High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: City of Palms Classic

Fans' Choice: Muhammad vs. Randle

January, 11, 2012
Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
No. 1 in the ESPNU 100
The nation’s No. 1 recruit coasted into the semis thanks to some help from his more than 15k Twitter followers. Muhammad has made things look just as easy on the court so far in his senior season. He torched nationally ranked Prestonwood Christian for 42 points in December and is averaging better than 20 points a contest. Muhammad helped Gorman defeat preseason POWERADE FAB 50 No. 2 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) in December and took home Most Outstanding Player honors at the Beach Ball Classic a few weeks later. Want to see more before you cast your vote? You can catch Muhammad live on ESPNU in a pair of nationally televised contests on Jan. 16 against DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and on Jan. 21 to face fellow Nevada power Findlay Prep.

Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)
No. 3 in the ESPNU 60
Randle received 51 percent of the nearly 3,000 votes in the first round to hold off Gabe York in the tightest of the four early matchups. He may experience a spike in popularity and votes after his two nationally televised performances against Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas). Randle had viewers wearing out the rewind button on their DVRs with an emphatic one-hand flush in transition during a 15-point outing in the first game on Dec. 15. He then pumped in 26 points to lead the Lions to the City of Palms Classic title in the rematch days later despite facing tough defense from Isaiah Austin (No. 3 in the ESPNU 100). Randle also went blow-for-blow with Muhammad in the tourney's quarterfinal, leading PCA to victory with 26 points. He copped MVP honors at City of Palms and was also named to the Beach Ball Classic's All-Tourney squad.

Discuss this matchup on Twitter #espnhsfans.

Check out the players' campaign videos and see the first-round entrants on the player intro page.

The choice is yours

Take your pick: Will it be Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2012, or Julius Randle, who could be the nation's top junior recruit?

City of Palms Classic All-Tournament teams

December, 23, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a tournament like the City of Palms Classic, which is full of stars, here are the players who managed to shine just a little brighter than the rest.

First Team
Lori Young/ESPNHSAmile Jefferson didn't have much help but still managed to put up big numbers at the City of Palms Classic.
Shabazz Muhammad
, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF, 2012
Muhammad was electrifying in every game, scoring in every way imaginable and willing his team back to contention. Though Bishop Gorman came up short, no other player was as dominant as Muhammad, who averaged 33 points a game for the week.

Wayne Selden, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), 2014, SG
Selden was dynamic for the Rams all week, coming up with the big plays Tilton needed to win the City of Palms Signature Series. Selden averaged 20 points, six rebounds a five assists.

Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), PF, 2013
Randle was dominant in a variety of different ways all tournament. He overpowered the opposition in the paint and played the point-forward role to perfection finding open teammates and also rebounding exceptionally well. Randle averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Nerlens Noel, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), C, 2013
Noel dominated both ends of the court, blocking, changing and deflecting shots on defense and scoring and finding teammates offensively. Noel was also a rebounding machine snatching 15 rebounds a game.

Mickey Mitchell, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), SF, 2015
Mitchell was the spark that propelled the Lions to the title, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the championship. Mitchell was equally stellar all week.

Second Team

Amile Jefferson, Friends Central (Philadelphia), 2012, PF
Jefferson didn’t have much help form his team at the City of Palms, but managed to put up 19 points per game with the defensive focus solely on stopping him.

Georges Niang, Tilton, (Tilton, N.H.), PF, 2012
Niang was one of the most versatile players on the court every time he played, which made him virtually impossible to stop. Niang averaged 21 points a game.

Ricardo Gathers, Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.), PF, 2012
Gathers was dominant in the paint and on the wing all week and was the key to the Rebels big win over Miller Grove in the quarterfinals, where he pumped in 19 points against Tony Parker.

Jaylen Brantley, Willbraham Monson (Willbraham, Mass.), 2013, PG
Brantley was the most clutch player at the City of Palms, and even hit the game-winning shot that sent his team to the finals. He was crafty, got his teammates involved and picked his spots exceptionally well.

Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), 2012, PF
Parker carried the Wolverines inside offensively and was a workhorse on the boards as well. He pumped in 16 points and 13 rebounds a game.

Adolphus Washington, Taft (Cincinnati, Ohio), 2012, SF
Washington was a matchup problem all week because of his versatility. He pumped in 21 points a game.

Alex Mitola, Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.), 2012, PG
The speedy point guard wreaked havoc on opposing defenses all week pumping in 22 points and dishing out four assists a game.

Isaiah Austin, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), 2012, C
Austin thrived at the City of Palms on both ends of the court, providing an intimidating last line of defense and pouring in 14 points and 12 rebounds a game.

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

Quick Shots: City of Palms Classic

December, 21, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Prestonwood Christian’s (Plano, Texas) 62-42 romping of Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) Wednesday night at Bishop Verot High School here ended the City of Palms Classic. It gave Texas its first-ever City of Palms title.

Here are some notes on what went on behind the scenes all week.

Midnight Run

Early Monday morning, just after midnight, two days after Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) dropped its second-straight game, this time a 59-55 loss to Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.), Wolverines forward Brandon Morris was out in the parking lot of his hotel running suicides prepping for their next game.

Morris ran for more than 30 minutes and walked into the lobby drenched with sweat.

“We’ve got to work harder,” Morris said. “That’s something that I want to get better with.”

Tony Parker
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSTony Parker and Miller Grove will try and put their three losses at the City of Palms Classic behind them.
Low Bridge

Given most of the capacity crowd at the City of Palms came to see Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) swingman Shabazz Muhammad, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, but Wilbraham Monson (Wilbraham, Mass.) center Mark Overdevest was easily the second most popular player in attendance. But it had nothing to do with his play on the court.

Overdevest is 7-foot-3, which meant he had to duck down every time he walked into the gym. That was fascinating to spectators.

Overdevest, who is unranked, took more pictures and signed more autographs than most of the top players.

“It’s something you’ve got to remember,” Overdevest said of ducking down before walking into the gym. “It takes some getting used to.”

Big Winners

Fort Myers (Fort Myers, Fla.) marksmen Garrison Free took home the City of Palms three-point contest title, knocking down 20 treys in the semifinals and 17 in the finals.

Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) guard Je'lon Hornbeak won the dunk contest.

Stress-Free Balling

Roughly a week before he made the cross-country trip to the City of Palms, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) forward Freddie Tagaloa, who doubles as an offensive tackle on the Pride’s football team, ended his recruitment picking California over Stanford, Southern Cal and Oregon.

“It was a load off,” Tagaloa said. “I definitely came here with no worries and I didn’t have to think about college anymore. It definitely allowed me to relax a lot more.”

Tagaloa averaged five points and five rebounds at the City of Palms.

No Need To Panic

Miller Grove isn’t worried one bit about its four-game skid, which included losses to POWERADE FAB 50 No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), No. 34 Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.), No. 6 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and Lake Wales (Lake Wales, Fla.).

The Wolverines opened the season ranked No. 2, but the four losses will inevitably drop them in next week’s poll.

“We’re not dwelling on that at all,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “We’ve got to focus on what’s in front of us. We’ll learn from it and get better. We’ve got probably the toughest schedule in the country, and we’ll have opportunities to get back to where we want to be.”

The Wolverines, who have won three-straight state titles, still have big games against St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) and top-ranked Simeon (Chicago).

Out Of Commission

Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) guard Kasey Hill had to watch the Eagles first two games at the City of Palms from the bench after being suspended by the Florida High School Athletic Association for receiving two technical fouls and getting ejected from Montverde’s 64-50 win over Olympia on Dec. 10.

The two-game suspension is the minimum penalty for an ejection under FHSAA rules.

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

Miller Grove G motivated by mother's memory

December, 21, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On every trip to the free-throw line, and at the end of every nail-biter or blowout, it never fails, Davante Provost always positions his feet, takes a deep breath and tells his mother, Shirley, that he loves her.

“Always,” said Provost, a senior combo guard at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.). “It makes me relax a lot more when I do that. It’s like she’s still here with me.”

Courtesy of Miller GroveDavante Provost holds a picture of his late mother Shirley, who is his inspiration on the court.
Every little bit helps when you're playing in a premiere showcase like the City of Palms Classic which started Friday. The Wolverines lost their first two games and will play Lake Wales (Lake Wales, Fla.) Wednesday at 10:40 a.m. E.T. in their final game.

“It’s a tough tournament, there's no doubt about it,” Provost said. “It will be good to have my mother there in spirit.”

Provost was just 5 when his mother died of congestive heart failure in 1999, but outside of his 11 brothers and sisters crying hysterically, the “worst day” of his life is somewhat of a blur.

“I really just remember being confused because everyone was crying,” Provost said. “It’s like I knew what happened, but I didn’t really understand.”

What Provost does remember is his delayed reaction. It wasn’t until four years later that the full brunt of Shirley’s passing hit him suddenly.

“I remember that I just started crying,” Provost said. “I wanted to know where she was. It’s like I knew she wasn’t coming back, but I was so young I guess it didn’t really register. It was rough. I needed an outlet.”

Provost started playing basketball with his older brother, Devon, initially just to past the time. But as the pair continued to duke it out on the court, Provost began to realize that he was becoming less and less stricken with grief over the absence of his mom.

Provost was having fun again, and countless hours on the blacktop meant he was too preoccupied to get into trouble on Oakland, California's sometimes rough streets.

“There’s plenty of trouble to get in to in Oakland,” said Provost’s father Ernest. “It started getting worse and worse, and I knew I had to get them out of there. I decided it was time to move. So we left for Atlanta before his eighth grade year.”

Added Provost: “I had about five friends get killed just being in the streets. It was really bad there. I wasn’t sad to leave.”

Not as long as he had somewhere to hoop.

