High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Hoophall Classic

Stopping Shabazz Muhammad is a daunting task

January, 20, 2012
On a frigid January afternoon, Shabazz Muhammad calmly stands in the media room at Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass., dead-center in a mob of audio and video recorders shoved just inches away from his face while notebook-jotting reporters attempt to disguise the same questions over and over.

Forget about the fact that he’s just led Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) -- then ranked No. 24 in the POWERADE FAB 50 -- past then-No. 5 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) with 37 points and six rebounds at the Spalding Hoophall Classic; all these guys want to know about is his recruitment.

Shabazz Muhammad
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSShabazz Muhammad said the best chance to stop him is to turn him into a 3-point shooter.
Muhammad handles the organized chaos like a champ. His answers are quick and concise. He even has a little fun finding new ways to say the same thing.

But when event staff whisks him away for a private interview, we manage to stump him slightly with, by his own admission, the simplest yet most complex question he’s heard in quite some time: “How do you stop Shabazz Muhammad?”

“That’s a good one,” he said.

Muhammad’s got an answer, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to come across as cocky. He hesitates, seemingly by design, smiles and settles on, “Well, my dad [Ron Holmes] and I train so hard on so many different aspects of my game that it’s given me the ability to hurt teams in a lot of different ways. Let’s just say it’d be really hard.”

The next attempt at the improbable takes place Jan. 21 when No. 3 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) heads over to Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas to take on No. 16 Bishop Gorman at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

“There are guys who are hard to stop, then there’s Shabazz,” Holmes said. “Of course it can be done, but he does so many things well that it’s very difficult to key in on one thing. He’s got the size and strength [6-foot-6, 210 pounds], and that makes it even tougher. Our training is specifically designed to be unstoppable.”

When posed with the question of stopping Muhammad, Findlay Prep swingman Winston Shepard seemed instantly offended. He wore an incredulous frown and then repeated the question while shaking his head and laughing. Then he quickly pointed to the fact that in Findlay's last game against then-No. 1 Simeon (Chicago), Jabari Parker, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 60, scored 24 points on 22 shots.

“And we won by 25,” said Shepard, a 6-8 senior. “I guarded Jabari. I’m not gonna sit up here and talk junk or anything, but I know Shabazz’s game very well.”

Shepard has been playing with and against Muhammad since the seventh grade. The pair teamed up for Dream Vision AAU.

“Shabazz is a great player, everyone knows that,” Shepard said. “But I’m gonna just come out and play my game. No player is impossible to stop.”

Muhammad’s a realist. Even as the top-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100, he knows that there are flaws in his game, most notably his perimeter jump shot.

“If I had to think of a scenario that gives teams the best shot at stopping me it would be to make me a 3-point shooter,” said Muhammad, who's averaging 30 points and nine rebounds per game this season while shooting 68 percent from the field. “That’s the part of my game that I want to improve the most.”

Don’t write that in the scouting report just yet, though. There are reasons he doesn’t mind revealing that information.

“For one, I just don’t think people can stop me from getting into the lane,” Muhammad said. “It’s how I’m wired, I guess.”

And the whole turn-him-into-a-3-point-marksman suggestion?

“During my workout I have to get 400 makes a day,” Muhammad said. “It usually takes me around 600 shots to do that. I'd say it's getting a lot better.”

Still, as daunting as the task of stopping Muhammad will be, Findlay point guard Dominic Artis doesn’t just think they can get it done -- he knows they can.

“Shabazz is a great player, there’s no doubt about it,” said Artis, a senior who is signed to Oregon. “We’re gonna put Winston on him, and I think that’ll help a lot because he knows his game better than anyone. They’ve got a good team, but if we stop him we’ll have a better chance to win. I mean, anyone can be stopped. As great a player as Shabazz is, I know that we can stop him. Like hold him under double digits. I’m confident in that.”

Good luck with that.

The last team to hold Muhammad under double digits was Bishop Manogue (Reno, Nev.) in the state semifinals last February. In that game, Muhammad, who played with a severely sprained ankle, had just nine points and the Gaels lost by one.

