High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Prestonwood Christian

Inside the FAB 50: Scaling new Heights

February, 15, 2012
There’s been documented high school basketball games in Kansas for 101 years, and one of the state’s most hallowed records fell Tuesday night after POWERADE FAB 50 No. 10 Heights (Wichita, Kan.) defeated Bishop Carroll (Wichita, Kan.) 54-42.

With McDonald’s All-American and Kansas signee Perry Ellis scoring 19 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, Heights won its 60th straight game to break the previous state mark of 59 set in 1994 by Moundridge.

Ellis and teammate Terrence Moore have been involved in all of the 60 wins.

Coach Joe Auer’s team will now focus on trying to extend another streak by winning a fourth consecutive Class 6A state championship.

Winning streak notes on other FAB 50 teams

1. The 39-game win streak by No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), which includes Monday's 75-69 victory over Quality Education (Winston-Salem, N.C.), is not a school record. The Warrior school record of 65 in a row was set from 2000-02, including a 33-0 mark by the 2001 national title team.

2. The 53-game win streak by No. 3 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) is not a school record, either. The Friars won 65 in a row from 1995-97, including a 31-0 mark in 1996 when they were crowned national champ. Both marks are far short of the state and national record of 159 consecutive wins posted by Passaic (N.J.) from 1919-25.

3. The 48-game win streak by No. 4 Chester (Pa.) is a school record, but is still 20 wins shy of the state mark of 68 posted by West Philadelphia (Pa.) from 1976-78. That included the 30-0 record that the 1977 team piled up on its way to being a mythical national champion.

McDonald's All-Americans lead FAB 50 teams

Nine FAB 50-ranked teams are anchored by McDonald's All-American Game selections.

No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) -- Tyler Lewis, a 5-foot-11 point guard and North Carolina State recruit.

No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) -- Brandon Ashley, a 6-foot-9 power forward and Arizona recruit plus Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-7 uncommitted wing forward.

No. 3 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) -- Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-8 guard and UCLA recruit.

No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) -- Marcus Smart, a 6-foot-4 guard and Oklahoma State recruit.

No. 10 Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.) -- Perry Ellis, a 6-foot-8 power forward and Kansas recruit.

No. 14 Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) -- Isaiah Austin, a 7-foot center and Baylor recruit.

No. 18 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) -- Shabazz Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 uncommitted forward.

No. 31 Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.) -- Gary Harris, a 6-foot-4 guard and Michigan State recruit.

2013 McDonald’s All-Americans on FAB 50 teams?

Not all the top teams are led by seniors, of course. Some juniors appear primed to star in the contest next year. Here’s some top Class of 2013 players representing FAB 50 ranked teams:

No. 4 Chester (Pa.)Rondae Jefferson, a 6-foot-6 forward

No. 6 Simeon (Chicago)Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-8 forward who is No. 1 in the ESPNU Super 60.

No. 13 Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9 forward

No. 28 Olympic (Charlotte)Allerik Freeman, a 6-foot-4 guard

No. 29 Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)Jabari Bird, a 6-foot-6 guard

No. 40 Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas)Andrew Harrison, a 6-foot-5 point guard, and his twin brother, Aaron Harrison, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard

Spotlight Player of the Week
Coleman Johnson, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.)

The 6-foot-6 senior forward had a game to remember in a thrill-packed 85-83 double-overtime victory over Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rival Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.).

Johnson, a Fairfield University recruit who averages 11.8 points game, scored a career-high 33 points and collected 16 rebounds to power the Panthers. He nailed his first career 3-pointer, which tied the game with six seconds left in the first overtime, then added the go-ahead basket in the second extra frame.

Johnson's 33-point effort also boosted his career total past the 1,000-point mark. He was named the team’s MVP last season as a junior.

The victory was the 11th straight for the Panthers and helped keep them at No. 9 in this week’s rankings.

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.

Hoophall Classic: Five burning questions

January, 13, 2012
Related: Watch the Hoophall Classic on ESPN family of networks

ESPNHS' Ronnie Flores answers the most pressing questions about this year's Spalding Hoophall Classic.

