on the point guards only opened things up for 6-foot-2 junior swingman Devante Wardwell (21 points), who scored 16 points in the second half.

“Our game is along the baseline," Rigali said. "Devante’s a very good all around player and Justin and Adonis are pretty good around the basket. What Devante gives the team is chemistry...He kind of gives us a little bit of everything else."

To his credit though, Boyd (15 points) helped light a fire under his team offensively in the fourth quarter. Finish an acrobatic lay-up in transition and a few minutes later knocking down a deep three from the right wing, Boyd was able to create a stir in the Holyoke defense in the fourth quarter.

“It held him down a little bit through three quarters, but he started to make us very nervous when he was hitting those threes,” Rigali said. “He’s a heck of a player and we have a lot of respect for him, and that’s why we paid special attention to him.”

The Knights were able to hold off the Panthers despite having star forward Justin White on the bench. A victim of foul trouble for the majority of the first three quarters, White managed to be the only other Holyoke player in double figures when he knocked down a short jumper from the paint in the fourth quarter.

“He’s such a good athlete, he’s active and he wants to have a good game," Rigali said. "He just needs to calm himself down a little bit on certain plays so that he can stay on the court for us, because obviously we’re a better team when he’s out there."

Despite a tough start to the year where the Knights dropped games to Pittsfield, Longmeadow, and West Springfield, their coach hopes that beating Cathedral, especially a win over a strong Northampton team on Monday, may be just the step in the right direction that the Knights needed.

“After 32 years in this league, you can’t tickle people to death," he said. "You really have to have something, and one of the things I’m most proud of the Holyoke kids is that after 32 years they’re the only non-Springfield team to play in this league. I have a lot of respect for our kids because they play hard.”
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- A year ago this weekend, in its first foray into the loaded Hoophall Classic, Braintree's young budding stars made a statement, throwing figurative haymakers at Springfield (Ore.) and the nation's No. 1 overall player, 6-foot-5 center Mercedes Russell, in an eventual nine-point loss.

Tonight, they came in a year wiser, less wide-eyed. But the end result was the same, a 69-52 loss to Queens, N.Y. powerhouse Christ The King in which they had no answer for Duke-bound guard Sierra Calhoun (30 points, six rebounds) and Siena-bound forward Kollyns Scarborough (21 points, 14 rebounds).

Still, the Wamps -- currently ranked No. 1 in's statewide poll -- came away with similar sentiments of confidence as they head back east.

"The nicer thing this time around is we felt like we could come in and play our own game, that we didn’t have to change our philosophy based on a 6-7 girl," Wamps head coach Kristen McDonnell said. "But we knew this was a challenge for us, and it was gonna be a big test. We came out competitive, battled the whole time.

"I just think there’s so many positives to come out of playing a team like this, with players at that high level, it highlights what we need to work on more than playing some of these other teams."

The Wamps (8-1) came out of the gates with purpose, going toe to toe with the Royals in the opening minutes. Molly Reagan (11 points) put back an errant three-point attempt by Ashley Russell (13 points, six rebounds), then tied it at 7-7 off a great dish from Bridget Herlihy (12 points, six rebounds). When Calhoun came back the other way with her second of four 3-pointers on the night, Russell followed up with another counterpunch.

Russell missed another three in the corner to start off the possession, but Brianna Herlihy (15 points, seven rebounds) came down with the board and kicked it back out to Russell up top. Russell pulled up for a jumper and missed again, but came down with her own rebound and drew a foul on the way up, sinking both free throws to close the gap to 10-9.

The Royals closed the quarter on a 9-4 run, then widened the gap in the second to take a 39-23 lead into the break. Scarborough put back her own missed layup to start the quarter, followed by an effortless bank three by Calhoun then another Scarborough basket, off a well-thread pass in transition from Deja Johnston, to make it 26-13. From there, the Wamps were never able to close the gap back to single-digits, holding their own on the defensive end but unable to keep up in transition.

Christ The King held a 37-32 advantage on the glass and shot 46 percent from the floor, while Braintree finished up shooting 37.3 percent after a forgettable first half from the floor (8-for-26). Christ The King committed 26 turnovers, to just 21 from Braintree; the Wamps also held a 13-9 advantage in steals.

High praise for Russell: McDonnell was asked about a moment in the third quarter when Russell dove into the press table, head first, going after a loose ball. As usual when talking about her dogged floor general, it brought a wide smile to the coach's face.

"I love this kid. Honestly, she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen on any team," McDonnell said. "The kid never quits ever. She is so tough. Whatever college gets her is going to be very lucky."

Down the hallway, Christ The King coach Bob Mackey had even stronger praise for the 5-foot-9 junior, who is drawing a scattering of interest across Divisions 1 and 2.

