Boston High School: Kentucky Wildcats

MEDFORD, Mass. -– They read the scouting reports, they read the hype, and New Mission’s undersized forwards knew they were in for the heavyweight bout of their lives against 7-foot-1 behemoth Karl Towns, the Kentucky-bound center who is considered St. Joseph (N.J.) High’s most talented export since Andrew Bynum.

Asante Sandiford knew he might have to take a liberty or two to stay even. Fellow forward Bam Rivers admitted exhaustion after the game, the Titans having played their second contest in as many days, and a third on the docket in less than 12 hours.

But going the other way, it wasn’t a clean affair either, Towns sporting a speckling of blood down the right side of his jersey in the post-game (“Elbow hit a tooth,” he explained, with a laugh).

The Falcons breezed out of Tufts University’s Cousens Gymnasium with a 71-49 win over Mission (3-1), highlighted by a monster night from Towns (20 points, 19 rebounds, 6 blocks) -– but not before getting a bit of a scare in the first half.

After the 6-foot-4 Rivers slapped the opening tip-off away from Towns, the Titans took a 5-0 lead on a beautifully-executed kickout to the corner for Rivers. Junior guard Randy Glenn (13 points) drove to the elbow and found Tyrique Lee to the blocks. Rather than go up with it, Lee immediately slapped the pass into the corner, where the wide-bodied Rivers buried a trey.

Shaquan Murray then gave the Titans their final lead of the night, 9-8, with a runner at the buzzer. From there, it was all St. Joe’s.

The Falcons opened the second quarter on a 17-5 run, with plenty of highlight-reel fodder along the way. Up 10-9 early the quarter, Towns got a piece of a Sandiford layup attempt, flicked a frozen rope of an outlet pass deep up court, and watched as Vanderbilt commit Wade Baldwin completed a three-point player at the other end.

A few moments later, Towns took a backdoor lob from sophomore Breein Tyree and slammed it home with authority. That was followed up later by another backdoor alley-oop, this one from Baldwin to Marques Townes, for a 30-15 lead shortly before the break.

St. Joe’s led 33-15 at the break, and 54-31 after three quarters.

Holding down Towns: It was a tall task, but somebody had to do it. In this case it was Sandiford (11 points, nine rebounds), the 6-foot-4 Franklin Pierce commit, that was saddled with manning up Towns. Giving up nine inches to Towns -– the No. 6 overall player in the Class of 2014, according to ESPNU –- made everything a chore for Sandiford. But he was up for the challenge, at times taking liberties just to stay even with the big man.

There were times when Sandiford hooked an arm around Towns’ midsection, and Towns would reach over Sandiford with his free arm for an easy basket. There were other times when Towns was held down with a tug of the jersey, only to pick up a foul on his way up and convert a three-point play. Other times, Towns saw a double-team, or he saw tight traffic as multiple bodies crashed to the basket.

For his part, Sandiford said those liberties were his own calling, saying “We do whatever it takes”.

“I’ve just been blessed with a lot of talent, I’ve worked hard in the gym, and I expect this when I go out,” Towns said of the physicality. “I expect to get hammered, and have the liberty to just do mostly anything they want against me. I just have to go out there and play my game, and everything will come.”

When Mission coach Cory McCarthy went to scout St. Joe’s the night before, in the Falcons win over Archbishop Wood (Pa.) on the first day of the Shooting Touch Shootout, he noted how many three’s Towns attempted. McCarthy thought his kids “could have been tougher, could have been grimier”, but had a suspicion it was going to be a physical game today.

“Just as I thought, when somebody plays against us, they’re gonna be good, because we play so antagonistic that people get mad and start playing really well,” McCarthy laughed. “So I think we really aggravated him and pissed him off a bit. I don’t mind that. He’s a hell of a player.

“I thought we did a good job on him. He got some dunks, but he played like a man, and he had to play like a man to beat us. I felt like we were in the game most of the game, and our kids never gave up.