Which team has the most to prove at Hoophall?
That would be POWERADE FAB 50 No. 1 Simeon (Chicago). The Wolverines do have some quality victories so far this season, but they haven't faced a team with the talent level and big-game experience of No. 6 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). Simeon beat local rival Whitney Young (Chicago), 62-55, on Dec. 22 and No. 34 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), 59-56, at the Cancer Research Classic, but it was expected to beat those teams. With Dominic Artis, Nigel Williams-Goss and Amedeo Della Valle, Findlay Prep will put tremendous pressure on Simeon's backcourt when the teams meet on Monday (ESPNU, 3 p.m. ET). Simeon junior guard Kendrick Nunn had 19 points against Miller Grove and we'll put Nunn's magic number at 24 in order for the Wolverines to win this game.

Which player will have a breakout performance?
Six-foot-2 junior Jairus Lyles of No. 5 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.). He is a big-time scorer for the Stags who is well known in the D.C. area, but isn't as well known nationally as some of his teammates. Lyles made a huge impact for the Stags when they captured the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic earlier this year and his play will be key against Northwest Catholic (West Hartford, Conn.) tomorrow and No. 24 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on Monday (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET). According to DeMatha coach Mike Jones, he was the Stags' leading scorer halfway through last season before injuries curtailed him. Now healthy, Lyles is the X-factor in DeMatha's run for the program's sixth mythical national title.

Which team can make a big move up in the FAB 50?
No. 19 Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas), if the Lions are on their game when they take on No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) tomorrow. We know Julius Randle and company can play with the nation's best teams (they won the City of Palms tournament), but they've been a bit inconsistent against national-level competition. Which Prestonwood team will show up? The one that won the City of Palms or the one soundly defeated by No. 3 Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) on Dec. 15? The Lions will need big performances from complementary players Zach Peters and Mickey Mitchell because Oak Hill is probably the most complete team in high school basketball.

Which FAB 50 team is most ripe to be upset?
No. 4 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). Coach Bob Hurley's team nearly stumbled against No. 28 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), but pulled out a 51-50 victory after trailing by six points entering the fourth quarter. One thing is clear -- the Friars don't have as much firepower as last season, but on Monday they could make a statement against a hungry Miller Grove team (ESPNU, 11 a.m. ET). Last season, St. Anthony's 50-point win over DeMatha Catholic at Hoophall springboarded the Friars to the program’s fourth mythical national title, but they'll be facing a dangerous opponent that desperately doesn't want to go 0-3 in nationally televised games this season.

Can the West Region's top teams compete nationally?
Yes, they can compete against the nation's top-ranked teams, but only at full strength. No. 6 Findlay Prep needs Anthony Bennett to contribute when it faces top-ranked Simeon. According to associate head coach Todd Simon, Bennett will suit up against the Wolverines, but is likely to sit out Friday against Thurgood Marshall (Dayton, Ohio) at the Flyin' To The Hoop Invitational in Kettering, Ohio. No. 24 Bishop Gorman hasn't played at a national championship level without Ben Carter and Ronnie Stanley, but both should be in the lineup when the Gaels face DeMatha Catholic. Without Carter making a double-digit scoring contribution and Stanley earning his keep down low against DeMatha's BeeJay Anya, Gorman will be hard pressed to pull off the upset.

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

Julius Randle tours North Carolina colleges

January, 9, 2012
Julius RandleKelly Kline/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Julius Randle
Julius Randle | Junior | Forward | Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)

Randle Blog 1 | Randle Blog 2 | Randle Blog 3 | Randle Blog 4 | Randle Blog 5

Julius Randle is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. As a junior, Randle, a forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), is one of the most sought after prospects in the country, regardless of class, with heavyweights like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and Texas all pursuing him hotly. Randle has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access to his world by chronicling everything from intimate details about his recruitment to cooking recipes in a monthly diary.

What’s up world.

It’s your boy Julius Randle and I’m kicking off my first blog of 2012.

First, I want to talk about how proud I was that my team and I were able to go down there to the City of Palms Classic and come away with the title. That was a great field and to end up on top was really big for us. Not many people knew about our team nationally, but it really put us on the map.

But then we went to the Beach Ball Classic and we didn’t do too well there. I think we were a little fatigued, but I also think that it had a lot to do with us not being used to playing with a target on our backs. After we won the City of Palms, we got ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 and now that we’ve gone through what it’s like playing with a target we’re more prepared.