"That kid can play for me any day of the week -- twice on Sunday. That kid’s got a game," Mackey exclaimed. "It’s a mistake if somebody’s not recruiting that child, because she can play. She works hard, she’s the kinda kid that makes coaches look good, and she makes her teammates look good too.

"She can do so many things, she’s left she’s right shes all over the place, she gets to the rim she can knock down a jump shot, and she doesn’t stop. She wore through…we had three different kids guarding her in the game. One kid did a good job on her, came off the bench and did a really nice job, but it’s tough. She’s a good player."

Even was Mackey was broached on different subjects, such as matching up with Reagan and her unique high-low game, the conversation ended up drifting back to Russell's inspiring grit.

"I was impressed, I was really impressed with [Russell], seriously," he continued. "[Brianna Herlihy] got Player of the Game? My player is [Russell]. She got them going, she is the engine."

Hoophall: Mater Dei (Calif.) 86, Abp. Williams 37

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- With No. 9 Archbishop Williams missing three starters and playing national power Mater Dei Friday at the Hoophall Classic, few expected the local team to come out victorious.

To lose 86-37 as it did, though? That kind of offensive efficiency is why Mater Dei is ranked No. 3 in the latest ESPNW high school basketball power rankings.

“We kept it within 50, but they could have beat us by 100 if they kept their starters in the game,” said Archies coach Jim Bancroft. “We are just shorthanded, missing three starters, and Alan Gilmer is only about 50 percent because she dislocated her thumb.

“We made the schedule early in April and May when everybody was healthy and we thought everybody would be back. We just had some knee injuries over the summer, and surgeries, and was hoping that some of them would be back by now, but it’s just taken a little longer than we thought.”

Mater Dei is lead by the ESPNW No. 2 junior in the country Katie Lou Samuelson. The 6-foot-3 wing had what was considered a quiet first quarter for her, but still ended the half with 21 points while shooting 9-of-15 from the field. She single-handedly outscored Archies in the first half 21-15. She ended the game with 34 points and 5 rebounds.

“Starting off my team did a great job of helping out,” she said. “Andee Velasco (9 points) came out shooting great and Alli Resenblum (14 points) put up points, so I wasn’t too worried about scoring out there because I knew my team was doing great.”

Samuelson is not an easy matchup for most teams, let alone Archies. With her height, she was easily the tallest player on the floor. However, she is a wing player who seems more comfortable shooting from outside than playing in the post. She was 5-of-12 from beyond the three-point line Friday, and never shied away from shooting.

“Once she starts throwing up the threes, she turns it on pretty well,” said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan. “She’s very gifted. We run a lot of stuff for her, we’re built around her. She gets inside, outside, in transition, in the press. She’ll find ways to score. We don’t worry about her getting points or shots.”

Mater Dei put up 51 points in the first half off creating turnovers and getting out in transition. It outscored Archies 32-2 off turnovers in the first 16 minutes. The Monarchs went to a full court press and made the game difficult on the young Archies backcourt. When it could not move the ball, its guards often dribbled into corners and into traps, which played right into Mater Dei’s hands.

One player Archies was without was Jaylen Wiliams, the junior Penn State commit, who is still recovering from offseason ACL surgery. Even if the team had its full lineup, Bancroft was not confident the result would have been dramatically different.

"I don’t think we got a whole lot out of it,” he said. "You hope when you play better competition you learn something and you help develop your game. They were just too much better than us. They completely shut us down. If we were healthy, maybe it would’ve been different. Maybe it would’ve been a 30-point game, I don’t know. I know even when we’re healthy, we’re nowhere near that kind of talent."

Video: Recapping Putnam-Central at Hoophall

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- In a highly-anticipated nightcap of the first night of the Hoophall Classic, before a capacity crowd at Springfield College's Blake Arena, No. 1 Springfield Putnam got the best of its archrival Springfield Central, 82-57, thanks to big nights from David Murrell (27 points, 12 rebounds), Ty Nichols (12 points) and Dizel Wright (10 points, 10 rebounds).

ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan Hall and correspondent Andy Smith break down all of the action.

(Video by Greg Story)

Hoophall: No. 1 Putnam 82, Central 57

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- It was an intersection of time and place Thursday night at the Hoophall Classic.

At the birthplace of basketball, on the campus of Springfield College, two schools that are less than a mile apart from each other in Springfield met on a neutral court, played for nothing more than pride. They are the last two Division 1 state champions. On one side, the always-running Putnam, last March's winners. On the other side was 2012 champ Springfield Central, coached by Jack O’Brien, who is in his first year coaching the team and most known for his success building a juggernaut at Charlestown, winning five state titles in a span of six seasons stretching more than a decade ago.

In the end, it was the most recent state champ, Putnam, who came away with a 82-57 victory. At least until the two teams play again, the Beavers will have bragging rights over their Roosevelt Ave. rivals.