Still, by mid-conversation, Muhammad seems to have fully conceded that stopping him isn’t as farfetched as people think.

Seems odd for a guy who knows he’s the best player every time he steps on the court.

He’s got to know. It’s what makes him who he is.

“His mentality is to be relentless,” Holmes said. “It’s not something you see too often. He’s just a workhorse. You can’t teach the mindset he’s got. You’re born with that relentless mindset.”

That’s why it came as no shock that, just before parting, Muhammad backed off the whole notion of stopping him being a realistic aspiration.

“You know, it’s like, stopping me, I don’t know if I’d say that,” Muhammad said. “I just have the mentality that no one can stop me. I can have a bad game, but stopping me -- nah, I don’t think anyone can stop me because I’m not gonna stop until I’m succeeding. I’m just not gonna stop.”

Relentless mindset indeed.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

No. 22 Mater Dei overwhelms Christ the King

January, 16, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — It’s safe to say that Shabazz Muhammad is at the top of UNLV’s — and just about every other college’s — wish list this year. And while Muhammad was his usual spectacular self on Monday, it was the lights-out performance by another recruit at the Hoophall Classic that had plenty of Runnin’ Rebels fans salivating.

UNLV-bound Katin Reinhardt was downright unconscious, draining a tournament-record-tying nine 3-pointers en route to 35 points and an 88-50 win for Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) over Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.).

While Christ the King came in with hopes of slowing Reinhardt, the senior guard knew early on that Monday could be a special night.

Katin Reinhardt
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSKatin Reinhardt lit Christ the King up for 35 points in the Monarchs' big win.
“Usually when I start the game with a dunk, that gets my legs going and me in a rhythm,” Reinhardt said. “So after I got that dunk in the first quarter, I felt like, ‘OK, this could be big.’”

Stanley Johnson also came up big, snatching 15 rebounds to help the Monarchs control the boards and capitalize on second-chance opportunities.

On the other hand, Christ the King, just two days removed from a tournament in Missouri, looked the part of a jet-lagged squad. The Royals were beaten early and often in transition by Mater Dei and shot just 26 percent from the field.

Omar Calhoun tried to keep the Royals in it, but an off night (8-for-22) from the UConn recruit and a third quarter that saw the Royals get outscored 27-7 ultimately did them in.

“We saw some effects of Mater Dei,” Royals coach Joe Arbitello said when asked if the long flight affected his team. “I saw Reinhardt play before and he played really well tonight, too. We were just a step slower than them. But losses like this can happen. We know we can compete.”

The Monarchs, ranked No. 22 in the POWERADE FAB 50, improved to 16-2 on the year.

Brandon Parker covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — There will likely be a new team atop the next POWERADE FAB 50 rankings after No. 1 Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) fell to No. 6 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), 75-50, at the Spalding Hoophall Classic on Monday.

Simeon never found its offense, frequently forcing bad shots and allowing Findlay to run out on the fast break after misses. For the game, Simeon shot just 4 of 24 on 3-point attempts (16.7 percent), while Findlay Prep shot 66.7 percent from downtown (61 percent overall).

Winston Shepard
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSWinston Shepard finished with high-flying dunks all night against Simeon.
The game was also billed as a matchup of two of the country’s top players — Simeon junior Jabari Parker and Findlay Prep senior Brandon Ashley. Parker, the No. 1 player in the ESPNU 60, was solid with 24 points and 12 rebounds, but the smooth superstar felt he could have done more to stop Findlay from pulling away in the second half.

“I waited too long to get it going,” said Parker. “I didn’t do a lot of scoring in the third quarter. If I don’t show up, my team’s going to lose by a lot of points.”

Ashley, the No. 4 player in the ESPNU 100, posted 13 points and nine boards, including back-to-back dunks to seal the game in the fourth quarter. He also received more help from his teammates.

Findlay Prep junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss chipped in 18 points, and senior guard Dominic Artis (No. 72 in the ESPNU 100) earned Player of the Game honors with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

The 6-foot-2 Williams-Goss also drew plenty of attention with his defensive performance, even switching onto the 6-foot-8 Parker at times and doing a good job.