We know that we have to bring it every single game. We all understand that now, and I really think we’re in a good place headed into the Hoophall Classic next week.

I can’t wait to get down there and play against Oak Hill Academy. This might sound crazy, but I’m happy that they haven’t lost yet because we’ll be able to give them their first loss. I’m really confident about our team when we’re playing the way that we’re capable of playing I really don’t see a team in the country that can beat us.


After we lost in the Beach Ball Classic my teammates and I went down to North Carolina a day early. I had planned to go down there anyway, but since we weren’t playing anymore we decided to go early and visit N.C. State. I had a great time there with Coach (Mark) Gottfried and Coach (Orlando) Early.

Most of the students weren’t there but those fans still packed the place out. One fan made a really cool sign saying how bad he wanted me to come to State. Just stuff like that was pretty cool to see.

I got a chance to sit down with Coach Gottfried and his message was really simple. He just kept saying “We want you.” He talked about the ways they’d use me there and I liked that he came across really direct.

My boy Rodney Purvis came out to the game with me and that’s always fun to hang out with him. We’re real tight and we had a great time together. I know he wants me to come join him there at State.

That night after I left I went over to Duke and talked with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) for a good little while. It was a great talk about a lot of different things.

We ended up practicing at Cameron Indoor Stadium that night around 10 p.m. and we had a great time just being on that court. I felt really comfortable playing there and I swear I didn’t miss hardly any shots. It was similar to the way I felt when I was at North Carolina practicing for the Beach Ball Classic.

I was making a lot of shots. So the fact that I couldn’t miss at either Duke or UNC won’t make my decision any easier, Ha ha.

The next morning I went to UNC’s shoot around because they had a game that afternoon. It was cool just to be there and see their routine.

I got a chance to sit down and talk to Coach (Roy) Williams and that’s always fun. He just reiterated how much they wanted me there and he said he was gonna give me the highest praise he could give a high school player by telling me that I work as hard as Tyler Hansbrough did on the court.

I know Tyler was a great player so to be compared to him was awesome. I like Coach Williams’ approach. He doesn’t call all the time, he gives me space and he always says he’d much rather talk to me in person. Coach Williams is just a really cool guy.

I came back later for the game and that was fun. The fans were different there. They were really in to their team, but in a different way. It was really loud and really live. It was really interesting to see how different the fan bases were.

I had a great time at the game. It’s hard not to be impressed with UNC and its fans.

I ended up leaving at halftime to get to Duke for the start of their game. That place wasn’t just packed, it was sold out. Of course their place is smaller, but that place is just crazy.

If I had to compare the environments, I’d have to say that Cameron is the most live. It’s so true what people say about that place and this is with the students not even being there. It was just insane. It’s another level. They chanted my name so loud and their fans knew all about me. I was just like wow.

After the game I got the chance to sit down with Coach K again and we had a long talk. He gave me so many things to think about like getting lower and wider in my stance and being in great -- not good -- shape and how much that could help me.

He showed me clips of LeBron James when he was with Team USA and how they worked with him on getting lower and how much that helped him. I have started using that these past couple games, and I can already tell the difference in how I’m playing.

That night when we got to the hotel I felt like getting some shots up so I ended up going to UNC since my hotel was right near the campus. I shot around with Kendall Marshall and James McAdoo and we had a good time there at the gym.

Kendall took me to his room after that and showed me the famous shoe collection that I hear so much about. I’ve got to tell you all, it definitely lives up to the hype! It made me want to get my shoe game together immediately. That’s the first thing I wanted to do after seeing his shoes was come home and get my shoe game up, Ha ha.

I left that next morning.

All in all, I had a great time in North Carolina visiting all three of those schools. Loved the weather and everything about that area. I may get back down there to see the Duke-North Carolina game. I can only imagine that atmosphere.

I definitely plan to get down to Kentucky and Ohio State too. I can’t wait to visit those schools so I hope those fans are ready to see me.

Well, I don’t have a recipe this time people. I’m sorry about that. I’ll definitely have one for you guys the next time.