“The rivalry is tough, it’s real tough. We don’t like Central and I’m sure they don’t like us,” said Putnam junior Ty Nichols (12 points, 6 rebounds). “We’ll see them again later in the season, and that will probably be more of an intense game because they will have to make the playoffs. Whenever there’s a Putnam vs. Central game, everybody’s talking about it. We just love it. There’s talent out in Western Mass. and people come out and support us.”

Putnam (9-0) likes to get out of the gates fast and play in transition as much as possible, and Thursday was no different. It jumped out to a 15-7 lead in the first quarter off the back of its transition offense. The Golden Eagles (4-6) were able to hit timely three's towards the end of the quarter, which cut the lead to 18-15.

Putnam was able to maintain its pressure into the second quarter and stretch its lead to 36-27 going into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Putnam onslaught continued. The Beavers outscored Central 26-10 in the quarter to finally put the game out of reach. It outscored Central 22-6 in the fast break and 35-12 off turnovers in the game.

“I told the guys at halftime, Central is going to come out. They have pride,” said Putnam coach William Shepard. “They’re going to come out and fight, but it goes back to the foundation, what we do every day at practice. We’re going to sustain our energy and intensity for the full 32 minutes.

"Can they do that? Can they do the same? I told the guys we let them back into the game with unforced turnovers. Just keep playing Putnam basketball, keep the intensity, and they really followed through on that in the third quarter and really turned it out."

Putnam is back in action at the Hoophall Classic Saturday at noon at Blake Arena against Woodstock Academy (Conn.).

Battling Baldwin: One of the toughest tasks for any team playing Springfield Central is defending 6-foot-8 junior center Chris Baldwin. In its halfcourt offense, Baldwin can set up in the post to exploit a mismatch against smaller defenders. Defensively, he is the prototypical rim protecter and forceful rebounder every team hates facing.

Thursday night, Putnam used its transition offense as a way of neutralizing Baldwin. When it came down with a defensive rebound, it immediately pushed the ball up the floor and forced the big man to try and catch up. Often, he was behind the play, which gave Putnam an easy lane to the basket.

“We knew Chris coming into the game, he didn’t like to run up and down the court, and if he was going to run up and down the court, he was going to get fatigued,” said Ty Nichols. “We switched to our full court man defense and it kind of wore them down a little bit. That’s when we took control.”

On offense, Central wanted to slow the pace down and work in its halfcourt offense. To combat that, Putnam set up in a 3-2 zone to keep the ball away from Baldwin in the post and was more than happy to let Central shoot from the outside. The strategy worked as Central finished the game 6-for-25 from three.

“The kids were actually calling for me to stay in man defense, but what dictated me changing the defense was how the game was being called,” said Shephard. “We make adjustments to whatever is being called. Are they going to let us play or is going to be touchy? We got a couple of fouls early, so I went into the 3-2 and it worked a little bit.”

For most of the game, Tyonne Malone (13 points) and David Murrell (27 points, 12 rebounds) were charged with defending Baldwin in the post. Both players were at a height disadvantage to the Central junior.

“Ty had his moments there where he was getting a little frustrated and things weren’t going right for him,” said Shephard. “Dave has been playing against guys bigger than him since he got to Putnam, so that’s nothing new to him.”

Baldwin ended the game with 16 points and 8 rebounds.

2014 Hoophall Classic schedule announced

October, 7, 2013
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the high school teams today for the 2014 Spalding Hoophall Classic. Springfield College will host the games at Blake Arena from January 16-20 during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The nationally renowned event will once again showcase the top high school basketball teams from across the country. This year’s elite matchups include Huntington Prep (Huntington, WV) vs. Prime Prep Academy (Dallas, TX), Wilbraham & Monson Academy (Wilbraham, MA) vs. Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, NH) and Wesleyan Christian School (High Point, NC) vs. Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV).

Numerous games from the 2014 Spalding Hoophall Classic will be televised nationally. Information on these broadcasts will be available shortly. Other legendary programs scheduled to participate include St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, NJ), Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL), Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA), Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA) and St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, NJ), coached by 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Bob Hurley, Sr.

The 2014 Spalding Hoophall Classic continues its tradition of talented players by featuring several of ESPNU’s Top 100 in the class of 2014, including top 10 standouts Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young High School/Chicago, IL), Cliff Alexander (Curie High School/Chicago, IL), Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy/Dallas, TX), Karl Towns Jr. (St. Joseph High School/Mutuchen, NJ), Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei/Santa Ana, CA) and Kelly Oubre (Findlay Prep/Henderson, NV). A total of 32 players out of the ESPNU Top 100 in the Class of 2014 will participate.

Among the local games of particular interest include the nightcap of the first day, which pits city rivals Springfield Putnam and Springfield Central against one another. The two schools, located less than a mile apart on Springfield's historic Roosevelt Ave., have won the last two MIAA Division 1 state championships.

On the girls' side, the state's top two returning squads will square off against national powerhouses Friday evening. Defending D1 South champ Braintree will face off against Christ The King (N.Y.), followed by defending D3 state champ Archbishop Williams against Mater Dei (Calif.).

Here is the full schedule of games for the five-day event:

Thursday, January 16, 2014
4 p.m. - Sabis vs. Granby - GIRLS
5:30 p.m. - Granby vs. Greenfield
7 p.m. - Sabis vs. West Springfield
8:30 p.m. - Springfield Central High School vs. Springfield Putnam

Friday, January 17, 2014
4:30 p.m. - Springfield Central vs. West Springfield - GIRLS
6 p.m. - Archbishop Williams vs. Mater Dei (Calif.) - GIRLS
7:30 p.m. - Braintree vs. Christ The King (N.Y.) - GIRLS
9 p.m. - Springfield Cathedral vs. Holyoke

Saturday, January 18, 2014
Noon - Springfield Putnam vs. Woodstock Academy (Conn.)
1:30 p.m. - Springfield Central vs. Albany Academy (N.Y.)
3 p.m. - Bishop O'Connell (Va.) Rainier Beach (Wash.)
4:30 p.m. - Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) vs. Houston Yates (Texas)
6 p.m. - St. Frances Academy (Md.) vs. St. John Bosco (Calif.)
8 p.m. - *Huntington Prep (W. Va.) vs. Prime Prep Academy (Texas)

Sunday, January 19, 2014
11 a.m. - Kimball Union (N.H.) vs. Northfield Mount Hermon School
12:30 p.m. - Cushing Academy vs. Worcester Academy
2 p.m. - St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) vs. Arlington Country Day (Fla.)
3:30 p.m. - Our Savior New American (N.Y.) vs. La Lumiere (Ind.)
5 p.m. - DeMatha Catholic (Md.) vs. St. Joseph (N.J.)
6:30 p.m. - Wilbraham & Monson Academy vs. Brewster Academy (N.H.)
8 p.m. - Skills Challenge

Monday, January 20, 2014
9:45 a.m. - St. Anthony (N.J.) vs. Paul VI (Va.)
11:30 a.m. - Wesleyan Christian (N.C.) vs. Findlay Prep (Nev.)
1:30 p.m. - Oak Hill Academy (Va.) vs. Whitney Young (Ill.)
3:30 p.m. - Curie (Ill.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.)
5:30 p.m. - Neumann-Goretti (Penn.) vs. Mater Dei (Calif.)

Recruiting craze 'overwhelming' Wiggins

January, 21, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –- Coach Rob Fulford remembers well the day Andrew Wiggins made the decision to attend Huntington Prep. Driving on a road in downtown Huntington, W. Va., Fulford wasn’t quite sure how to express his excitement.

“It was a week before school started and I got a call from his dad, and he said ‘Hey congratulations Andrew’s coming.’ I was driving down the road and I damn near wrecked,” Fulford said with a laugh.

Since going to Huntington -- and one could even argue before going -- Wiggins has been one of the most followed amateur basketball players in the world. The Toronto native stands 6-foot-8 with long arms, a chiseled physique, gifted athleticism, and speed coveted by some of the country’s best point guards.

With those physical gifts has come an unprecedented amount of attention from fans and media. He’s a quiet kid at heart, and though he plays his best ball when the lights shine bright, he often struggles with the amount of pressure and questions that comes from his recruitment.

“It’s overwhelming, he just hates attention,” Fulford said.

Because of the talent and proximity, Huntington has played several games in the state of Kentucky this year. The University of Kentucky of course is considered to be one of the favorites to land the prized Canadian recruit, and at some points the mob of fans and autograph-seekers from gym to gym has taken a toll on Wiggins’ mental state. Fulford described the attention from fans and media as an ongoing circus of sorts.

“He doesn’t like it, we’ve played six games in the state of Kentucky this year, and we’ve had over 35,000 people there total," he said. "We play Montverde in Louisville on March 3, that’s going to be crazy.”

Wiggins has been sick for the last two weeks or so, first suffering from the flu before his illness developed into bronchitis. He showed no signs of slowing down at the Hoophall Classic on Sunday night though -– going up against Indiana-signee Noah Vonleh of New Hampton, Wiggins scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

He did not talk to media after the game.

The game with New Hampton was Huntington’s fourth in the last eight days, but with plenty of traveling inbetween. The Express played in Hampton, Va., Charleston, W. Va., and Dayton, Ohio before arriving in Springfield for the Hoophall.