“Obviously, our focus was on [Simeon junior guard] Kendrick Nunn and Jabari Parker,” said Williams-Goss. “I took it personally, because I knew I’d have to defend both of them during the game.”

Williams-Goss also said that Findlay Prep felt it had something to prove at Hoophall.

“We had a slip-up earlier in the season with our loss to La Lumiere,” he said. “But it was motivation to us that Simeon was ranked No. 1. We feel we’re still the best team in the country. Being No. 1, that put a bull’s-eye on their back and we were coming for them.”

Findlay Prep’s victory was even more impressive considering that the team was without senior forward Anthony Bennett, the No. 7 player in the ESPNU 100. Bennett sat out the game with a hamstring injury.

Simeon dropped to 15-1 with the loss. The Wolverines have spent the entire season at No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50, but the blowout loss is likely to drop them at least several spots. Findlay Prep improved to 18-1 with the win.

There were plenty of top college coaches on hand, presumably to get a close look at Parker, who is still uncommitted. Among those in the crowd were Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky's John Calipari.

After the game, Parker said he hasn’t formed any list of college favorites yet. “I’m wide open,” he said.

Mike Grimala covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @ESPNHSGrimala or email him at michael.grimala@espn.com.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Shabazz Muhammad began his scoring barrage against No. 5 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) with a dunk just moments after the opening tip. He put the game away in the same manner with a ferocious fourth-quarter jam. In between, the Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) forward was equally brilliant, torching the Stags for 37 points and six boards in a 73-65 upset at the Spalding Hoophall Classic on Monday.

Shabazz Muhammad
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSShabazz Muhammad is still considering Kentucky, UNLV, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and USC.
“We were playing Superman, and I guess we didn’t have enough kryptonite,” said DeMatha head coach Mike Jones.

A slew of high-profile college coaches, including front-row spectators Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari, witnessed Muhammad go to work. The nation's No. 1 senior recruit scored in a variety of ways and electrified Blake Arena with a series of dunks. Senior forward Rosco Allen did his part, chipping in 18 points and nine boards as the 24th-ranked Gaels (13-3) avenged last year’s loss to DeMatha by scoring a victory that will surely shake up the POWERADE FAB 50.

“I definitely wanted to make an impact, because I knew they would devote a lot of attention to Shabazz,” said Allen, a Stanford signee. “We lost to them last year at Les Schwab, so it’s sweet winning this little rematch.”

Gorman’s length was evident on defense, as the Gaels forced several turnovers early and stormed to a 12-2 advantage in the first quarter. Muhammad’s 19 first-half points paced the squad to a 33-25 edge at the intermission.

“We talked about making them make tough shots,“ said Gorman coach Grant Rice. “We made it tough on them all night. I think we’re as deep and long as anyone in the country. I think that’s always going to cause some problems.”

DeMatha chipped away at the lead in the third quarter behind senior Marcellous Bell (12 points, 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range) and junior Jairus Lyles (team-high 17 points). The Stags pulled within two early in the fourth, but Muhammad eventually put the game away with a scintillating windmill flush just feet from Coach K.

For DeMatha (15-1), the loss was the team's first of the season and its second straight on national television at Hoophall after losing to St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) last year. Again, a slow start forced the Stags to play catch-up the rest of the way, while foul trouble limited frontcourt standouts junior BeeJay Anya and senior Jerami Grant to a combined 16 points.

“Every time we scored we thought we were going to get over the hump,” Jones said. “I like the way our team kept fighting, kept fighting. But it wasn’t enough.”

Not with Muhammad on the prowl. It was a signature game for one of the nation's most popular players, who is deciding between Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Arizona, USC, UCLA and UNLV. But it was more than just a one-man show.

“When we needed a big bucket," Rice said, "the guys came through.”

David Auguste covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ESPNHS_Auguste or email him at David.Auguste@espn.com.

St. Anthony's zone D silences Miller Grove

January, 16, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Hall of Fame coach or not, Bob Hurley Sr. was searching for answers during halftime Monday as his No. 4 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) team was locked in a tight game with No. 34 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

Miller Grove had tallied 21 second-quarter points to storm back within four of the Friars, and it seemed like just a matter of time until the Wolverines' star big man Tony Parker awoke from his first-half slumber.