Said Towns of the physicality, “For me, this was a very good game, and I was happy that I was able to be a little bit more physical than I have been in the last few games.”

Three times, Sandiford attempted the “dream shake” move made famous by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, but was unable to convert any of the attempts. Once, he drew a foul from Towns, the big man’s only foul of the game. Another time, he was simply stuffed.

For a move with such a unique degree of difficulty, Sandiford executed it well. It’s just that, well, the guy he did against just happens to be Olajuwon’s height.

“Just because he’s taller doesn’t mean anything,” Sandiford said. “You can still work him, know what I mean? You can use your post moves, and use quicker feet.”

Towns said he enjoyed the matchup with Sandiford.

“I had seen how everything was playing, and coach came in today, when they said the starting lineups, and said ‘You’re taking No. 4 [Sandiford] today’,” Towns said. “I said, ‘No problem’. I always love playing against the best players on every team, so I’m just glad he was at my position today and I was able to play him.”

Nerlens Noel chooses Kentucky

April, 11, 2012

Just moments ago, Tilton (N.H.) center and Everett native Nerlens Noel committed to the University of Kentucky, in a live special at ESPN's Charlotte studios.

Noel, a 6-foot-10 shot swatter and the nation's No. 1 overall player, chose the Wildcats over Georgetown and Syracuse.

He revealed his decision on national television in an unusual yet playful manner, turning around in his chair to reveal the school's logo shaved into the back of his head. He then lifted up a No. 5 away Kentucky jersey.

"I just thought it was the best fit for me personally," Noel said. "I talked to my mom and she liked it as well. She liked all three schools, but when it came down to it, she liked Kentucky, Coach Orlando [Antigua], Coach Cal [John Calipari]. I see what they did with Anthony Davis, she thought it was the best fit for me, and I did too."

Noel talks upcoming decision on schools

April, 4, 2012
Tilton (N.H.) senior center Nerlens Noel, the nation's No. 1 overall player, checks in with his latest blog entry today on ESPNHS' boys basketball section, which you can read here.

Following last weekend's All-American Championship high school all-star game in New Orleans, Noel told reporters that he would make his decision for college on April 11, choosing between Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown. Bishop Gorman (Nev.) senior forward Shabazz Muhammad, the nation's No. 2 overall player, will also be making his decision at the same time.

Noel discusses the three finalists for his services, and bats down the rumors circulating that Kentucky is the favorite to land both him and Muhammad:

OK, so by now I assume most of you guys know that I cut my list to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse a few weeks back. I just thought it was time to get it down to the schools that I was really looking at the hardest.

Kentucky had the big win Monday night and I had a good time watching that game. I was really liking how Anthony Davis continued to be effective even without scoring the ball. I know how it feels to not be able to get it going on the offensive end at times and that makes you just want to go even harder defensively. I loved that he got Most Outstanding Player, too.

Just seeing him have all the success that he’s had this year definitely makes me think a lot about what I could be doing there. That’s really appealing to me.

His IQ on the court is crazy. I talked to him a lot while I was down there and he told me all about how much better he’d gotten since he got there. He told me that I’d have to be ready when I got there because it was going to be a lot of hard work.

I’d definitely say it makes me think about Kentucky more, and with them winning with all of those freshmen was very attractive. Just seeing that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you can win a national title.

I talked to (Kentucky assistant) coach Orlando (Antigua) after they won and he was really happy, of course. He said that all he could think about was me being a part of something like that next season.

I wouldn’t say that all of that stuff gives Kentucky an advantage though. It’s just something I think about a lot.

With Syracuse, they’ve been on me the longest of the three schools on my list. That factors in heavy with me. That’s big for me. With Georgetown, I would've been crazy not to really give them a look with all the history they’ve had with big men and the development that I could get there.

This is going to be a hard decision y’all.