Fulford admits that shots aren’t falling for Wiggins as easily as they were last year; he suggested that the mental toll of Wiggins’ recruiting process may have a lot to do with it.

“His shots aren’t falling; his shot was more consistent last year," Fulford said. "He’ll talk to you about anything, but once you bring up recruiting, he shuts down.”

For a star player who likes to keep to himself, Wiggins’ coach admitted that the rabid fanbase and constant media craze of Kentucky could very well impact his eventual college decision. All eyes will be on Wiggins wherever he goes, but Fulford and Wiggins are both well aware of the closely watched microscope that has become Kentucky basketball.

“I tell him, ‘You’re kind of sheltered here at Huntington’," Fulford said. "That’s the thing with the people in Huntington, when you go to the mall the little kids, they’re all over him. The adults, they could care less, they don’t even care who he is.

“He can be a normal kid here. I’ve told him after this year, he can’t hide, and if he goes to Kentucky, that part of it is going to be different.”

Wiggins may have been able to obtain some advice from a fellow blue chip prospect this weekend. Simeon’s Jabari Parker, who graced Sports Illustrated’s cover last year, had considerable attention on his recruitment until he committed to Duke on Dec. 20. On Sunday morning, before Huntington faced New Hampton, Wiggins and Parker spent a couple hours together at a photo shoot for Slam Magazine.

Parker spent the majority of the fall recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, an injury sustained while playing for the USA Under-17 national team this summer. However, when a nationally televised game came up early in Simeon’s season, Parker decided to play. Still trying to get back into shape and not close to being fully recovered, Parker got a lot of negative attention from the media and fans questioning why he was ranked as the No. 2 player in the 2013 class.

“I’m hoping [Parker and Wiggins] had some conversations, because I think with Jabari [recruiting] affected him," Fulford said on Parker's decision to announce last month. "He took so much heat when he came back, and he wasn’t ready to come back -- everybody saw that, but he took so much heat for it. I think he was like you know what screw this I’m going to get it over with.”

These days it seems as if everybody wants to know where Andrew will attend college—though it’s generally assumed that his college career won’t last more than a year. His coach hinted that those people may want to sit tight, thought, because Wiggins is nowhere near close to a decision and sees no point in rushing the process along. In the coming months he will be taking official visits to Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina. He has already visited Florida State, where both of his parents were star athletes.

He’s already being bombarded with questions of whether or not he will announce his decision at the McDonald’s All-American game or the Jordan Brand Classic, but the chances of him making an event out of his college decision are slim to none.

“I think deep down he may already know where he wants to go, but he hates to make a decision," Fulford said. "Obviously ESPN wants it to be on TV, but he won’t. That’s not his style.”

Hoophall: Huntington (W. Va.) 55, New Hampton (N.H.) 47

January, 21, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –- All the talk going into Saturday night’s star-studded showdown between New Hampton (N.H.) and Huntington Prep (W. Va.) was about Haverhill native and Huskies forward Noah Vonleh squaring off with Huntington's Andrew Wiggins. However, the two rarely played each other one-on-one over the course of Huntington’s 55-47 victory.

Vonleh had two fouls called on him early in the first half, and struggled with foul trouble throughout the game, forcing him to the bench and creating opportunities for other New Hampton players to step up and keep the Huskies in the game.

Huntington star Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 ranked player by ESPN, was by far the Express’ most consistent player on the offensive end, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn’t see the foul trouble that Vonleh had, as he spent a majority of the game guarding New Hampton point guard Travis Jorgenson.

The Express came out with reserve forward Patrick Strake in the lineup to defend Vonleh. A hard-nosed, defensive-minded player, Huntington coach Rob Fulford didn’t want to put Wiggins in a situation where he could get into foul trouble.

“Early on we wanted to see how the refs were going to call the game. We went with Patrick Strake, who doesn’t start, ever, but he’s physical,” Fulford said. “We didn’t want them to get Andrew down on the post early and get a couple cheap fouls, which in turn, happened the other way.”

New Hampton was able to keep it close early, thanks to a big first half from 6-foot-8 forward Tory Miller, Jorgenson, and super athletic guard Lincoln Davis. Even with Vonleh only playing eight minutes in the first half, the game was tied at 28 at halftime.

Kansas City connection: Jorgenson and Miller, both from Kansas City and AAU teammates on KC Pump and Run, have been friends since sixth grade. Needless to say, they were very complimentary of each other after the game.

“Personally, in my opinion I’ve always said this but I think [Travis] is the best PG in the country. That’s a bold statement,” Miller said. “I’ve been playing with him for so long though, that’s just what I think. He’s the toughest point guard I know. He didn’t even sit tonight; usually he’s in the entire 40 minutes."