J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSEven with the defensive focus solely on him, Kyle Anderson managed to dominate.
Then came a quiet suggestion, but not from one of the basketball gods who has taken up residence at the Basketball Hall of Fame just miles down the street. Chalk this one up to Friars assistant Ben Gamble.

“As I’m walking upstairs, Ben Gamble, one of my assistants, says to me, ‘Maybe you start the second half in zone.’ And of course we never came out of it,” Hurley said with a laugh. “I come out looking like the genius, but Ben told me to do it.”

The Friars held the Wolverines to 22 second-half points thanks to a swarming 1-1-3 zone attack, paving the way for a 60-48 win. St. Anthony (12-0) has now won 45 straight games, dating back to last year’s POWERADE FAB 50 championship season.

It didn't hurt that Hurley had Kyle Anderson on his side, either. The St. Anthony senior guard seemed to have his hand in every aspect of the game, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

“Kyle picking up his level of play probably had a lot to do with the second half and us getting the win, too,” Hurley said.

As has been the case with most of Miller Grove’s opponents this season, the Friars came in with a plan of collapsing on Parker in the post to disrupt his shots and force him to pass. With three or four long-armed Friars in his face, Parker was held to just six points, and St. Anthony easily topped Miller Grove on the glass, 32-19.

Meanwhile, Anderson was almost a one-man show, finding open teammates with pinpoint passes and having his way on offense with an assortment of fadeaways and strong drives to the lane.

The complete effort on both ends of the court had to feel familiar for the Friars. Last year at Hoophall, they topped DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) by 50 en route to the FAB 50 national championship. Currently sitting No. 4 in the rankings, St. Anthony appears poised to make a similar run this season.

“Last year, this was the time where everybody clicked," said Anderson, a UCLA commit. "So I think this year, over the next few games, this is where we’ll click and come together and hopefully get every game.”

Brandon Parker covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Rankings don't register for Kyle Anderson

January, 16, 2012
Kyle AndersonKelly Kline/ESPNHSKyle Anderson said he and the Friars love their new role of underdog.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- There are so many things that make Kyle Anderson a typical 18-year-old high school basketball player: He’s an avid hip hop fan, he’s a social media junkie and he rocks Beats by Dre headphones prior to games.

The one thing that makes him a bit different is that he doesn’t pay attention to rankings of any kind.


“I’m telling you, man,” Anderson said, “I don’t look at that kind of stuff.”

It's obvious the St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) senior point guard knows that statement might raise a few eyebrows, so he adds a quick follow-up to reinforce his claim.

“I swear I don’t get in to all that stuff,” said Anderson, a UCLA signee who is ranked No. 5 in the ESPNU 100. “That’s for other people to decide. All we do is go out there and play as hard as we can. We stay focused on that.”

The Friars, ranked No. 4 in the POWERADE FAB 50, will need that focus today when they face No. 34 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., at 11 a.m. ET on ESPNU.

“We look at the polls at the end of the year,” St. Anthony coach Bobby Hurley Sr. said. “Other than that, I don’t really put any thought into where we’re ranked and things like that. It doesn’t matter to me.”

That said, Hurley was “aware” that fresh off of an undefeated (33-0) season and a No. 1 final ranking in the 2010-11 FAB 50, his Friars began this season ranked No. 9. After some digging, Anthony fessed up to “not really understanding” how they were ranked so low after a perfect season.

“I didn’t really get it,” Anderson said. “But that’s what I mean, that’s why I don’t really keep up with those things because it’s someone’s opinion. I’m sure that there are some teams that are better than us, but eight teams? Do I agree with that? Nah.”

To be fair, St. Anthony lost Myles Mack, an ESPNHS first team All-American who averaged 15.2 points and 3.6 assists per game last season. Mack is now a freshman at Rutgers averaging 10.2 points and 2.1 assists per game for the Scarlet Knights.

Still, you get the sense that Anderson has drawn the conclusion that the eight-spot drop in the preseason was the voters’ way of saying that he alone wasn’t enough, even if he is putting up 17.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game for the Friars.

“Kyle is the most versatile player in the country,” said Miller Grove coach Sharman White. “He’s the guy and he’s been the guy. If we’re not able to slow him down or stop him from getting into a groove, then it’s going to be a long day. I’m not sure why St. Anthony was slighted in the rankings from the beginning, but I know that Kyle and Coach Hurley will only use that as motivation.”

White is exactly right. Anderson said he and the Friars have come to relish the role of the underdog.

“It’s a new situation for us, but we love it,” Anderson said. “A lot of people are overlooking us, and that’s fine. It’s like people don’t see us coming, but we’re definitely coming. We’re definitely coming.”

And everyone will have to pay attention to that.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Brewster too much for Tilton

January, 15, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – In what was easily the most heated, lively and intense matchup thus far in the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) got 23 points from Aaron Thomas and Jakarr Sampson added 13 points and seven rebounds to help the Bobcats sneak away with a 57-53 win over Tilton (Tilton, N.H.) Sunday in Springfield, Mass.

It’s the second time the Bobcats have beaten the Rams this year. The first was an 84-78 overtime win on Dec. 10.

Read about Brewster’s big win over Tilton at the Hoophall here.

Notre Dame Prep holds off New Hampton Prep

January, 15, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.) guard Myles Davis knew he’d have to step up.

When Steven Adams, a senior center who is signed to Pittsburgh, caught an inadvertent elbow midway through the first quarter, which sidelined him for the rest of the first half, Davis took it upon himself to fill Adams’ void.

“We knew that we’d have to step up because he was really a presence down there for us,” said Davis, a senior who is signed to Xavier. “I knew I’d have to knock down shots to separate us.”

He did.

Davis scored 24 points to lead the Crusaders past New Hampton Prep (New Hampton, N.H.) 55-49 Sunday at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Adonis Filer scored 11 points and Sam Cassell Jr. added eight for Notre Dame. Jared Terrell led the Huskies with 17.

“I thought we played pretty well considering that we were coming off of a big game against a team like Tilton just yesterday,” said Cassell, a senior. “We weren’t tired or anything, but we just came together to get this win. We wanted to get out and run.”

That was evident from the beginning.

Eight of the Crusaders’ 14 first quarter points were in transition. Cassell drained back-to-back 3-pointers to extend that lead, 17-4, early in the second quarter.

Still, Terrell knocked down two 3-pointers of his own in the second quarter to keep the Huskies within striking distance at the half, 25-17.

New Hampton shot just 23 percent from the field in the first half and committed seven turnovers.

“We wanted to turn it up even more in the second half,” Cassell said.

The Crusaders led by as many as 13 in the second half, and answered every run the Huskies threw at them. Every time they would come to within five points, Notre Dame would go on a mini-run of its own.

“That’s what we do,” Cassell said. “Sometimes we’re a little slower, but we end up getting it going when we need to.”

Adams returned in the second half, and though he was visibly playing through pain, he provided a big defensive presence for the Crusaders. He finished with five points and four rebounds.

It was Adams’ second game with Notre Dame. He moved here recently from New Zealand and is a player with 2013 NBA lottery hype.

“It’s been fun,” said Adams, who stands 6-foot-11. “I feel like I’m adjusting pretty well. I was happy to get a win.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

St. Mark's uses size to dominate Friends'

January, 15, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- St. Mark’s (Southborough, Mass.) forward Nik Stauskas had an epiphany while he sat inside the Lions’ locker room at halftime of their game against Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.).

Kaleb Tarczewski
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSArizona commit Kaleb Tarczewski scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds for St. Mark's.
“If we could just continue getting the ball inside to Kaleb (Tarczewski) things would be a lot easier,” said Stauskas, a senior who is signed to Michigan. “That’s what we focused on. That’s where I felt we’d have the best chance to win.”

Good call.

Tarczewski, a 7-foot senior, scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Lions past the Phoenix 67-57 Sunday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Stauskas chipped in with 16 points and Jaymie Spears added 15 for the Lions. Conrad Chambers led the Phoenix with 19 points.

