High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Anthony Bennett

Quick Shots: Mary Kline Classic standouts

May, 9, 2012
With the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic now in the rear view mirror, the second annual Mary Kline Classic this past weekend offered a glimpse of tomorrow's stars.

The New Jersey-based event, which featured an underclassmen game, senior game, three-point contest and dunk contest, was organized by 17-year-old Recruit Scoop publisher Alex Kline and featured some of the best talent in the East. More importantly, $20,000 was raised toward cancer research, a cause close to Kline's heart after his mother died from brain cancer when he was 10. Here are some of the event's highlights:
  • Jaren Sina earned MVP honors for the Red team, dishing out 14 assists in a losing effort to the Blue team in the underclassmen game. The junior guard from Gill St. Bernard (Gladstone, N.J.) had the crowd in awe with his passing skills, finding teammates on alley-oops and in transition while handling the ball like a yo-yo. Sina, who said he was going for 20 assists, talked afterward about how his passing will be just as important as his scoring next season. "Part of leadership is getting guys involved, dishing out assists and making plays," said Sina, whose recruitment remains wide open after decommitting from Alabama last year. With three-point specialist Alex Mitola and talented forward Dominic Hoffman graduating, all eyes will be on Sina to help the Knights build on last year's 27-4 campaign and run to the Non-Public B title game.
  • On the Blue team, St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.) guard Tyler Ennis offered more evidence to justify his selection as Gatorade State Player of the Year. The junior poured in 24 points on an array of jumpers and drives. Fresh off picking up new offers from LSU and UCLA, Ennis showed great floor chemistry with St. Benedict's freshman Isaiah Briscoe, who played a key role in the Gray Bees' 35-3 campaign. "We're adding some more guys next year and playing with Isaiah today is great for our chemistry," Ennis said. "He averaged about 10 or 11 points last year and we're expecting him to score even more next year."
  • Ennis also talked some about the recent rise of fellow Canadian players like Huntington Prep (West Va.) sophomore Andrew Wiggins and Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) senior Anthony Bennett. Despite his countrymen getting the best of the U.S. at the Nike Hoop Summit, Ennis wasn't quite ready to give Canada the edge over the American basketball scene. Still, he knows there's plenty of reason for coaches to keep an eye up north. "Playing in Jersey has really helped with my recruitment because you have more coaches coming to see you," Ennis said. "We've got a ways to go to win the Olympics or anything, but there's definitely some talent coming out of Canada."
  • While all-star games are often a place to rack up the points, Karl Towns Jr.was more concerned with performing well on the 3-point rack. Standing 6-foot-11 with a size 20 shoe, the St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) freshman was easily the biggest participant in the 3-point contest. Towns, who hit 70 3-pointers last fall, didn't disappoint, reaching the finals before falling 8-7 to Hallice Cooke of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). "My coach kept telling me 'Show them big men can shoot,' so I said I'm going to go out there and show them" Towns said. "For me, I always practice 3s, so when I missed those I felt bad because those are usually like chippies for me. I was mad I lost but I was here for a bigger reason." Expect a breakout sophomore season for Towns, an inside-outside threat who will be the star for St. Joseph with Quenton DeCosey graduating.
  • Two other Jersey guys who impressed were Jermaine Lawrence, who won MVP honors for the Blue team after dropping 27 points. The Pope John (Sparta, N.J.) junior has been on a tear of late, opening the eyes of recruiters with his play on the New Rens AAU squad. The other was Tyler Roberson, a junior from Roselle Catholic and the No. 16 player in the ESPN 60. A transfer and injuries made for a "frustrating" sophomore campaign, but Roberson said "that all has motivated me to play even harder next year."
Aaron Gordon injury update

Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) forward Aaron Gordon may be sidelined at the moment with a broken bone in his toe, but the No. 3 player in the ESPN 60 is adamant he'll be back to 100 percent by the end of the summer.

"I'm just gonna let it rest," said Gordon, who said surgery was unnecessary for the nagging injury. "I've been in a boot for two weeks, and I'll probably be in it for three more weeks. Then I just have to come back and knock off the rust."

The 6-foot-8 Gordon averaged 22.9 points and 12.8 rebounds while leading Archbishop Mitty to a state championship this winter. The foot had been bothering him for the better part of a year, so Gordon decided this would be the opportune time to let it heal. He figures he'll be back for most of the key AAU tournaments, and his big target is the Team USA U-17 trials.

"My goal is to be back in time for the USA Basketball tryouts in mid-June," he said. "I should be fine by then."

Future is now

College coaches’ pressure to win has never been greater. The never-ending pursuit to get an edge on the competition has caused coaches and their staffs to spend more time evaluating, and in some instances offering scholarships, to players who have yet to play a high school game.

For decades, college coaches have known about the best middle school players. Nowadays, coaches are forging relationships with middle school prospects and, when permitted, spending time watching middle school games.