Jorgenson, a senior, led the Huskies in the scoring column with 13 points, but his ability to hit big shots was exactly what the undermanned New Hampton needed. He knocked down three treys, and constantly looked to feed the Huskies’ big men inside. Even in a losing effort, his play was a bright spot for New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all, I have supreme confidence in him, he’s outstanding,” Hutchens said.

Miller checked in with a double-double for New Hampton, giving them a presence inside that they desperately needed considering that Vonleh only played about 16 minutes total. Whether Vonleh was in foul trouble or not, playing against Huntington was an opportunity that Miller had very much been looking forward to.

“[Wiggins] knows how to get in the lane, he can shoot it if he’s open. He’s a really good player, extremely athletic guy, he was a real cool guy when I talked to him after the game,” he said.

Playing in his first national televised game was as exciting an experience for Miller as it was for his family back home. He proudly announced after the game that he had 87 unread text messages from people back home in Missouri, assumingly all congratulating him on his play on national TV.

“Oh man, [playing at the Hoophall] is a blessing," Miller said. "It was fun, even though we didn’t win it was fun to go out there and play against the number one player in the country. There’s nothing like it, honestly. Packed house, nationally televised, all the people back home from Kansas City watching. It’s fun man.”

Courting Wiggins: A lot of hype will go into the next few months leading up to Andrew Wiggins’ college decision, but Fulford made it clear that very little will change until then.

" Kentucky and Florida State are the leaders in the clubhouse. John Calipari already has five top 100 commitments in the 2013 class, and if he can add Wiggins to his super-talented recruiting class, then said class could very well go down as the best recruiting class ever seen in college basketball.

" The bloodlines are there with Florida State, Wiggins’ father played hoops for the Seminoles before going to the NBA, while his mother was a trackstar at Florida State. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, one of the top shooters in the 2013 class, committed to Florida State this past fall; Rathan-Mayes and Wiggins are close friends from their time as AAU teammates for CIA Bounce, and now continue that close relationship as teammates at Huntington.

" North Carolina could be closing in strong, Fulford said that Tar Heels coach Roy Williams has come to see Wiggins play on four separate occasions this season.

" Kansas is involved, but how involved they are has still yet to be seen: “[Bill] Self has been in once, so I’m not really sure where that’s at,” Fulford said.

Banged Up: New Hampton was pretty thin at forward against a significantly bigger Huntington squad. Sophomore forward Jeremy Miller was out with a concussion that he suffered about a week and a half ago, Hutchins said Miller didn’t make the trip to Springfield, and instead stayed at school for the weekend. In addition, Huskies’ junior forward Mike Auger played with a significantly sprained ankle.

“He got a badly sprained ankle a week ago, and he gave us some huge minutes when he really couldn’t [tonight]. He overcame a lot of adversity,” Hutchins said.

For Huntington, Fulford said that Wiggins has been fighting illness for that past couple weeks between schoolwork, the constant media frenzy wherever he goes, and being on the road.

“He’s been sick for over two weeks," Fulford said. "He’s had the flu, and then that developed into bronchitis so he’s not 100 percent. He’s still hacking, but he played well, he always steps up in those games.”

Hoophall: Brewster (N.H.) 88, South Kent (Conn.) 55

January, 21, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– Brewster Academy flexed its muscles on Sunday afternoon at the Hoophall Classic, dominating NEPSAC foe South Kent from start to finish and coming out with an 88-57 victory.

Syracuse commit Chris McCullough was virtually unstoppable on the offensive end for the Bobcats, scoring the vast majority of his points in transition –- including a few high-rising dunks, to the delight of the packed crowd at Springfield College's Blake Arena.

“When I dunked it, I hoped to get my team hyped and have that hype on the bench,” McCullough said.

McCullough transferred to Brewster this season after leading Salisbury (Conn.) to last year’s NEPSAC Class A title. A long 6-foot-10 forward who can handle the ball and get up and down the floor with impressive speed, McCullough committed to the Orange back in November. He then hinted around a month later that he may try to reclassify to the class of 2013 to be able to go to Syracuse this coming fall, but that plan has since fallen through.

In addition to McCullough’s 21 points, Brewster also got 16 points from point guard Kevin Zabo and 12 from West Virginia commit Elijah Macon.

Macon, a strong 6-foot-8 forward who is doing a postgraduate year before joining the Mountaineers next fall, made his presence felt on the offensive end in the halfcourt. Known for his ability to outmuscle opponents and finish loud dunks inside, he gave Brewster exactly the spark they needed off the bench.

Terrell makes a statement: Brewster junior Jared Terrell has had as much of an up-and-down season as any player in the region, and he felt as if he needed to make a statement with his play on the defensive end on Sunday.

Terrell, who suffered an ankle injury late last summer, says he is still recovering from the injury that kept him away from anything but light activity for the entire fall.

