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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Oak Hill begins brutal 30-day stretch

By Jason Jordan

It’s hard to imagine that there’s unchartered territory for Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Steve Smith. Not for a guy who’s led a program to a 65-game winning streak, who’s had a team score 4,296 points in a season and who’s produced 23 NBA Draft picks.


But last weekend marked the beginning of a grueling 30-day period that will have the Warriors on the hardwood every other day on average.

“That’s 15 games in 30 days and that’s definitely going to be difficult,” said Smith, whose Warriors are ranked No. 3 in the preseason POWERADE FAB 50. “There’s no doubt about it, but we wanted to really challenge this group. The next month will really determine how successful we’re gonna be as a team this year.”

Currently, the Warriors are 14-0 with wins this past weekend over Hales Franciscan (Chicago) and La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Benton, Ky.). This weekend the Warriors will face Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), No. 16 in the Fab 50. Then on Dec. 15, they meet No. 2 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) before a nationally televised (ESPN, 8 p.m.) audience.

Later this month Oak Hill will play in the Chick-fil-A Classic (Columbia, S.C.) and the Les Schwab Invitational (Portland), two of the most competitive tournaments of the season.

“Well, the thing that helps is that we’ve got a lot of depth,” Smith said. “In my opinion, we’ve got 10 Division I players on our team counting the juniors so in the games that we’re able to play a lot of guys we’ll absolutely do that. I’m not too worried about these guys getting tired.”

Neither is Warriors’ point guard Tyler Lewis, a senior who is signed to North Carolina State. He likened the high volume of games to the AAU season where players are used to playing three games a day.

“Sometimes it can be more,” said Lewis, who attends extra study halls with his teammates throughout the week and weekend to stay on top of schoolwork. “We’ll all be prepared physically for this next 30 days, but it will definitely be different. At my high school last year we only played two games a week. Still, I think physically we’ll be fine.”

It’s the mental aspect that concerns Jordan Adams, a senior shooting guard who is signed to UCLA.

“With that many games in that little amount of time sometimes you can get drained a little,” said Adams, who broke Oak Hill's free-throw record Saturday night with 32-consecutive makes this season. “As a senior I know I’ll have to be more vocal and we’ll just have to work together even more than we have been. We’ll just have to help each other and that won’t be a problem because we all like playing with one another. We can’t afford to have any letdowns.”

That’s largely because Oak Hill will get everyone’s best shot. Smith knows that comes with the territory.

“Our kids know what it means for our competition to play against us,” Smith said. “Outside of their state championship game, it’s probably the biggest game on their schedule and they’re gonna do everything that they possibly can to win. We’ll have to be ready.”

Added Lewis: “Having to play 15 games in 30 days sounds like a lot, but honestly we’re all really excited to be playing this much. We know that we’ll have to be focused, but we’re gonna have fun out there too. And winning is one of the most fun things that you can do. We don’t plan on losing over this stretch.”

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