One of the country’s top eighth graders in 6-foot-2 Eron Gordon. He is the younger brother of 2007 ESPNHS All-American Eric Gordon, who attended Indianapolis’ North Central High School and currently plays for the New Orleans Hornets. This past season, Midwest colleges such as Michigan State, Butler, Indiana and Purdue watched Eron’s games at Indianapolis' Westlane Middle School.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana and Purdue have offered Eron a scholarship.

A decade ago, early offers were noteworthy when a prospect was in ninth or tenth grade, but the recruiting game is constantly changing. Some college coaches don't like watching middle school games, but it comes with the territory when coaching at a school where winning a NCAA title is the goal.

Like his older brother, Eron will also attend North Central next fall.

Love (sometimes hate) and basketball

When you’re an elite hoop prospect, just about everyone shows you love -- from the coaches recruiting you to the former players and alums of those programs. Then of course, there are the die-hard fans that show up at your games, create websites and Twitter pages in your honor and send you messages about how you will achieve immortality playing at the school they religiously follow.

But when the final commitment is made and ties to those other programs are severed, things can get ugly in an instant. Scorned fans can be relentless in their attacks -- especially with the access to top recruits afforded by Twitter and Facebook -- leaving recruits to ponder what they did wrong.

This past week, Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was the target of such an attack after he trimmed his list to UNLV and Oregon. He was met with a barrage of profane-laden tweets from Kentucky and Florida fans incensed by his decision, including several that wished injury on the No. 7 ranked player in the ESPN 100.

Amid the hostility, Bennett remained professional and focused on making a sound decision regarding his future. He responded to his detractors with one meaningful tweet: “… Motivation …” He is expected to make his final choice in the coming days.

David Auguste and Mike Grimala contributed to this report.

Nerlens' Notebook: UK all the way

April, 20, 2012
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. He recently picked Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s up, everyone. It’s the newest member of Big Blue Nation!

By now everyone knows that I picked Kentucky, and I am definitely happy with my decision and that it’s all finally over. I never let it get to the point that it stressed me out, but it was a lot to think about and it was a big decision so now I can just relax and focus on working to improve.

I know y’all liked the “UK” that I got cut into my head, right? I had been thinking about doing something big leading up to the decision, and that’s what I came up with. James McDonald from VIP Barbershop in Charlotte, N.C., hooked me up while I was in town for the Jordan Brand Classic.

I’ve decided to keep the “UK” throughout the college season. So it’s not going anywhere.

After the decision, I had a lot of fun at the Jordan Brand Classic. It’s one of the best events I’ve ever been to. We met Jadakiss, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and saw Fabolous perform after the game. The whole week was fun.

I got a chance to talk to my man Anthony Davis for a quick second at the game, too. He welcomed me to Big Blue Nation, and since I’ve been committed I’ve talked to Ryan Harrow and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Everyone’s excited about next year, but not as much as me.

I know that it’s gonna be a crazy year. I’ll probably get down there in June or July.

I think I’m mostly looking forward to the college life. I’m looking forward to more freedom. Here everything is really structured and scheduled, but in college you’ve got to be more responsible and you can get things done on your own time. I’m really looking forward to that.

My goals for next year are to win a national title first and foremost.

Then I want to beat Anthony Davis’ shot-block record, and I want to win National Player of the Year. I definitely plan to put the work in to accomplish those goals.

Other than that, I know a lot of people are asking if I’ve signed yet, and I am planning to sign this week. And I’m definitely going hard trying to get more guys to come play with me next year.

I’m trying to get Anthony Bennett. I’m not even sure where he’s at in his recruitment, but I think I can probably get it done. I’d say I have a little higher than a 50 percent chance of getting it done.

We’ll see how it goes.

Well, once again, thanks for reading my blog everyone and hanging out with me the whole time I was deciding on a college. It was a long process, but I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad to be a Kentucky Wildcat!

I’m out.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

JBC Notebook: Shabazz finishes strong

April, 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn’t really dawn on Shabazz Muhammad until he walked into Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, but when he thought about the fact that this was the last time he’d get the chance to lace 'em up as a high schooler, he could think of only one thing.

“It was important for me to finish strong,” said Muhammad, a UCLA-bound swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “This was the last time to go out and showcase what you can do with all of your friends, so it was important to finish strong and have fun.”

Muhammad had a ball leading the West past the East 99-95. He scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds en route to claiming the West’s MVP trophy.

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Rodney Purvis, a shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was named MVP for the East after scoring 22 points in the loss.

“We all had a lot of fun this week, but it was definitely important to go out with a strong performance,” Purvis said. “You want to set the tone for what you’re gonna do next season. Since I was playing in front of my hometown fans from NC State, I wanted to put on a good show.”

Noel’s Influx Of Followers
So much for the myth that once you commit to a college, you lose Twitter followers due to the fans of the schools you didn’t pick clicking the “unfollow” button.

When Nerlens Noel, a center at Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), announced Wednesday night on ESPNU that he was going to Kentucky, his Twitter-follower numbers skyrocketed from 23,000 to 38,000 that very night.

As of Saturday, he was up to 44,000 and counting.

“That’s the power of Big Blue Nation,” said Noel, who suited up for the East. “I knew they would have my back. That’s a major reason that I picked Kentucky. You can’t find better fans anywhere else on the planet.”

Parker Ready To Decide
Looks like we’re finally going to find out where Tony Parker is headed for college.

Parker, who is considering Duke, Ohio State, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown, Kansas and Memphis, said he’ll make his decision late next week at his school.

“I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but next week is the week,” said Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) who suited up for the East. “I’m just ready to get it over with. It’s been a long process, and I’m ready for it to be over. I’m still weighing things out, but I gave myself 'til next week. That’s when it’s happening.”

Bennett For Three
On April 7, after Team USA battled back from an 18-point deficit, World Select forward Anthony Bennett buried a 3-pointer, which was deep by NBA standards, to thwart any chance of a USA win. World Select went on to win 84-75 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

At practice for the Jordan Brand Classic, Bennett, a senior forward at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), re-enacted the big shot during water breaks, taunting the eight All-Americans who had suited up for Team USA.

“It was a pretty good shot, huh?” Bennett said. “That thing was pretty!”

None of the other players agreed. Go figure.

Harrell Leads East
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the East past the West 84-82 in the Jordan Brand Regional game.

Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) forward Montay Brandon led the West with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

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.

Bennett comes full circle; FAB 50 implications

March, 31, 2012
BETHESDA, Md. -- It was a special moment for tournament MVP Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). Not many of the national television audience realize the No. 7 player in the ESPNU 100 played only 10 games for the Pilots heading into the NHSI and missed the majority of their big wins this season.

With all the setbacks Bennett has endured over the past two seasons, he was relieved to finally lead Findlay Prep to an NHSI title by averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Pilots' three victories here.

As a sophomore, he was a member of the Mountain State Academy (Beckley, W.Va.) team that lost to Findlay Prep 68-53 in the semifinals. He scored 10 points in 22 minutes in that loss and netted 12 points in 29 minutes for Findlay Prep in its quarterfinal loss to Dwyer (Pompano Beach, Fla.) last season.

"This is the farthest I came in this tournament," said Bennett, one of five Pilots in double figures with 13 points to go with a game-high 9 rebounds in the championship-game comeback win over Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).

"Coming in, I really wanted to win it this year," Bennett said.

The unsigned Bennett, who lists Washington, Oregon, UNLV, Kentucky and Florida as his college finalists, missed nearly half of his junior season at Findlay. His back injury flared up again at the beginning of this season. His hamstring injury lingered all season long and he was relieved to be healthy for the NHSI.

He's crossing his fingers about next season.

"Hopefully that doesn't happen in college," Bennett said. "Hopefully my college trainer will take care of me."

Now The Fun Part

The final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, which will be released on April 2, will have some shuffling based on the results of this year's NHSI. With No. 12 Montverde Academy giving up an 18-point lead and losing to No. 2 Findlay Prep, there will be a spirited No. 1 versus No. 2 rankings debate between No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and the Pilots.

The big question is if one-loss Findlay has done enough to overcome 44-0 Oak Hill. On paper, the Pilots have a strong enough résumé to be ranked No. 1 in the country.

They own wins over No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas), No. 6 Simeon (Chicago) and No. 11 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). For the past few seasons, most of those big wins came on the road and this season was no exception.

Ironically, this game had the same feel as Findlay's only loss this season -- a one-point setback to No. 23 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) on Dec. 29 at the Mike Miller Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Pilots trailed in that game by the same margin as they did to Montverde, but the difference was at the NHSI they were able to complete the comeback win.

"At halftime, I told the guys 'Here we go again, December 29, La Lumiere,'" Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck said. "I pulled out all the different motivation factors. At first I really got into them, then I tried to be calm and use logic."

Peck's tactics worked against Montverde, but the La Lumiere loss is still a part of the equation when it comes to the final FAB 50 rankings. Another key part of the equation is the common opponent factor, which has always been an important aspect of the FAB 50. Oak Hill Academy defeated the same La Lumiere team by 18 points and owns five wins over opponents currently ranked in the FAB 50.

Another smaller factor which will be used in the final analysis is the fact La Lumiere lost in the quarterfinals of the NHSI to Montverde. The Lakers didn't look overly impressive in the 62-54 defeat. Findlay has to be thrilled about its comeback win over Montverde, but had La Lumiere advanced to the NHSI finals, an avenging win would have been sweeter from a rankings perspective.

No Oak Hill, No Problem

After knocking off No. 12 Montverde in the NHSI title game, the popular question for No. 2 Findlay was whether the win meant as much despite not coming against No. 1 Oak Hill Academy.

The Warriors opted not to compete in the NHSI for the first time since its inception in 2009. Oak Hill, which finished the season 44-0, traveled to China from March 7 to 19 to play nine games against international competition. The Warriors went on spring break when they got back, according to coach Steve Smith.

Findlay finished 32-1.

“All we could control was playing these games and winning these games,” Nigel Williams-Goss said. “Whatever happens on Monday with the rankings happens. We’re just happy about this win.”

Added Peck: “That’s something we can’t control. All we could do is control us. Steve [Smith] has his reasons and that’s his decision. We were focused on us.”

2012 ESPNHS NHSI All-Tournament

Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (MVP)
Brandon Ashley, Findlay Prep
Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy
Michael Carrera, Montrose Christian
Melvin Johnson, St. Benedict's

Jason Jordan contributed to this report.

Findlay Prep cruises into NHSI semis

March, 29, 2012
BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 1 seed Findlay Prep's (Henderson, Nev.) 79-44 victory over No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in Thursday's quarterfinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.

Overview: Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck didn't start forwards Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley, McDonald's All-Americans who played in Chicago on Wednesday night. It hardly mattered as the Pilots were just too big and talented. Nearly every field goal Coolidge made was a chore and Coolidge was out rebounded, 60-29.

After leading 18-12 at the end of the first quarter, Findlay Prep doubled up on the Colts by the middle of the second quarter and never looked back. "Rebounding was the difference in the game," Coolidge coach Mike Jones said. "Our speed usually gives top teams problems, but we just missed the shots we needed to make."

Turning Point: When Findlay Prep took the floor and jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Pilots quickly established it would take a near miracle for the Washington D.C. Public Schools champs to stay within single digits. Outside of two spectacular lay-ups by Central Connecticut State recruit Khalen Cumberlander (team-high 13 points) that cut Coolidge's deficit to three points (12-9) midway through the first quarter, once-beaten Findlay Prep was firmly in control. To put it into perspective, Coolidge lost to POWERADE FAB 50 No. 13 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) in the Abe Polin City Title Game on March 20 by six points, 70-64.

Key Player: Bennett. When he entered the game with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter it changed its complexion. Bennett, ranked No. 7 in the ESPNU 100, played 13 minutes in the McDonald's Game. While Ashley's fatigue from his 15 minutes in that game, combined with the travel from Chicago to Maryland, caused him to play sluggishly, Bennett was dialed in. The unsigned recruit played inspired on the defensive end and was a difficult match up for Coolidge's defense. He constantly drew fouls underneath and finished plays in transition.

Bennett finished with a game-high 23 points in 18 minutes. He made 14-of-17 free throws and also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. "I didn't want to have the same thing that happened to us last year (a quarterfinal loss) happen again," Bennett said. "I want to play for the opportunity to win a national championship."

Key Stat: Findlay Prep made 18-of-23 free throws in the first half when they built a 43-25 lead. Coolidge just didn't have the size inside to contend with the two-time NHSI champions. When the Pilots got fouled, they went to the line and converted to create separation. For the game, Findlay Prep went 31-of-43 from the charity stripe, whereas Coolidge went 8-of-15.

Up Next: The Pilots, ranked No. 2 in the FAB 50, will meet No. 15 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) in tomorrow's second boys' semifinal at 1:30 PM ET. All the top seeds and higher ranked team won in their openers.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

All-American Pilots promise champion effort

March, 28, 2012
CHICAGO -- Brandon Ashley had to admit that the point was valid, but he wasn’t about to agree with it completely.

Last year, Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Myck Kabongo were all adamant that their hectic schedule during the week of the McDonald’s All-American Game plus the minimal amount of sleep they got the night before they flew from Chicago to Bethesda, Md., to play in the National High School Invitational wouldn’t have any bearing on how they performed in the opening round.

The result?

Kabongo’s Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and Rivers’ Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) squads both got sent packing on the first day, while Cook and the Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Warriors made it to the title game and lost in double overtime to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.).

All three later conceded that fatigue from a week’s worth of Windy City grinding played a major role in their teams' ultimate demise.

“I hear all that, and that makes sense, but I’m gonna say exactly what they said,” said Ashley, a forward at Findlay Prep who suited up for the West in the McDonald’s All-American Game. “I’m gonna say it won’t affect my game in the least.”

Added Ashley’s Findlay Prep and West teammate Anthony Bennett: “We do this. We will be ready to go out there and do what we’ve got to do at the NHSI, no question.”

We’ll find out Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPNU) when the top-seeded Pilots take on No. 8 Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in the quarterfinals at Georgetown Prep.

“See, what most people don’t understand is that the schedule we’ve been on this week isn’t even as bad as our AAU schedule,” said Ashley, an Arizona signee. “It’s way crazier during the summer. Three games a day; play at 10 p.m. one night and 8 a.m. the next morning. This is nothing.”

Their “nothing” would be overwhelming for many high school players, but at Findlay Prep, even with a lighter load, the travel schedule is more Division I college than high school.

“What’s crazy is we haven’t even traveled as much as we did in the past,” said Bennett, a forward who is ranked No. 7 in the ESPNU 100. “We still play in the big tournaments, but the schedule hasn’t been as hectic this year.”

That’s something that “shocked” Ashley, who transferred to Findlay from Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) for his senior season.

“I expected the travel to be a little worse,” said Ashley, who is ranked No. 10 in the ESPNU 100. “Because it’s ‘Findlay’ and all that. It hasn’t been that bad at all. This week may have been the craziest week, travel-wise, for us.”

Ashley and Bennett will hop on a plane Thursday morning and plan to head straight to the shootaround. After that, both said they plan to grab a long nap before tonight’s game.

“We’ll just rest up and relax as much as possible,” Bennett said. “We know how important this tournament is and we know what happened last year, so we won’t have a repeat of that.”

Kabongo, who just finished his freshman season running the point at Texas, said that the Pilots should be playing “with an enormous chip on their shoulders” after falling so early in last year’s NHSI.

“We fell short of the Findlay standard,” Kabongo said. “They will have to come out and play hard to regain that. I know they will.”

Even if that means they won’t get a shot at knocking off Oak Hill, the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50. Warriors coach Steve Smith opted not to participate in the NHSI this season for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2009 due to the timing.

The Warriors just returned from a 12-day trip to China on March 20 and immediately went on spring break.

“As a competitor we would’ve loved to see Oak Hill because they’re No. 1 and we’re No. 2,” Ashley said. “But they went and did their thing in China, so it’s all good. We’re focused on what’s in front of us and that’s Coolidge. That’s all we’re worried about.”

To the casual observer, a No. 1 facing a No. 8 is a gift, but Bennett was quick to point out that such thinking was “fool’s gold.”

“I don’t know a whole lot about Coolidge, but I know you’ve got to be good to get in this tournament,” Bennett said. “Only big-time teams get in this.”

Added Ashley: “This isn’t the NCAA tournament. It’s not like a 16-seed playing the top seed. This is a small tournament and everyone is elite. You can’t come in and expect a blowout. I’m not guaranteeing a championship, but what I will say is that we’ll be giving a championship effort.”

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.

NHSI preview: Findlay Prep

March, 22, 2012
Team: No. 1 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 29-1, No. 2 (No. 1 in the West)
Head Coach: Michael Peck (154-8 career record)

Key Players:

Winston Shepard
On a team with a bevy of talented players, somebody is bound to be overlooked. Last summer, Shepard wasn't selected for the Boost Mobile Elite 24, nor was he selected for this year's McDonald's or Jordan Brand games. A three-year performer, Shepard has had an All-American season and has been the Pilots' most consistent player, averaging 15.5 points, 7 rebounds and 6.9 assists, setting the program's single-season record for dimes in the process. This from a 6-foot-8 player who began his high school career playing power forward. The No. 53 player in the ESPNU 100 also has a reputation as one of the nation's finest defenders. The recent San Diego State recruit was lauded for his defense work on Shabazz Muhammad and Jabari Parker, arguably the nation's two best players.

Dominic Artis
A point guard with flair, Artis is underrated as a scorer and finisher. After a standout sophomore year at Salesian (Richmond, Calif.), Artis' play leveled off as a junior and he joined the Pilots for his final season. It has paid off; Artis averaged 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4. 5 assists per game. Forwards Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley missed game time for various reasons and Artis has been been the team's leading scorer since Christmas. At the Hoophall Classic, the No. 67 player in the ESPNU 100 had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds when the Pilots knocked off then POWERADE FAB 50 No. 1 Simeon (Chicago).

Anthony Bennett
This is the third go-around at the NHSI for the 6-foot-8 McDonald's All-American. Two years ago, the No. 7 prospect in the ESPNU 100 played for defunct Mountain State Academy (Beckley, W. Va.), which upset Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in the first round. Early this season, the Canadian native played like the All-American he is, leading the way in big win over Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) with 19 points and 12 rebounds. After mid-December, however, he played sparingly and the team won big games playing a smaller lineup. With a healthy Bennett, who averaged 16 points and 10.1 rebounds, Findlay Prep can win in a variety of ways.

Road to NHSI:

The Pilots played one of the nation's most challenging schedules, the norm since the program was first eligible for the FAB 50 in 2008-09. They knocked off Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) 47-39 on the road and were 13-0 going into a game against NHSI participant La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.).

Plenty came out of that 67-66 loss. "We didn't play well and we didn't have a sense of urgency early," Peck said. "Anthony wasn't 100 percent in that game and his hurt hamstring reared its ugly head. Since then we found a good mix. We probably needed that to happen to this group."

Since that game, Bennett and fellow McDonald's All-American forward Brandon Ashley have missed numerous games, but the Pilots jelled when they went to a smaller, perimeter-oriented lineup. Findlay Prep played only two games within a single-digit margin all season long. They were especially impressive in back-to-back wins over Simeon (Chicago) and Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas).

Inside Scoop:

Peck, a former assistant at UNLV, has brought his team to the NHSI all four years and enters this year's field with a 6-1 record and a No. 1 seeding. Last year's first round loss to Florida state champ Dwyer does not sit well with him. "I don't want to go down there for one game. I don't want to be sitting in a hotel for two more days while other teams are playing. That's not what I signed up for."

Peck's team is the only one with a player participating in the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago on March 28, the day before quarterfinal action begins. No other team has that disadvantage and the Pilots actually have two players making the trek from Chicago to Bethesda, Md.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

No. 3 Findlay Prep beats Vegas rival

January, 21, 2012

LAS VEGAS -- In a scene reminiscent of the glory days of UNLV basketball when iconic coach Jerry Tarkanian led the Runnin' Rebels to three NCAA Final Fours between 1987 and 1991, basketball was the talk of Sin City on Saturday.

It wasn't a college game, however, that had the city buzzing. The excitement surrounded a contest dubbed the Big City Showdown Challenge between POWERADE FAB 50 No. 16 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and No. 3 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).

In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Cox Pavilion for a game that sold out two days after tickets went on sale, Findlay Prep used an 18-1 second-half run to spark its 73-61 victory.

Dominic Artis and Nigel Williams-Goss led the way for Findlay Prep, scoring 21 points apiece and making big plays seemingly every time Bishop Gorman made a push. Artis also had seven assists and two steals to pace the victors.

"Artis is just comfortable out there," said Findlay Prep head coach Michael Peck. "It took him a while to get used to playing and being effective in our system. He's now comfortable and confident. He may go all 32 minutes the rest of the way for us."

Findlay Prep took control early after both teams started the contest tight. A baseline jumper by Bishop Gorman's Shabazz Muhammad ended a 16-5 run by Findlay Prep and made the score 28-22 midway through the second quarter. Bishop Gorman (14-4) eventually cut its deficit to two points, but Findlay Prep's Amedeo Della Valle hit a 3-pointer to give Findlay Prep (19-1) a 33-28 lead with with 20 seconds remaining in the half.

That's when Bishop Gorman's Rashad Muhammad (nine points) hit a 3-pointer and Ben Carter followed by connecting on a 70-foot heave at the halftime buzzer to give Bishop Gorman a 34-33 lead and all the momentum heading into intermission.

But the momentum didn't last.

Findlay Prep ended the third quarter with a 13-0 run to take a 53-39 lead heading into the fourth, and the Pilots eventually grew their lead to 17 points, 58-41, in the final quarter. Bishop Gorman competed until the end and were able to cut the deficit to nine, 66-57, on a put-back layup by Shabazz Muhammad with 2:17 remaining, but the Gaels never truly threatened to complete the comeback.

Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 player in the ESPNU 100 and frontrunner for ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA honors, was coming off a 37-point performance five days ago in a victory over DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.). In this game, however, he struggled from the field (9-of-25) and finished with 19 points. He also had a team-high nine rebounds.

"I take (guarding Shabazz Muhammad) personal," said Findlay Prep's Winston Shepard, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and did a good job defensively on Gorman's star. "I've been playing against him a long time and I'm a good player, too."

Findlay Prep was coming off a victory over Simeon (Chicago), the preseason No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, in a game the Pilots played without the services of Anthony Bennett, the No. 7 prospect in the ESPNU 100.

Making Findlay Prep's victory over Bishop Gorman even more impressive was Bennett did not play in this game, either. On top of that, Findlay Prep forward Brandon Ashley, No. 4 in the ESPNU 100, was in early foul trouble and finished with three points, but had a big impact in the third quarter.

"In the first minutes of the third quarter, Brandon gave us exactly what we needed -- a defensive presence," Peck said. "That's how we maintained our lead."

With its victory Saturday, Findlay Prep will now be seriously considered for the No. 2 spot in next week's POWERADE FAB 50. The Pilots have a tremendous amount of firepower on their roster and find ways to win with different contributors.

Currently, they trail unbeaten Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and two-loss Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) in the national rankings.

"When their guards play well, they are the best team in high school basketball," said ESPN director of basketball recruiting Paul Biancardi.

Findlay Prep is now 4-0 all time against Bishop Gorman. The Pilots have never lost to an NIAA school.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker

November, 17, 2011
Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 recruit in ESPNU 100, leads voting in preseason ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. Jabari Parker, Kyle Anderson and Marcus Smart also collect first-place votes.

Last season, Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) was being mentioned in the same breath with the nation's top players such as Bradley Beal (Florida), Anthony Davis(Kentucky), Austin Rivers (Duke) and 2011 Mr. Basketball USA Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky).

Muhammad's junior season ended with a thud, as Bishop Gorman was stunned in its state playoff semifinal game. As a result, the uncommitted recruit dropped nine spots to 15th place in last season's final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. He was named a first team ESPNHS All-American, but wasn't seriously considered for national player of the year.

Despite nursing a sore ankle in that state semifinal contest, the 6-foot-6 wing made no excuses -- he used the motivation created by that stunning loss to work on his game during the spring and summer.

By fall, Muhammad's talent and unmatched work ethic vaulted him to the top of the ESPNU 100 as the top prospect in the class of 2012 . It also put a bulls-eye on his chest as the player to catch in the race for this year's Mr. Basketball USA honor.

To read the rest of this story and see the Mr. Basketball USA voting results, CLICK HERE.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Inside look at Mr. Basketball USA candidates

November, 13, 2011
Preseason ESPNHS All-State Teams

Mr. Basketball USA is the title bestowed upon the National Player of the Year by ESPNHS.