Because of the ankle, the top 100 guard struggled with his mobility the last time he played on a big stage at the National Prep Showcase back in mid-November, and because he had been recovering he was in far from top physical shape. He didn’t exactly draw rave reviews following the event, and because of that he said he had been looking forward to the Hoophall for a while, so that he could help ease doubters.

“[The Hoophall] is just a time to show off your talents to a lot of coaches and a lot of people that might have had doubts about you," he said. "It’s a good chance to prove what you can do.”

On his recovering ankle? Terrell said he still isn’t that close to being 100% recovered, but he can see the gradual progress that the healing process is making.

“I feel good, it bothers me at times but I can play through it," he said. "It doesn’t hurt as much as it did in September and October.”

Outside of an explosive one-handed dunk on a breakaway in the second half, his offensive presence wasn’t as needed given the big scoring performances from McCullough, Macon, and Zabo. Instead, he put a lot of his effort into the defensive end of the floor, where he consistently beat his man to the spot and cut off passing lanes.

All in all, his on-ball defense and liveliness on the defensive end helped the Bobcats hold South Kent to just 31% shooting from the field. His help defense was also a big reason why South Kent’s star forward Kamall Richards, a Xavier commit, shot just 6-for-17 from the floor.

“I think I played well defensively actually, I guarded my position and I rebounded well, better than I have earlier in the season. I thought it was good.”

“Playing against these guys every day,” he said, pointing into the locker room to his teammates, “I’m going to improve a lot.”

Hoophall: Worcester Acad. 69, Wilbraham & Monson 62

January, 21, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Worcester Academy’s Rene Castro grabbed an errant pass and connected on a 3-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a two-point lead with 3:44 remaining in the first half. Worcester would hold the lead for the remainder of the game, countering several Wilbraham & Monson threats, earning a well-deserved and much-need 69-62 win to conclude Day 4 at the 2013 Hoophall Classic in Springfield.

Worcester built a five-point lead heading into halftime and started the second half on a 10-4 run, with several easy baskets coming in transition. Matt Mobley and Rene Castro on two separate possessions found the trailing Darryl Reynolds for layups. The early half surge but Worcester up 37-27.

“We were strong on defense,” said Worcester senior Matt Mobley. “We had a lot of help defense, we didn’t let them get to the middle.”

Luis Montero, Kerem Kanter, and Curtis Cobb provided much of the offense in the second half to keep the Titans within striking distance. Montero scored five straight, followed by a bucket by Kanter to cut the lead to 52-47. Worcester responded with a coast to coast finish by Mobley and a Castro layup.

Kanter and Cobb combined for a 6-0 run with 3.5 minutes to go, but Matt Panaggio connected on a three to put the lead up to 59-53.

“I think we just had breakdowns,” said Wilbraham & Monson head coach Chris Sparks. “We were able to guard them in the half court, but I think where we broke down was in transition.”

Worcester had a four point advantage on the boards, including two different instances late in the game when Worcester secured an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.

“When you’re two possessions away and you give up two offensive rebound that kills you,” said Sparks.

Worcester shot 15-of-31 from the free throw line, leaving the door open for a WMA comeback. The Titans couldn’t take advantage of second chance opportunities and coughed the ball up down the stretch.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line,” said Sullivan. “We kept fighting.”

Mobley had a team-high 17 points, to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Castro added 15. Goodluck Okonoboh had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Worcester has won the first two games against Wilbraham & Monson this season. They meet again on Feb. 9 at Worcester.

Bounce-back win for Worcester: Worcester needed this win following an upset loss to Beaver Country Day the previous evening, as part of the BABC Prep Classic. Beaver Country Day defeated Worcester 71-69, even though junior center Jacquil Taylor went down with a reported ankle injury.

A day later, the Hilltoppers had to forget about that game and get back on track against a talented Wilbraham & Monson team.

“We got away from that last night playing Beaver Country Day,” said Sullivan. “With Taylor going down, which is a shame, that team rose up and beat up. But tonight was a night with a quick turnaround. Being able to in the gym, right away, without having that to fester too long was great.”

This bounce back win not only kept the Hilltoppers undefeated in league play, but came at the right time for Worcester Academy. On Wednesday, Worcester travels down to Connecticut to take on Class AAA opponent, St. Thomas More.

Kerem Kanter reclassifies: Back in December, during the BasketBull Hoops Fest, Wilbraham & Monson forward Kerem Kanter landed scholarship offers from Boston College and Pittsburgh.

On Friday, through Twitter, he announced he would reclassify and join the Class of 2013.

“I just thought it was time to move up,” said Kanter. “I felt like I will be ready by the time next year comes.”