“They didn’t have much size down there and we knew that working inside-out was the best plan,” said Tarczewski, an Arizona signee who is ranked No. 6 in the ESPNU 100. “Amile (Jefferson) was their tallest player (6-foot-9) and he picked up two fouls early and they left him in so he was trying not to foul out. That’s when we really started rolling.”

The Lions jumped ahead early behind the hot hand of Spears, who drained two 3-pointers in the first quarter to give St. Mark’s a 14-11 lead.

The Lions extended their matchup zone in the second quarter, which wreaked havoc on the Phoenix and Tarczewski and Stauskas combined to score 11 points in the final two minutes of the half to give the Lions a 32-24 lead.

St. Mark's forced eight first-half turnovers.

“We really buckled down defensively and forced them into situations where they weren’t as comfortable,” Stauskas said. “I felt like we would have to turn up our defensive pressure even more in the second half.”

The Lions started punishing Friends' Central in the paint in the third quarter, pumping the ball inside to Tarczewski who, often times, managed to either get fouled or finish with an easy layup or dunk.

Then midway through the fourth quarter, Spears swiped a steal from Karonn Davis and took it the other way for the score and came back on the next play and drained a three to extend the Lions’ lead to an insurmountable 13 points.

“They’re a tough team and obviously Kaleb is a big body down there,” said Jefferson, a senior forward who is ranked No. 24 in the ESPNU 100. “That gave us a lot of problems all game, but we continued to fight. We definitely could’ve played a lot better, but I was proud of my team for continuing to fight.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

St. Thomas More rolls Wilbraham & Monson

January, 15, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Conn.) shook off a slow start and began clicking on all cylinders in the second half to roll past Wilbraham & Monson (Wilbraham, Mass.), 71-60, Sunday in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

St. Thomas More’s Ky Howard led the Chancellors with 16 points and four assists. Chier Ajou added 14 points and six rebounds in the win.

Read the rest of this story here.

St. Patrick: One Year Later

January, 15, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Around this time last year, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) couldn’t avoid the spotlight. The team was too busy living in it.

HBO cameras followed the Celtics' every move for a documentary on the team. The prep basketball world was in awe of star senior Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. And coach Kevin Boyle made it clear that a win at the Hoophall Classic was necessary to achieve one of the team's most coveted goals: the nation’s No. 1 ranking.

J. Robert Anthony/ESPNHSSt. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) junior forward DeAndre Bembry (right) drives to the basket during Saturday's game against La Verne Lutheran (Calif.) at the HoopHall Classic.
A similar spotlight shone on the Celtics on Saturday when they faced La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran at this year’s Hoophall, only this time the focus was on what they didn’t have.

Gone was every starter who stood over 6-foot-6. Gone was the lofty ranking, as the Celtics lost their third straight nail-biter in a 68-66 overtime defeat. And most noticeably gone was the star power of Kidd-Gilchrist and Boyle.

Senior Dana Raysor is the lone holdover from last year’s 26-1 squad, and the Celtics’ highest-ranked player is junior transfer DeAndre Bembry, the No. 53 small forward in the class of 2013.

But as La Verne Lutheran found out Saturday, what you see -- or don’t see -- in St. Patrick isn’t necessarily what you’re going to get.

Despite their size disadvantage, the Celtics effectively used double-team pressure to hold 6-foot-10 Trojans star Grant Jerrett to seven first-half points. Elijah Davis showed star potential with 25 points on 12-for-16 shooting. And signs of clutch ability surfaced when Bembry knocked down a last-second 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

“What we’re trying to do is just stay the course,” says Celtics first-year head coach Chris Chavannes, who led the JV program last season. “We know what it’s like and what it takes. This is a team that a lot of teams in New Jersey aren’t going to want to see down the stretch.”

That much is clear even when the Celtics lose. In its last three losses, St. Patrick has fallen to top-flight opponents La Verne Lutheran, Plainfield (N.J.) and Trenton Catholic (N.J.) by a combined 11 points. At 5-5, the Celtics have managed to exceed the dire expectations of some while confirming the hopes of others.