There was something about the hardwood that made him feel closer to his mother, ironic since she was never really in to sports.

“It’s weird,” Provost said. “I think basketball made me feel closer to her because I know she’d be proud of the things I’m doing on the court.”

Provost has accomplished a lot.

As a sixth man and part-time starter for the Wolverines, who are ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, Provost is averaging six points and a team-best four steals a game. He’s helped Miller Grove win three-consecutive state titles and is the Wolverines’ best on-ball defender.

“He’s a big part of our success, that’s for sure,” said Miller Grove coach Sharman White. “It’s obvious that he’s just so grateful out there. He plays with an energy that becomes infectious on the court. He adds so much to our team already.”

Added Provost: “I’ve definitely learned not to take things for granted. I’m just happy to be able to play this game that I love. I feel like my mom’s there with me. I try to make her proud with everything that I do on the court.”

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

Nerlens Noel swats his way to dominance

December, 20, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Nerlens Noel is a nice guy so he’s willing to give you the first one. It’s only when you’ve become a repeat offender that he can’t help but to feel some kind of way about it.

When opposing big men or driving guards have the gall to attempt a shot in Noel’s lane, it offends him deeply. Therefore he’s forced to send an early message.

Nerlens Noel
Lori Young/ESPNHSNerlens Noel said he's 90 percent sure that he won't reclassify from 2013 to 2012.

“I try and swat their shots even further into the stands or down the court,” said Noel, a junior center at Tilton (Tilton, N.H.) who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 60. “To be honest, it makes me feel a little disrespected.”

Makes sense for a player who, after the win, only cares about his block total for the game. This season Noel is averaging 7.5 blocks to go along with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

He blocked six shots, scored nine points, dished out six assists and snagged 17 rebounds in Tilton’s 80-50 win over Friends Central (Philadelphia) Monday night in the Signature Series semifinals of the City of Palms Classic.

Tilton will play Willbraham Monson (Willbraham, Mass.) Wednesday for the championship at 7:15 p.m. ET.

“Nerlens is just all over the place,” said Friends Central forward Amile Jefferson, a senior who is ranked No. 24 in the ESPNU 100. “He contests every shot and you’ve got to be aware of where he is at all times. He’s not the biggest guy on the court, but he plays like it.”

Noel is rail thin.

At 6-foot-11 -- roughly 1 inches of that is all high-top -- he only weighs 215 pounds, but don’t let the size fool you.

“Blocking shots is all about timing,” Noel said. “It doesn’t matter how big and strong a guy that I have to guard is, I know how to time blocks really well. You get your shot blocked a few times and you’re gonna start pump-faking. Then I’ve got you.”

Tony Parker can attest to that.

As one of the toughest, most physically imposing big men in the country, regardless of class, Parker bangs centers and forwards around in the paint and finishes with strong dunks, short hook shots or jump shots almost at will.

Still, as dominant as Parker is, when he’s playing against Noel, Parker knows that he’s got to, at the very least, tweak his whole offensive repertoire.

“Gotta think twice when Nerlens is in the lane,” said Parker, a senior forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.). “He’s the best shot blocker in the country for sure. And he’s only getting better.”

Last summer in the Nike Peach Jam title game, Noel dominated YOMCA (Memphis, Tenn.) big men Shaq Goodwin and Jarnell Stokes, both of whom are known for their physical post game. Noel finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks and countless deflections and changed shots.

That kind of dominance has heavyweights like Syracuse, Providence, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Georgetown and Connecticut, among others, in hot pursuit. Most sat courtside Monday watching Noel dominate.

“Most of the schools recruiting me feel like I can step right in and help their team,” Noel said. “All of the schools on my list think I’m ready to contribute right away.”

Hence the popular rumor that Noel is indeed planning to reclassify to 2012 and lace ‘em up for a college team next season.

“Yeah I’ve heard that one,” Noel said of the rumor. “I’m not gonna do that though. I’m 90 percent sure that I won’t reclassify. But the fact that those coaches think I can play now, definitely gives me even more confidence on the court.”

Enough to feel like he’s one spot too low in the rankings? Simeon (Chicago) swingman Jabari Parker currently holds down the top spot in 2013.

Noel laughs and pauses before saying, “Well, if I am, I am and if I’m not, I’m not. I don’t know, I do feel like all around I’m the best. So essentially yeah I feel like I’m the best.”

Right away it's obvious that Noel’s not at all comfortable with what he’s just said. He subsequently changes the subject with the same precision he uses to spike shots like volleyballs.

He’s much more comfortable being committal when it comes to his abilities with a video game controller.

“I’m definitely the best in the country when it comes to NBA 2K,” Noel said. “Ask all of the guys at the Elite 24. I beat everyone I played. Marcus Paige, Savon Goodman, Nate Britt, Amile Jefferson… All of them. I don’t know if it makes me a better at it, but I block a lot of shots on 2K too.”


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