Kanter, the younger brother of Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter, says he will decide on a college sometime in April. The 6-foot-7 forward is still working on visits, but intends on taking several before he makes a commitment. He listed Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Tulsa, and Drexel as other schools involved in his recruitment.

Kanter has been impressive this season for Wilbraham & Monson with his footwork and ability to score around the basket. Due to the size of the Titans, Kanter has also been able to step away from the basket and show off his shooting touch.

He joins Kamali Bey as WMA seniors still on the board.

Hoophall: Springfield Central 67, Manchester (Conn.) 57

January, 20, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Is Springfield Central finally turning the corner?

Is the defending Division 1 State Champion living up to the expectations put on it coming off last season, even after starting the season 2-2?

After systematically defeating Manchester (Conn.) 67-57 Saturday at the Hoophall Classic, it just might be.

“We were a bad team three weeks ago,” said Central (8-2) coach Mike LaBrie. “I think we’re pretty good right now. We have room to grow.”

Central’s offense slowly developed in the first quarter. In its first few possessions, it took its possessions down to the final seconds of the shot clock while the team tried to find a flow to its offense. That lethargy showed up on defense as well, which allowed Manchester (7-2) to get open looks at the basket and score effectively on transition.

As the quarter continued, Central started to get out and run itself, and was only down 13-12 by the end of the first frame.

In the second, Chris Baldwin (23 points, 18 rebounds, eight blocks) started to assert himself as a dominant force under the basket. Central’s halfcourt offense almost always involved feeding the ball to him down low, and letting him work against Manchester’s smaller post players.

Occasionally, he would even step out along the baseline and hit a short jumpshot. When a big man can work inside as well as Baldwin can, and then step out and hit a short jumper, it is a matchup nightmare for most teams.

“(Friday) we tried to get the ball in his hands, but then we were fading away from it a little bit,” said Kamari Robinson (15 points, 8 rebounds). “This game, it was all towards him. This was his game to eat. I got MVP last night, and he got it tonight, so it was a good game on both our parts.”

As a senior leader on the Central squad, Robinson told the sophomore big man that he was going to be a big part of the team’s success, and did his best to get his teammate as focused as he could be.

“I knew they were scouting our game yesterday (against West Springfield) when I had 35 points, so I knew they were going to focus on me more and lay off him a little bit and play him one-on-one,” he said. “I told him, ‘They’re probably going to be on me, so it’s your time to shine. Once they come on me, you just do your thing. I really don’t care, as long as we win.”

They came away from the Hoophall Classic with their second win in as many days, showing the rest of the state that it is a different Springfield Central team from the one that won the state title last season, but it is still a team to take seriously in Division 1 basketball.

Scouting Manchester: For not being familiar with the Indians, Central was able to make effective defensive adjustments throughout the game to slow down its offense. Manchester started the game strong, finding its shooters clean looks from the outside and moving the ball well in transition.

Senior guard Christian Walker came into the game as a notorious long range sharpshooter, and he showed why early on. He was 4-of-7 from the field in the first half, but finished the game with 16 points and 7-of-22, including 2-of-7 from beyond the arc.

“We ended up chasing (Walker) a little bit, but we didn’t leave him at all” said LaBrie. “They have so many shooters. They’ve got some weapons.”

Central made the most of its other opportunities as well, going 20-of-31 at the free throw line, while Manchester was 8-of-13.

Height comes through: Coming into the game, Central felt it would be able to use its size to its advantage against the smaller Manchester team. It established the 6-foot-7 Baldwin early and often offensively in the post, and he made his mark defensively with eight blocked shots.

“I thought we had a size advantage, so we tried to get the ball inside,” said LaBrie. “On the offensive boards (8, with 10 defensive rebounds), he was a monster. He had eight blocks. He alters the game. No one wants to drive on him.

“He was a factor last night (13 points, eight rebounds in Central’s 76-67 win over West Springfield) even though he didn’t play great offensively. On defense, I thought he did a great job because he was altering everybody’s shot. He didn’t score points like he normally does, but he was a factor.”

Manchester had trouble going inside against Baldwin at all. It’s tallest player, Baylen Eason, is listed at 6-foot-5, but he did not start and played only 15 minutes Saturday. He finished with 2 points and 5 rebounds. Courtney Deberry, Manchester’s 6-foot-2 starting center, was matched up with Baldwin for the other part of the game. He had a quiet night, finishing with four points and five rebounds.

For Springfield Central to have the success it wants this season, it needs Baldwin to be the force it knows he can be. That player showed up in a big way Saturday on both ends of the floor, which was not always the case Friday night. Could his game be rounding into form at the right time, just like the rest of his team’s?

“I felt like I was more aggressive tonight,” he said. “I tried to establish myself inside.”

Hoophall: Lincoln (N.Y.) 95, Capital Prep (Conn.) 68

January, 19, 2013
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.”