High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: ESPN high school basketball
June, 6, 2012
By Ronnie Flores | ESPN.com
Scott KurtzPower forward Ben Simmons, a class of 2015 prospect from Australia, created some buzz at the Pangos Camp last week.Wait 'til next year
Akoy Agau of Omaha Central (Omaha, Neb.) wasn't getting the attention of some of the other high-major forwards at last weekend's Pangos Camp in Long Beach, Calif., but was one of the most accomplished players in attendance.
As a junior, he led Omaha Central to a 30-0 record, its third consecutive Class A state title and a No. 31 spot in the final POWERADE FAB 50 rankings. Next season with most of the starting lineup returning intact, the Eagles stand a good chance of finishing higher than No. 31 in the FAB 50.
Last month, the Nebraska School Activities Association board granted Omaha Central a waiver for its Christmas moratorium to allow the highly-regarded team an opportunity to travel to Fort Myers, Fla., for the prestigious City of Palms holiday tournament. Agau added that his team is scheduled to play the FAB 50 No. 1-ranked team Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) next season and that they are trying to schedule a bout with Chicago's Simeon, Jabari Parker's team that finished No. 6 in the rankings.
For Agau and his teammates, the goal is to become the best team the state of Nebraska has ever produced. The highest FAB 50-ranked Nebraska team ever is the 2004-05 unit from Bellevue West of Bellevue, which finished No. 17.
"We have definitely talked about it and it's definitely something we're working for," Agau said about the lofty goal of finishing ranked higher than Bellevue West. "Most people don't think of Nebraska when they think of basketball, but we have the chance to achieve something special. Before last season, I was thinking of perhaps transferring to Oak Hill, but I play for a winning program already and I want to accomplish something people around the state can be proud of."
High riser from Down Under
The player who created the biggest buzz at the Pangos Camp wasn't Cliff Alexander, the first underclassmen ever to earn camp Most Outstanding Player honors, but 6-foot-8 Ben Simmons, a 2015 prospect from Australia. A smooth lefty with the ability to play both forward positions, Alexander turned heads with his touch around the basket and his knack for being around the ball in the correct spots on the floor.
There is no doubt Simmons, who attends Box Hill in Melbourne, Australia, will be a high major college basketball player. The big question at camp was what American high school he'll eventually end up at. The rumors are rampant, but Simmons told ESPNHS the plan is to play one more year Down Under before heading to the states.
"The camp was good for me," Simmons said. "It was good to see where I'm at compared to the other top players. The game is more up-tempo and more athletic here. In Australia, just one or two of the players can dunk, but here even the point guards can."
As far as colleges, Simmons obviously doesn't have a list right now, but he's most familiar with Duke. He stated there are not many televised college basketball games in Australia, but mentioned the Blue Devils and Texas as the schools he's most familiar with.
Little things equal big results
At the Pangos Camp last weekend, the games were dominated by short offensive possessions and shoot-first guards. It was difficult for players who thrive off teammates' play or who do the little things to stand out.
Brandon Austin of Imhotep (Philadelphia) was one of those players. A long and skilled guard with the ability to operate and finish with both hands, Austin was satisfied with his showing far from home.
"Coming in, I knew there was going to be a lot of competition," said Austin after scoring four points on three shot attempts in the Top 30 all-star game. "I wanted to show my talent and I think I accomplished my goals this weekend."
Austin was one of two Penn State recruits to shine at Pangos -- the other being Top 60 all-star game participant Geno Thorpe of Shaler (Pittsburgh).
Ballin' like I'm Rodney
You know you’re big when an artist spits your name in a verse.
Well, Upper Christian (Raleigh, N.C.) guard Rodney Purvis must be feeling rather large these days after local rappers Woozie and JayRoc dropped a song last week paying homage to the N.C. State recruit.
The near-four minute track features a catchy hook that goes:
“They yelling, Wolfpack, Wolfpack, Wolfpack, Wolfpack. Put me in the game, ‘cause I’m ballin' like I’m Rodney. Coming through the lane, and nobody can stop me.”
The track can be heard here on YouTube and also shows some love to Brewster Academy (Brewster, N.H.) small forward T.J. Warren, another Wolfpack recruit.
"I actually heard it in the car with loud speakers (before it was on YouTube) so it made it that much better to me," said Purvis. "The song is nice, man. I appreciate those guys for it. It needs to get on the radio around the world."
We’re not sure if the song will blow up, but we’ll cosign Purvis as an instant hit once he touches down at N.C. State. The 6-foot-4 guard earned McDonald's All-American honors as a senior and is targeted as an impact college freshman.
David Auguste contributed to this report. Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
May, 14, 2012
By Ronnie Flores | ESPN.com
MOUTH OF WILSON, Va. -- When you've been running the same program for as long as Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith -- 27 years and counting -- you tend to build rituals that become part of maintaining excellence. Every year after the first three practices, Smith writes down what he expects of his team. He keeps the paper in his desk drawer in the basketball office alongside the numerous trophies and artifacts he's accumulated in winning 860 games against only 53 losses since the 1985-86 season.
"I felt like we'd probably lose a couple games because of our scheduling," Smith said. "I didn't tell that to the guys, of course, but they were 11 guys that bonded together and got it done."
In the end, the team exceeded expectations and set a school record with 44 victories. In a school assembly May 11, they were honored for that feat and for capturing their seventh FAB 50 national title. The Warriors’ received medals, special Jordan Brand shoes and the ultimate team prize, the 2011-12 POWERADE FAB 50 national championship trophy.
"This is awesome," said point guard Tyler Lewis of the 200-person assembly that included Oak Hill's student body, administration, longtime supporters and parents who make the trek from out of town to rural southwest Virginia. "Finishing No. 1 and winning a ring is the reason why you come to Oak Hill."
Lewis' season at Oak Hill embodied the makeup of this year's team. Traditionally, Oak Hill players transfer in from all over the world, usually just for a season or two. So when Smith's coaching brethren heard Lewis arrived from Statesville, N.C., they were a bit skeptical. Lewis, an N.C. State recruit, ended up being Oak Hill's 28th McDonald's All-American.
"I told them 'guys, I think this kid is a little better than you guys think,'" Smith said. "He helped ground the other players like D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. He knew what play to run, what side of the floor to run it on and knew what guy needed the ball."
In the spirit of this team-first oriented group, Smith named team tri-MVPs for the first time ever: Lewis, two guard Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and wing Jordan Adams (UCLA).
Smith has named team co-MVPs twice in his tenure -- in 1992-93 with Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff McInnis and in 2003-04 with Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo. Not surprisingly, all four of those players made the NBA and both those unbeaten teams are not only considered Oak Hill's two best ever, but two of the best teams in high school basketball history.
This season Oak Hill's sum was greater than its individual parts and 7-foot center A.J. Hammons (Purdue), the team's best rebounder, put it best.
"If somebody wasn't playing well, there was always somebody willing to step up," Hammons said. "We weren't the most talented team [at Oak Hill], but we came together as a team and with 44 wins and zero losses we made a statement."
Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
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