During the regular season, ESPNHS will release its Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, a weekly look at the nation's top on-court performers, according to a panel made up of 10 high school basketball and recruiting experts, including five McDonald's All-American selection committee members. Now in its fifth year, the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker begins with its preseason voting results Nov. 17.

The early favorites*

Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 6-7, PG

ESPNU 100 Rank: No. 5

Resume: He was spectacular for the Friars last season, earning second team ESPNHS All-American honors after netting 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He was one of the top two players on the No. 1-ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Why he could win: Anderson is a legit triple-double threat every game he plays. He has a huge impact on the outcome of games, and the defending champs will play some big ones.

Why he wouldn't: He'll have to carry more of the load and sometimes that's too much for a team shooting for the No. 1 spot in the ratings. The Friars can't afford many slip-ups. It remains to be seen if the lost production of guard Myles Mack hurts or helps Anderson's candidacy.

DaJuan Coleman, Jamesville-DeWitt (DeWitt, N.Y.) 6-10, C

ESPNU 100 Rank: 14

Resume: As a junior, he was named second team ESPNHS All-American after averaging 24.5 points and 14 rebounds per game. He earned Class A Tournament MVP honors for the second straight season.

Why he could win: It's simple -- if he leads his team to a sterling record and another state title he'll be in the running. Coleman earned ESPNHS National Freshman of the Year honors in 2008-09 and has led the Red Rams to a 75-7 record and three Class A state titles.

Why he wouldn't: The lack of national competition he’ll face outside of the East Region could hurt his candidacy. It will stand out as a negative factor if Jamesville-DeWitt doesn't win a state chip.

Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-6, SG

ESPNU 100 Rank: 1

Resume: As a junior, the smooth lefty earned first team ESPNHS All-American honors by averaging 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds for a 25-6 club. His junior campaign ended with a thud, as Gorman was upset in the state semifinals, but some analysts considered Muhammad the West Region’s top player regardless of class last year.

Why he could win: He has the talent and team around him to not only be regarded as the best player in Nevada’s history, but the first ever ESPNHS National Player of the Year from the state.

Why he wouldn't: The team around him. Only injury or a total Gorman collapse would prevent Muhammad from appearing on a ton of ballots each week. Gorman had up-and-down performances against national competition and his teammates need to rise to the occasion.

Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 6-8, SF

ESPNU Super 60 Rank: 1

Resume: As a sophomore, he averaged 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for a team that finished 30-2 and ranked No. 9 in the FAB 50. Parker was named ESPNHS National Sophomore of the Year and Nationa Freshman of the Year in those respective seasons.

Why he could win: Being the top player on the No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 is a good start. Plus, Parker has the great combination of talent and work ethic. Traditionally Illinois teams don’t travel far to play national competition (they don't really have to), but that's not the case with Simeon.

Why he wouldn't: If he doesn't make those talented teammates better or Simeon doesn't live up to expectations, his candidacy will suffer. Traditionally, juniors don't win national player of the year honors and only three have been by ESPNHS -- LeBron James (2002), Lew Alcindor (1964) and Jerry Lucas (1957). You're talking about two of the top five high school players ever and another all-time great. Parker would have to prove he's in that select company.

Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 6-9, PF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 31

Resume: As a junior, he averaged 17.5 points, 15.6 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game for a team that finished 31-2 on-court and ranked No. 6 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Parker was named the Peach State’s second-ever ESPNHS National Junior of the Year, following Louis Williams of South Gwinnett (Snellville, Ga.) in 2003-04.

Why he could win: If T.P. plays with consistency throughout the year, he could become Georgia's second winner in four years, alongside Derrick Favors of South Atlanta. Georgia’s Class AAAA Player of the Year scored 21 points and grabbed 22 boards in a state title-game win. Similar performances this season, with the rugged schedule Miller Grove plays, makes for a strong candidate.

Why he wouldn't: Miller Grove has a brutal five-week stretch in its schedule where it faces Oak Hill Academy, plays at the City of Palms Tournament and Bass Pro Tournament Champions, and squares off against No. 1 Simeon and defending FAB 50 champ St. Anthony. It's sink or swim time for Parker. To play at the level necessary every night for Miller Grove to win all those games may be asking a bit too much.

Marcus Smart, Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) 6-4, SF

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Davide De PasMarcus Smart is the No. 11 ranked prospect in the 2012 class but is one of the best players now.
ESPNU 100 Rank: 11

Resume: Smart earned second-team ESPNHS All-American honors after pumping in 14 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Marcus finished 39-1 and ranked No. 5 in the FAB 50.

Why he could win: Is he a shooting guard? A point guard? A small forward? It's one of the most pressing recruiting questions of the 2011-12 season, but for what Smart does for his high school team the answer doesn't really matter. He's the ringleader on a team that has four starters back. He's simply a winner.

Why he wouldn't: Panelists might view Smart as a product of a great team and system, not the most talented individual in the country. That could happen if he doesn't have big games on the big stages or clearly separates himself from teammates. To Smart's credit, he's a team-oriented player, but the varying opinions on his future potential could hurt his candidacy, especially if Marcus doesn't win its showcase games.

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Boost Mobile Elite 24 Nicknames Revisited

September, 21, 2011
At this year's Boost Mobile Elite 24, the Marques Johnson squad rolled to a 142-132 victory over the Raymond Lewis squad behind the play of Virginia recruit Justin Anderson of Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) and recent UCLA commit Kyle Anderson of defending POWERADE FAB 50 mythical national champion St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.).

Nobody will remember the score as time passes, but besides the broken backboard caused by Mitch McGary of Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, Mass.) in pre-game warm ups, the most memorable aspect of the event is, an will continue to be, the streetball nicknames earned by the players.

This year's streetball handles were given out by Duke Tango, the original voice of the The Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC) held at Harlem's Rucker Park, and streetball entrepreneur Bobbito Garcia.

Outside of the nicknames game MVP's Justin Anderson aka "Slow-Mo" and Aquille Carr aka "The Crime Stopper" came to Venice Beach with, below are the nicknames handed out by Tango and Garcia, with a couple thrown in by the ESPNHS basketball staff!

2011 Boost Mobile Elite 24 Nicknames

Justin Anderson aka "The Prime Objective" aka "Sinista"

Kyle Anderson aka "Sinatra"

Brandon Ashley aka “East Bay Funk”

Anthony Bennett aka "The Barbarian"

Nate Britt aka "Nate the Skate"

Savon Goodman aka “The Rule Breaker” aka “Go Get It"

Rodney Purvis aka "Runnin' Rod"

Aquille Carr aka "Calling All Cars"

Robert Carter aka "The Animal"

DaJuan Coleman aka "Upstate" aka "Big Baby"

Aaron Harrison aka "Ice"

Andrew Harrison aka "Magic" aka "The Table Setter"

Grant Jerrett aka "G"

Mitch McGary aka "White Thunder" aka “Show stopper” aka "Unbreakable" aka "Full Metal Jacket"

Nerlens Noel aka “Eraserhead” aka “The Eraser” aka “The 7-foot Leprechaun” aka "No No No No No"

Shabazz Muhammad aka "The Real Deal" aka "Nice And Nasty Bazz"

Julius Randle aka "The Jewels" aka "Much To Handle"

Rasheed Sulaimon aka "Sheeeeeed"

Gabe York aka "Yo Yo"

Some of the nicknames handed out by Tango are already the handle of well known players. There is no need to explain the origins of “Magic” and “Big Baby,” but below are the original names behind some of the handles given out this year:

“Prime Objective” Lonnie Harrell -- The former Eastern (Washington, D.C.) standout is a 6-foot-7 guard who earned a scholarship to play for John Thompson at Georgetown. He finished his eligibility at Northeastern and has made stops in the ABA, USBL, IBL, and NBDL.

“Animal” Richie Adams -- From now defunct basketball factory Ben Franklin (Harlem, N.Y.), Adams was one of two bookend high school All-Americans for a 1979-80 Franklin team (the other was Gary Springer) that spent a majority of that season ranked No. 1 in the country by Basketball Weekly. They were shocked by Stevenson (Bronx, N.Y.) in overtime of the PSAL semifinals, 65-63. Adams got his equivalency degree and matriculated to a junior college in Massachusetts before finishing his college career at UNLV. The 6-foot-9 left-handed shot-blocking phenom was twice named conference player of the year for the Runnin’ Rebels, but a severe drug problem ruined not only is career, but his life.

“Ice” Jerry Reynolds -- A 1980-81 prep All-American at Alexander Hamilton (Brooklyn, N.Y,), Reynolds was a 6-foot-8 wing who earned a scholarship to play for Dale Brown at LSU. He first attended Madison Tech Junior College in Wisconsin and developed into the No. 22 pick of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent eight years in the NBA and is semi-famous for being the beneficiary of Scott Skiles' record-breaking 30th assist in a single game during the 1990-91 season and for coining the term “24/7” (as his jump shot was good “24/7”).

“The Skate” Nate Archibald -- In the NBA, the DeWitt Clinton (Bronx, N.Y.) product was known as “Tiny,” the man who ran the point for the 1981 NBA champ Celtics and the only player to lead the league in points and assists in the same season. On the playgrounds, Archibald was known as “The Skate,” the man who returned to Rucker Park (the original home of the Boost Mobile Elite 24) every summer even after he made it to the big-time. Archibald almost never made it, as academic troubles nearly derailed his prep career. He straightened things out by his senior season, when he was named all-city for a 21-0 team that won a mythical national championship. Archibald went the JUCO route and kept improving his game to the point where he was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996.

Don't forget to follow Ronnie Flores on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

California Karaoke

September, 2, 2011

We caught up with a handful of players at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 and had them dish on their favorite California-themed songs.

The big winner? The late rapper Tupac Shakur.

Believe it or not, pop star Katy Perry even made the cut.

Check it out.