I’ve decided to announce my decision a week from today on ESPN so I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between now and then. And I’ve heard the rumors about me making a decision already. That’s not true. Rumors are rumors, what can you do, but just know that I'm far from a decision no matter what you hear.

Like I always say, don’t believe things you don’t read from me right here in my blog. I definitely haven’t made up my mind yet.

Me and Shabazz Muhammad are deciding at the same time on ESPN so that should be pretty cool. It’s definitely just a coincidence because me and Shabazz have never even talked about schools or anything like that.

I would love to play with him in college though, but we’ve never talked about that and he’s got to do what’s best for him like I’ve got to do what’s best for me.

I will say that one of the biggest factors in my decision will be who will be there on the team when I get there because my No. 1 goal is to win a national title.

Nerlens Noel narrows list of schools to three

March, 19, 2012
ESPN's Dave Telep checks in today with Tilton (N.H.) senior center Nerlens Noel, who recently eliminated North Carolina from his list of suitors and is down to Georgetown, Syracuse and Kentucky.

The entry can be found here on ESPN's Basketball Recruiting Blog. Here is an excerpt:

“I cut it a little bit today,” Noel said Sunday night. “I took North Carolina off. I didn’t want to delay the process.”

A potential March 19 visit to UNC isn’t happening. While Georgetown, Syracuse and Kentucky –- Noel’s final three –- have been with him a long time, the Tar Heels tried to make a run at him following his reclassification. Turns out it was too late. Connecticut was also trimmed from the final list.

“I think I’m getting close,” Noel said. “I think after my mom talks to coaches and Kentucky does an in-home visit. Then Syracuse is on Wednesday and my mom already met with Georgetown when she went with me on my visit.”

Each of the three remaining schools has a different angle with which to approach the shot-swatter. The Wildcats, well, they could be four games away from replacing probably No. 1 NBA Draft pick Anthony Davis.

“I don’t like to think like I’m replacing somebody,” Noel said. “I want to go in there and play my own game. I don’t want to replace him and I know we’re similar but I want to go in there and do my own thing.

“Kentucky, when I was there they showed me how good of a job they do with their players and that maybe in 1-2 years in college I could be a professional.”

Then there’s Syracuse. Noel’s always been fond of the Orange. “Syracuse has a great tradition. Whenever I go there it’s a family thing and I like (Jim) Boeheim and (Mike) Hopkins a lot. Playing with Mike Carter-Williams again would be real good. They do a great job of explaining the place.”

The Hoyas' past is not easily lost on Noel. Some of the game's great shot-blockers roamed the lane under the watchful eye of two generations of Thompsons. From Patrick Ewing all the way through Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas have always loved having an anchor in the middle.

“Georgetown really showed me what they’re about. I watched video about how they utilized their big men and I can pass the ball and get assists in that system.”

Nerlens Noel sheds some light on his situation

February, 20, 2012
Tilton (N.H.) center and Everett native Nerlens Noel sheds light on some of the recent developments in his world today in his diary on Among other things, the nation's No. 1 overall senior created some confusion when he began to take visits this month.

Earlier this month, Noel told ESPN's Dave Telep that he was reclassifying to the Class of 2012, and would begin to take official visits. On Friday, however, the Boston Herald reported that Noel had yet to be granted his request to re-classify from the Class of 2013, meaning his two visits this month -- Syracuse on Feb. 10, and Kentucky last weekend -- were technically unofficial visits.

Noel clarifies the matter:

I’ve taken two visits since I reclassified, first to Syracuse and I’m actually just getting back from Kentucky now. Both of the visits had to be unofficial because I have to get a lot of paperwork processed at my school before everything’s final, so until that happens all of my visits have to be unofficial. I think everything will be final by around early March.

Noel talks about the joys he had on his visits to both Syracuse and Kentucky, and talks about how much steam has picked up in his recruiting since he made his move to 2012. That includes some conversation with legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski:

I’ve had a few schools call me more since the news broke about me reclassifying. I actually talked to coach Mike Krzyzewski the day after my first blog. That was pretty cool just talking to him. I like Coach K a lot. He was telling me about the situation down there for next year.