I got a chance to read ESPNHS' story on predictions for 2012 and that was interesting what they predicted about me ending up at Duke. I’m not saying that it will or won’t happen, but there’s a good chance they could be right. Who knows, we’ll have to see.

Oh and I also read the Recruit X story at ESPNHS too. Wow, his visit was just like the movie “He Got Game.” I was shocked at how real he kept it, and no I’m not Recruit X.

That will be an interesting series to follow to say the least.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now everyone. I appreciate you reading my blog.

Until next time.

Don't forget to follow Randle on Twitter: @J30_Randle

Prestonwood routs Grace Prep for COP title

December, 21, 2011
Julius RandleTravis Brown/ESPNDallasJulius Randle was dominant throughout the City of Palms Classic.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his everyday life, Julius Randle is as carefree and as happy-go-lucky as they come, but in basketball, he’s intense, obsessive and never lets anything roll off his back, least of all losses.

That’s why it makes sense that Randle took it personal when Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), ranked No. 15 in the POWERADE FAB 50, “embarrassed” him and his Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), No. 42, teammates by 15 on Dec. 15 on ESPNU.

“I was so mad after that loss,” said Randle, a junior forward who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. “I knew I had to move on from it, but it was always in the back of my head. When I saw we were playing them again, there was no way I was gonna lose. No way. I wanted to beat them worse than they beat us.”

Mission accomplished.

Randle scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists to help Prestonwood rout Grace Prep 62-42 and claim the City of Palms Classic title Wednesday night at Bishop Verot High School here.

Prestonwod became the first-ever Texas team to win the City of Palms.

Mickey Mitchell, a forward who some consider the top freshman in the country, led Prestonwood with 19 points and eight rebounds and Zach Peters chipped in with 10 points.

Isaiah Austin, a senior center who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 100, led Grace Prep with 10 points and 15 rebounds.

“It felt so good to get this win against that team,” said Randle, who was named MVP. “They are really a great team. We knew that we’d have to jump on them early and never let up.”

The Lions used a balanced attack to claim an early 13-5 lead behind stifling defensive pressure which forced six first-quarter turnovers.

When Randle was forced to sit early in the second quarter, Mitchell came up with big buckets to extend the Lions’ lead. Then in the third quarter he scored eight points to put the game out of reach.

The Lions’ defensive pressure forced Grace Prep to shoot just 25 percent from the field.

“It was our best defensive effort of the year for sure,” Mitchell said. “We located the shooters really well and got into the passing lanes and pressured the ball. We were just clicking tonight. We beat a great team.”

Randle said that having two Texas teams in the finals was a testament to the talent in the Lone Star State.

“We’ve got the best players in the country here in Texas, hands down,” Randle said. “Texas has typically been known as a football state, but people are starting to realize that we’ve also got the best players on the hardwood 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

Rappin' with Randle: Season starts

December, 7, 2011
Julius RandleKelly Kline/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Julius Randle
Julius Randle | Junior | Forward | Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)

Randle Blog 1 | Randle Blog 2 | Randle Blog 3 | Randle Blog 4

Julius Randle is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. As a junior, Randle, a forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), is one of the most sought after prospects in the country, regardless of class, with heavyweights like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas all pursuing him hotly. Randle has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access to his world by chronicling everything from intimate details about his recruitment to cooking recipes in a monthly diary.

What’s up everyone, it’s your boy Julius Randle and I’m back with my latest blog entry.

First off, I want everyone to click on this link and go vote for me in the ESPNHS Fans’ Choice Player of the Year award. I need your votes.

So far our season has been going really well. We’ve gotten off to a good start and we’re really playing together as a team and winning games. It’s been really fun.

I played against my boy Rodney (Purvis) at the Thanksgiving tournament and we got the win. There was no way I was gonna let him beat me in my home state. That was fun playing against him, but it was just a payback game for when his AAU team knocked my AAU team out in the Final Four of the Super Showcase when I was a freshman.

I was supposed to be visiting Kentucky last weekend but I had to take the SAT so I wasn’t able to go. I’m definitely gonna get there soon. I did get a chance to visit Baylor about three weeks ago and that was a really good visit. I got a chance to hang out with Quincy Miller and we had a good time together. Q is real cool to hang out with.