“I think we have talent like last year. We just have to get mentally better because we lost so much leadership,” Raysor said. “That’s the difference in these close games. Once we chip away that and play with more intensity, things will start working together.”

Raysor admits he was shocked and upset in April when Boyle announced he’d be leaving the program to coach at Montverde Academy (Fla.). Not only was he losing his coach, but he also had to watch a handful of his friends transfer.

Boyle’s replacement, Chavannes, had been at St. Patrick for 20 years and watched as Boyle turned the program from a state laughingstock to a perennial national power.

“I’ve seen us go through ups and downs before. I was there when Kevin built the program,” Chavannes said. “I’m very confident that we will get it together. We’re not looking forward to next year; this is about the now.

“On any given day, we can match with anybody. There are a lot of teams out there that can say that, and we’ve proven it by taking a lot of good teams to the wire. Difference is, we have a lot of room for improvement.”

Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Players adjust to shot clock at Hoophall

January, 14, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- As dominant and versatile as Grant Jerrett is on the court, the one thing you’d never mistake him for is a 3-point marksman.

Yet on Saturday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., Jerrett, a senior forward at La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.), found himself in situations where he was forced to hoist treys and long jump shots.


“I had to get used to that shot clock they had,” said Jerrett, an Arizona signee who is ranked No. 9 in the ESPNU 100. “There was a five-second difference between the one in California and the one here, and that may not sound like a lot, but it was really messing with us.”

Jerrett’s sentiments were echoed by nearly every team at the Hoophall Classic that had to either adjust to the different shot clock time or get used to having a time limit on the offensive end altogether.

“It was definitely something that we had trouble with,” St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) junior forward DeAndre Bembry said. “We tried to simulate it in practice before we got here, but it’s a lot different when you’re in the game. We’re not used to that in New Jersey at all.”

Bembry and the Celtics aren’t alone.

As it stands, only eight states and Washington, D.C., have a shot clock rule.

California, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington and the Washington (D.C.) Catholic Athletic Conference all have shot clocks of 35 seconds. Massachusetts’ shot clock is 30 seconds, as is Maryland’s, which is currently only used for girls’ basketball.

“I think a shot clock in the high school game needs to be universal with a universal time,” ESPN director of recruiting Paul Biancardi said. “There’s just so much benefit to having it. When you’re down with three minutes to go, it's hard to come back without one. High school is the only level that I know of in the world that doesn’t have a shot clock. Ask any of these kids and they’ll tell you that they want to play with the shot clock.”

Nate Britt certainly does.

He figures playing with the shot clock is only benefiting him as he gears up for the next level.

“As a point guard, it’s really important that you know how to manage the clock properly,” said Britt, a junior at Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.) who is committed to North Carolina. “I love that I’m able to play with the shot clock every night. I could definitely tell the guys here at Hoophall who weren’t used to it. I’d be playing defense and look up at the clock and see four seconds left and smile.”

Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) forward Julius Randle said that even though he and his team weren’t used to the shot clock coming into the Hoophall Classic, it didn’t affect them because of the way they play.

“We don’t hold the ball on offense,” said Randle, a junior who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. “We get it out in transition and score quick. I noticed it, but I don’t think it had a big impact on us. It’s all about adjusting in this game anyway.”

That was Gonzaga junior forward Kris Jenkins’ view as well. He said teams that found themselves launching prayers with just seconds left on the shot clock had more to do with attention to detail.

“There are so many things that you have to adjust to in the game of basketball,” said Jenkins. “This is just another example of that. When you figure it out, the shot clock can really help you in lots of different ways. I definitely think that every state should have the rule in place.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

No. 5 DeMatha downs Northwest Catholic

January, 14, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – BeeJay Anya, a junior forward who is ranked No. 37 in the ESPNU 60, scored 24 points and snagged nine rebounds to lead POWERADE FAB 50 No. 5 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) past Northwest Catholic (West Hartford, Conn.) 78-57 Saturday at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Jerami Grant, a senior forward who is signed to Syracuse, added 14 points for the Stags, while Zach Lewis led Northwest with 23 points.