I talked to him twice after that, but I ended up telling them that I wasn’t interested in Duke. I like Coach K, but I just didn’t have any interest in them.

Noel also declares where he will be visiting next:

I’m excited about my next few visits to Florida, North Carolina and Georgetown, but I don’t know what order those visits will be in and I don’t have any dates on those yet. I’ll definitely let you guys know, though.

I’m gonna visit Providence and UConn too because they’re so close to me. I’ve been hearing from all of the coaches from those schools for the most part.

Nerlens Noel visiting Kentucky this weekend

February, 16, 2012
Multiple news outlets have reported over the last day that Everett native and Tilton (N.H.) center Nerlens Noel will take an official visit to the University of Kentucky this weekend.

Earlier this month, the 6-foot-10 Everett native re-classified back to the Class of 2012, and is now ranked the nation's No. 1 overall senior. ESPN's Dave Telep reports that Noel recently passed through the NCAA Clearinghouse, meaning he is now eligible to take official visits.

Last weekend, Noel visited Syracuse. Telep has more on that visit, and this weekend's one, today on his blog on ESPN's Basketball Recruiting Section:

Last weekend, he was courtside for a Syracuse home game, and more than a few students were sporting their own version of Noel’s signature flattop.

“It was good,” said Noel, who is close friends with Orange SF Michael Carter-Williams. “The crowd was packed and mad loud. I enjoyed it a lot.”

You better believe that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is going to try to use the relationship between Noel and Carter-Williams to land the big man.

However, this weekend Kentucky coach John Calipari will make his own unique pitch to Noel, who will be making his official visit to Lexington. Why not take over for Anthony Davis and try to break his shot-blocking record?

The second-most frequent question I’ve gotten in the last week (the first being about Jeremy Lin) links Davis and Noel. People want to know who the better shot-blocker was in high school. If you can believe it, Noel owns the distinction.

As a senior, he has a longer résumé and a more menacing profile as a rejecter than Davis had at the same time. Having said that, Davis’ rookie season at Kentucky is historic, and the improvements he’s made are astronomical. It would be difficult for Noel, or Dwight Howard for that matter, to replicate Davis’ defensive season.

Florida, Georgetown, North Carolina, Providence and Connecticut also remain on Noel's list of schools. Some of them will receive official visits, others may get unofficial visits. With the college season winding down, Noel is tracking for an April decision, provided taking more visits remains the order of the day.

Brewster's T.J. Warren down to four schools

October, 4, 2011
In his popular "Shooting Threes" column today on ESPN's college basketball recruiting section, senior analyst Dave Telep reports that Brewster Academy (N.H.) post-graduate forward T.J. Warren is down to four schools -- North Carolina, NC State, Florida and Georgetown.

You can read the entire column here (Insider only).

The surprise cut for Warren -- a Durham, N.C. native who is the No. 23 overall player in the Class of 2012 -- had to have been Kentucky, which is in the running for several other top uncommitted prospects as well. Telep explains:

T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy) is down to four schools: NC State, North Carolina, Florida and Georgetown. On Monday, Warren texted me and said he’s no longer considering Kentucky. Exactly what does that mean? Did UK chop him from their list or did he slice the Wildcats? The answer lies somewhere in between.

What happened to Warren -- or what happened with Kentucky depending on your point of view -- can be seen two ways. The gist of what happened is likely that Kentucky didn’t view Warren as a top tier small forward target. They are actively, heavily and with great zeal pursuing Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman), Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast) and Devonta Pollard (DeKalb, Miss./Kemper County).

“I just didn’t feel like I was their main guy,” Warren said. “And the communication wasn’t there.” Translation: the Wildcats either liked their other targets better (plausible given the headliners) or didn’t feel great about landing Warren or they didn’t put the same time and communication resources into T.J. for all of the above reasons.

I tweeted on Monday night that “Kentucky no longer on the list.” I picked my words carefully. At the time, I didn’t know if UK had dropped T.J. or he’d dropped them. It’s this gray area that is often times difficult to discern. You try and do your best to report what happened but the reality is, the devil is in the details and the details can be tough to determine.

ND Prep's Ledo re-commits to Providence

September, 5, 2011
Notre Dame Prep shooting guard Ricardo Ledo has ended his recruitment for a second time, giving Providence a verbal commitment today.

Ledo had previously pledged to the Friars and coach Keno Davis last Christmas Eve, but opted to open things up again just a month later.

The 6-foot-6 Providence native chose the Friars over UConn, Kentucky, Syracuse and West Virginia. He gives new head coach Ed Cooley two commits ranked in the top 30 of ESPNU's Class of 2012, joining New London (Conn.) point guard Kris Dunn.

In an article just posted on, senior writer Andy Katz says there's a possibility that Ledo could enroll this coming January. After guiding Bishop Hendricken to RIIL state championships as a freshman and sophomore, Ledo transferred to NEPSAC Class AA power St. Andrew's in Barrington, R.I. and re-classified to the Class of 2012. He has since transferred to South Kent (Conn.) before landing at Notre Dame Prep midway through last season.

Katz writes:

But there is a chance Ledo may beat Dunn to campus. Ledo said he and his family are investigating all options at this juncture, even possibly getting to Providence by January.

Ledo said he still needs to take the SAT and he needs at least one more core course. He may choose the option of finishing up his work instead of going to Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) for a post-graduate year.

Ledo has been in high school for eight semesters at three different high schools, a red flag usually for the NCAA Eligibility Center to work on clearing a player.

The more likely scenario for Ledo is to join Dunn at the beginning of next season.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet (this year) but we'll talk to my family and see what we can do," Ledo said.

Scouts Inc.'s latest evaluation characterized Ledo as follows:

Ledo is a pure scorer who is capable of getting buckets from any spots on the floor. He has great size for his position with a long build, explosive athleticism, and the full range of offensive skills. He is quick off the bounce with a tight handle and corresponding range to the arc off the rhythm dribble. He has great body control in the lane where he can finish either above his man or around multiple defenders he is very creative with his finishes. Watch him attack and beat the first defender then beat the help as his instincts to score are special.

Ledo's talent is virtually limitless and so he needs to become more consistent and efficient. He appears to pre-determine his moves at times and settles for shots with high degrees of difficulty when his versatile talents should make the game easy for him when reading the defense. He needs to show a more of a sense of urgency, especially defensively, where he tends to over-gamble.

Bottom Line:
Ledo is as talented of a shooting guard prospect as there is in the class of 2012. He is a scoring threat from anywhere on the floor and can put up huge numbers when he gets into a groove. As he learns to be more consistent and efficient, he will only continue to improve while being the guy who can take over a game.

Brewster's McGary to take six official visits

September, 2, 2011
ESPN's Adam Finkelstein checks in today on his recruiting blog with Brewster Academy (N.H.) big man Mitch McGary, who will be taking six official visits this fall.

Wait, isn't a recruit only permitted five such visits? Finkelstein explains:

With McGary set to take an official visit to Michigan's campus this weekend and consecutive trips to North Carolina and Duke scheduled for the following weekend, it appeared as if he would only have two official visits left to choose between Kentucky, Maryland and Florida.

Turns out that's not necessarily the case.

Because McGary was a senior in 2010-2011, and will be a post-graduate this year, it will be possible for him to visit all six schools officially this fall if he so chooses.

According to Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith, McGary's upcoming three official visits will all take place before Brewster begins classes and will technically fall under McGary's five allotted senior visits. That means he'll be eligible for five more official visits, as a post-graduate, as of Oct. 15. In other words it's very possible that McGary takes official visits to all six schools on his final list between now and November's early signing period.

The only downside for Kentucky, Florida and Maryland is that they're now in a holding pattern, hoping McGary doesn't fall in love on any of his first three visits, and having to wait until at least Oct. 15 to have him on campus.

That makes it especially difficult if Kentucky was hoping to add McGary to an already star-studded list of recruits expected to attend their Big Blue Madness on Oct. 14 including Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman), DaJuan Coleman (Dewitt, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt), Willie Cauley (Spearville, Kan./Olathe Northwest), Archie Goodwin (Little Rock, Ark./Sylvan Hills), Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast), T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy), among others.

As for the chances that McGary ultimately ends up seeing all six campuses officially, Smith said he expects that his star big man will, but admits it could change as he visits each school along the way.

For more recruiting updates on New England's top high school basketball talent, be sure to check out Finkelstein's ESPN blog as well as his New England Recruiting Report.

Brewster's Mitch McGary cuts it to six

August, 9, 2011
ESPN's Dave Telep is reporting that highly-touted Brewster Academy (N.H.) power forward Mitch McGary has cut his list to six schools, in no particular order: Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Duke and Kentucky.

The Indiana native, currently ranked the No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2012 by ESPNU, shut it down during the summer, declining interviews and communicating with coaches only on occasion.

From Telep:

"I stayed low in July but I talked to coaches on Facebook and stuff like that," said McGary. "Some of the schools like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, they've got great coaches there. I like Michigan and Maryland in the rebuilding stage and they gave me good vibes. Florida's pretty good and they do a lot of similar things with guys like me who are versatile."

In-state schools Indiana and Purdue are not being considered and McGary feels good about his list, though he left the door cracked.

"Maybe if another school stays in contact, but I kind of wanted to narrow it down to these six," said the No. 4 overall player in the 2012 class. "I've got strong feelings about these six schools."

McGary's rise is one of the central stories in the Class of 2012. Midway through the year at Brewster Academy, McGary went from rotation player to beastly power forward. His spring on the travel team circuit was filled with intense performances that set up his June and July national breakout. From the NBPA Top 100 Camp to his play with SYF, McGary's been a dominant player in the class. His trademark intensity is reminiscent of Tyler Hansbrough and his offensive game extends to the perimeter.

Nerlens the nation's best defender since Oden?

July, 12, 2011
Is Everett native and Tilton (N.H.) incoming junior center Nerlens Noel the nation's best shot-blocker?

In his "Shooting Three's" column today, ESPN senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep makes the bold declaration. And while he won't go as far as a Bill Russell comparison, as Boston Amateur Basketball Club director Leo Papile did with Boston reporters last fall, Telep does mark some similarities between Noel and a certain former No. 1 overall draft pick.

Telep writes:

The best defensive player in the country isn't a senior. It is junior Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./ Tilton).

"He makes everything easy all the time because you know you have a dominant shot-blocker back there," BABC junior point guard Jaylen Brantley (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson) said.

The stat sheet said Noel had 12 points and eight boards versus All-Iowa but only three blocks. The fact of the matter is Noel dominated play in the first half where Iowa scored just 12 points. All-Iowa Attacks big three of Marcus Paige, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury shot 8-27 from the field. Nerlens was in the neighborhood.

I've heard a lot of people criticize his offense and that's true, he has work to do but he's not a bad offensive player, he's just a superstar on defense. He has the work ethic and the offense will come. Pre-summer, Noel listed UConn, Kansas, Georgetown, Kentucky and Florida. Florida coach Billy Donovan was at his first game and Kentucky coach John Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self popped in during the contest. You can bet North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who also caught his opener, is interested.

Noel isn't the prospect Greg Oden was at the same age, but it's been that long since high school basketball has seen a natural shot-blocker of that caliber. Anthony Davis was excellent last year but Noel is threatening to join an elite club of rejectors.