I got to see their practice and tour the campus and I had a good time with that. To top it all off I got to see a great football game when they beat Oklahoma so that was pretty exciting.

Also, I visited Kansas a little over a month ago and that was one of, if not the best visit that I’ve been on so far. The fans there are just crazy and they’ve got a lot of energy so that was just great.

I know that I’m gonna visit Duke after I leave the Beach Ball Classic later this month. My plan is to go to the Duke game then go to the North Carolina game in the same day so I know that will be a crazy experience. I’m really looking forward to getting down there.

Me and Rodney have been talking about me staying an extra day and visiting North Carolina State with him. I liked N.C. State before he committed, but now with him definitely going there along with what else they’re bringing in is attractive. I don’t know a whole lot about the new coaching staff but they’re definitely on my radar.

I know most of you guys know that my boy Matt Jones committed to Duke recently. I’ve been tight with Matt since the fifth grade and I was so excited when he committed to Duke. He’s come such a long way and I know he’ll fit in really well there.

Of course Matt is my teammate during the AAU season with the Team Texas Titans so everyone wants to know if that makes Duke more attractive.

Well, first they were pretty attractive anyway. I can’t say that it doesn’t make them more attractive, but I can’t make my decision based off the fact that my boy is there. It’s all about being the right fit. I’ve got to do what’s right for me. Duke is definitely one of the schools I’m taking a strong look at.

I know I’ll hear a lot more about Duke all summer when we start AAU though. I’m sure Matt will be coming on strong.

I also liked North Carolina’s pickup of Nate Britt. North Carolina kinda recruits the same type of guards. Nate, Marcus Paige and Kendall Marshall are all past-first point guards so that’s something that I noticed about them.

They even look alike, Haha! I love the way they play.

I definitely have been watching a few college basketball games too, but not for anything besides fun.

I was really impressed with Ohio State. They just have great spacing and they get up and down the floor really well. After they beat Duke, I talked to Coach (Thad) Matta and he was telling me that I wouldn’t have a set position there, I could just play.

Recently, I spoke with Coach (Steve) Robinson and Coach (Roy) Williams at North Carolina and they just keep telling me about how much they’d like me there. I spoke to Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski too. It’s funny; lately we haven’t spoken very much about basketball. He just makes sure everything else is going well with me and keeps me up to speed about what’s going on at Duke. That’s a little different.

Well, I know this is usually the part of the blog when I give you guys one of my famous recipes, but I’d like to get the word out about the Team Connor Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Connor Cruse was a young guy that went to my school who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 4 years old. He fought hard, but he eventually died of cancer on July 10, 2009.

It hit pretty close to home for us and this year we’re wearing his foundation’s symbol on the back of our jerseys. We just want to get awareness out there. If you want to learn more about the foundation please visit TeamConnor.org.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now everyone.

As always, I appreciate you reading my blog. Definitely check back soon for my next blog entry.

Until next time.

Don't forget to follow Randle on Twitter: @J30_Randle

Hoopers dish on skills they're most thankful for

November, 23, 2011
Before diets give way to hefty portions of pumpkin pie, gravy drenched turkey, mouthwatering mac and cheese and succulent candied yams we figured we’d have a handful of elite players reflect on what basketball skill they’re most thankful to have in their repertoire.

Here’s what they came up with.
Jabari Parker
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSJabari Parker said Simeon would have to keep Tony Parker in check to have the best chance to win.
Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago), SF, 2013
The hoops skill I’m most thankful for is…
“My versatility. That helps me to be able to play all of the different positions on the floor. It’s definitely the skill I’m most thankful for.”

Alex Poythress, Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), F, 2012
Signed to: Kentucky
The hoops skill I’m most thankful for is…
“My height. I know that’s not really a skill, but it’s such a blessing because most people aren’t 6-foot-8. It’s helped me a lot in this game. It makes me more versatile, it forces teams to put bigger slower people on me and it allows me to shoot over smaller players. I’m very thankful for my height.”

Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), F, 2013
The hoops skill I’m most thankful for is…
“My ball handling ability. Most guys my height (6-foot-10) can’t really handle the ball too well, but it’s just always come really natural to me. I’m blessed to have that ability.”

Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), F, 2012
The hoops skill I’m most thankful for is…
“My basketball IQ. I feel like it’s pretty high and it’s one of the best skills to have because, think about it, no one can take that away from you. They can block your shot, overpower you in the paint or be faster than you, but as long as you have a high IQ you can have an impact on the game. I’m most thankful that I’ve got that.”

Rodney Purvis, Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), G, 2012
Signed to: North Carolina State
The hoops skill I’m most thankful for is…
“My dribbling ability. That allows me to create for myself and my teammates so that's definitely the skill that I'm most thankful to have.”

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

Fans' Choice: York vs. Randle

November, 16, 2011

Gabe York, Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.)
No. 36 in the ESPNU 100
Few shooting guards can fill up the stat sheet with as much style as this Arizona recruit. Off the dribble or with his feet set, York has video-game range from the perimeter, which has helped him earn praise as one of the nation’s elite marksmen. Play him for the shot at your own peril because York has a quick first step, insane hops and a mean floater that would make Spurs guard Tony Parker proud.

Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)
No. 3 in the ESPNU 60
Randle might be the baller best suited to star in his own TV show. Kid’s certainly got talent, as evidenced by his gaudy 24.6 points and 12.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and he has a multitude of offers from college hoops royalty. Randle won’t be hurting for cameos, either, not with NBA superstar Kevin Durant lobbying the junior to play at Texas and fellow Texan Jamie Foxx showing him love during August’s Boost Mobile Elite 24.

Discuss this matchup on Twitter #espnhsfans.

Meet the other candidates on the player intro page.

Fans choiceESPNHSJulius Randle outlasted Gabe York in a tight first round matchup. His reward is a matchup with Shabazz Muhammad, the nation's No. 1 player.

Eliminating emotions after visits is key

November, 8, 2011
All Julius Randle needed was a cell phone because he was ready to dial.

Two years ago when he visited Oklahoma, Randle, a junior forward at Prestonwod Christian (Plano, Texas), had the time of his life.

The campus was beautiful; the fans were overly passionate and showed him lots of love, the co-eds were easy on the eyes and the coaches and players treated him like family.

Tony Parker
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSTony Parker said a strong support system is necessary to eliminate emotions from decisions.

“It was such a great visit,” Randle recalled. “I had a ball.”

So much that he was ready to get then head coach Jeff Capel (now an assistant at Duke) on the line and pledge his allegiance to Sooner Nation.

“I was ready to commit,” said Randle, who is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. “I had a ball and I loved everything about the campus. Coach Capel and I were close and I loved what he was doing. I had so much fun that I was ready to be a Sooner. Then I got the best advice that I could ever get. My mom and coach told me to not to get caught up in the emotions of the visit.”

Randle took a few days and realized that they were right.

“I ended up going on another visit and had even more fun on that visit,” Randle said. “That showed me right there the importance of stepping away from the situation. You can get caught up on those visits.”

Most players who plan to sign during the NCAA’s Early Signing Period, which starts tomorrow and runs through Nov. 16, have been there, and they all agree that in order to make the best decision possible it’s imperative that emotions remain a non-factor.

“Emotions come for everyone,” said Mitch McGary, a senior at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) who committed to Michigan last week. “You’ve got to go into the visit knowing that you’re gonna have the time of your life and you’ve got to be able to separate that and make an informed decision. Sometimes guys get caught up in the emotion of it all.”

Rodney Purvis said that’s what happened to him when he committed to Louisville last December only to de-commit in May.

Purvis, a senior combo guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was close to Cardinals assistant Tim Fuller, who eventually left to take an assistant job at Missouri.

“I definitely feel like I made an emotional decision in a way,” said Purvis, who plans to sign with North Carolina State this week. “I committed to Louisville because Coach Fuller was there, but I went out there and had a great few visits and I was ready to commit. It’s so important to do your homework on the schools that you’re interested in. Got to keep your emotions in check.”

That’s where a strong support system comes in handy, according to Tony Parker, a senior forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.).

“I’ve got parents that make sure I don’t get too drawn in with all of the promises and fun times that I have,” said Parker, who will decide between Ohio State, Memphis, Duke and Georgetown. “That’s really important because you end up having the time of your life on those visits. So I started going in to every visit saying ‘I know this is gonna be a 10.’ That helped and my parents helped with that. This isn’t something you wanna rush.”