Read all about the Stags’ big win here.

No. 2 Oak Hill uses blog as motivation

January, 14, 2012
ESPN Dallas: Oak Hill neutralizes Prestonwood

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) point guard Tyler Lewis doesn’t take too kindly to empty promises or trash talk so when he read Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) forward Julius Randle’s ESPNHS blog prior to the Warriors’ matchup against Randle, Lewis and his teammates weren’t happy.

Tyler Lewis
J. Anthony Roberts/ESPNHSOak Hill point guard Tyler Lewis scored 15 points and handed out 10 assists.
In the blog, Randle said he was happy that the Warriors were undefeated because it would give the Lions a chance to “give them their first loss.”

Warriors’ coach Steve Smith had D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera read the statement aloud to the team last Wednesday and after that he taped it up in the Warriors’ locker room.

“We didn’t like that blog too much,” said Lewis, a senior who is signed to North Carolina State. “It motivated us. We wanted to make sure that we dominated this game. We didn’t just want to win; we wanted to blow them out.”

Lewis made sure of that.

He scored 15 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the Warriors, ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, past the No. 19 Lions, 85-55, Saturday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Smith-Rivera added 16 points and Jordan Adams, a senior shooting guard who is signed to UCLA, led Oak Hill with 23. Randle led Prestonwood with 23 points and nine rebounds.

“If you’re gonna say something like that then at least come out and give us a game,” Lewis said. “We definitely used it as motivation. I think it added to our quick start.”

Lewis had the Warriors rolling from the opening tip, finding A.J. Hammons in the paint for a monster slam then draining a deep three before dropping it off to Hammons once again for another dunk.

The Warriors never let off after that.

With Lewis at the controls, Oak Hill got out in transition and knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half in route to a commanding 39-24 halftime lead.

“It was important for us to start off hot,” said Smith-Rivera, a senior combo guard who is signed to Georgetown. “After that first half we knew that we were gonna just keep pouring it on. We were in a groove.”

The Warriors opened the second half on a 14-4 run, thwarting any hope of a spirited rally.

“I respect what Julius said in his blog on some level,” Smith-Rivera said. “I mean he’s a competitor and I am too so I know that’s how I would feel. But we’ve got a squad over here. You don’t want to give us any more fuel than when already have.”

When asked if he would have made the same statements in retrospect, Randle immediately answered, “Yes.”

“I have a lot of respect for that team and it wasn’t meant as disrespect to them at all,” said Randle, who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. “It was more me believing in my team and coming into the game with a confidence in my teammates. They have a great program and if that was what motivated them, so be it.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Jenkins, No. 9 Gonzaga roll past Riverside

January, 14, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Kris Jenkins is used to being the little big man who’s got to contend with the human skyscrapers night in and night out.

At 6-foot-5, Jenkins, a junior forward at Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.), isn’t going to win a jump ball or fly over his defender for a monster slam, but by the end of the game he finds different ways to outplay his man.

“I’m just really confident in my abilities on the court,” Jenkins said. “I think the game through and I find weaknesses that I’m able to expose. That’s worked for me my whole career.”

It worked again Saturday.

Jenkins scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Eagles, ranked No. 9 in the POWERADE FAB 50, past No. 50 Riverside (Reserve, La.) 77-65 at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Nate Britt chipped in with 16 points and Ricardo Gathers led Riverside with 22 points and eight rebounds.

“It’s another great win for our team,” said Britt, a junior point guard who is committed to North Carolina. “We just came out and forced the tempo and the best part was we finished even stronger than we started.”

Jenkins got going early, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first half to give the Eagles a 36-29 lead at the half.

The Eagles shot 66 percent in the second half and forced 12 turnovers to secure the comfortable win over the Runnin’ Rebels.

Britt said that three years ago when the Eagles won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference they went in to conference play undefeated.

“It’s just like our scenario this season,” Britt said. “I really feel like wins like these over great competition gives us the confidence we need to make it happen this year.”

Added Jenkins: “We really believe that this is the year that we win it. This win just builds us as a team.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.