Still, sometimes you just know.

That was certainly the case for Isaiah Hicks, a junior forward at Oxford Webb (Oxford, N.C.). He got an offer from North Carolina coach Roy Williams during a visit to the campus in August and an hour and a half later, on his ride back home, Hicks called Williams back and accepted.

Yogi Ferrell didn’t even bother to wait until he was in the car last November when he visited Indiana. Ferrell told Indiana coach Tom Crean and his staff before he left.

“It was the right decision for me,” said Ferrell, a senior point guard at Park Tudor (Greenfield, Ind.) who plans to sign with the Hoosiers this week. “Was it an emotional decision? I guess you could say that, but not all emotional decisions mean that they’re wrong. I knew what I was gonna do. My best advice for younger guys is to follow your gut. If that feeling that you’re ready to commit stays with you then it just may be right.”

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

Kings of the contact period

October, 9, 2011
Last Wednesday marked the end of the NCAA’s contact period, which had been in effect since September 9. That meant hundreds of high school hoopers around the country had to sift through all of their visits from college coaches and decide who made the most lasting impressions.

We rounded up a handful of the top players in the country and had them dish on the big winners over the last month.

Coolest customers: Providence

Brannen Greene, Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG: “Coach (Ed) Cooley told me he only recruits anacondas and not garden snakes. Very cool guy.”

Best perspective: Texas Christian

Julius Randle
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSJulius Randle was impressed with TCU's "create your own legacy" perspective.
Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), 2013, F: “TCU gave me a whole different way to look at things. They told me that I could come in and change the program and begin my own legacy. That’s a different perspective than the other schools. A lot of those schools can’t present that to me. Most already have hall of fame players. So definitely TCU on perspective because who wouldn’t want to have their very own legacy.”

Most swag: Kentucky

Chris Walker, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), 2013, F: “The coach with the most swag… I would have to say Coach (John) Calipari and assistant Coach Orlando (Antigua). They came in and everyone was going crazy. Coach Cal is running things and he’s put a lot of players in the NBA. Plus he came in wearing a suit. That’s swag.”

Best sales pitch: Duke

Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), 2012, SF: “Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) definitely has the best sales pitch. He talks a lot about the Duke brand and what he could do for me and how he could develop me and about all of the exposure that I could get at Duke. I think the thing that makes his sales pitch so good is that he’s really speaking from the heart. That’s the best part.”

Most relatable: Louisville

Isaiah Lewis, Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG: “I just had fun getting to know the coaches at Louisville, especially Coach (Wyking) Jones. After my workout he offered me, but that was in the middle of us talking about school, football, what kind of shoes we like. He just seemed like one of the guys. I definitely felt like he was just one of my friends.”

Best gear: Georgetown

Troy Williams, Phoebus (Hampton, Va.), 2013, SF: “Definitely had to be Georgetown because they wear Jordan everything. The shoes were just fresh and the sweat suits they had were cool. I told them I like to ball in Nike's, but I walk around in J's. They had on the new Melo’s (Carmelo Anthony) and they weren’t tied all the way up.”

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

Offseason Offerings: Julius Randle

September, 20, 2011
ESPNHS - Texas

With the offseason in full effect, ballers around the country have begun what is widely regarded as one of the most grueling grind modes of the year as they prepare for the up-and-coming season.

Every week we’ll profile one of the top players in the country and have them dish on one of their most unorthodox training methods and explain why it’s been so beneficial.

Next up?
Julius Randle
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSJulius Randle said shooting with a medicine ball improves your jump shot.

Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) forward Julius Randle.

The Drill: Medicine ball jumpers

The Rundown: “I basically stand in five different spots from about 18 feet out and take 10 shots from each spot with an eight-pound medicine ball. You have to really concentrate because the ball gets heavier and heavier with each shot.”

The benefit: “It helps with your release and keeping your form up because if you don’t keep it up it’ll be an air ball. It also helps to build arm strength because the medicine balls are obviously heavier than regular balls. This is a drill that can definitely help you improve your shooting.”

Don't forget to follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayESPN