High-SchoolFlorida: Boys Basketball

Kasey Hill and Rajon RondoKelly Kline/Getty Images and Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesKasey Hill, the No. 6 player in the ESPN 100, enjoys being compared to Celtics superstar Rajon Rondo.
This summer, ESPNHS will sit down with some of the nation's elite players to break down their game, talk about the inevitable comparisons to college and pro players and get their take on who they pattern their game after.

Player: Kasey Hill
School: Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Position: Point guard
Height/weight: 6-0/170
ESPN 100: No. 6

Who is Kasey Hill?

The term "pure point guard" is in vogue right now, and it's a label that describes Hill perfectly. A textbook floor general, Hill is always in complete command on the court. As a junior last season, he posted 15.4 points and 7.2 assists per game while guiding Montverde Academy to the finals of the National High School Invitational and a No. 9 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50. But more impressive than the numbers is the way Hill controls the game.

"I don't get rattled under pressure," says Hill, a Florida recruit. "No matter what the defense is doing, I don't let them rush me into making decisions. I take my time and put my teammates in position to make plays."

Scouting report:

Sure, Hill can slither to the rim for lay-ups or step back and bury jumpers, but he's not a scorer -- he's a point guard first and foremost. Few high school players see the court the way Hill does, and he has the natural athleticism to make difficult passes, either on the break or in the half-court. According to ESPN Recruiting Nation, Hill can "get to wherever he wants on the court," combining a "tight and fluid" handle with "excellent court vision and feel for the game." His jump shot isn't perfect yet, but he shows good enough form to believe he'll eventually become a productive outside shooter. He should fit in perfectly at Florida, where coach Billy Donovan likes to run a guard-heavy spread offense.

Most frequent comparisons: Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving, John Wall


ESPNHS comparison: Rajon Rondo

Hill's coach at Montverde Academy, Kevin Boyle, knows a thing or two about point guards -- he also coached Kyrie Irving in high school. And some scouts see similarities between the two players, pointing to Hill as a mid-tempo point guard who can cruise into the lane at will. But we see Hill as a more natural and creative distributor, someone who can draw defenders and then whip a wraparound pass at an impossible angle and hit an open teammate in stride. Someone like Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics' triple-double machine. Hill can push the tempo when the opportunity is there, and his slick dribbling ability allows him to cave in defenses just like Rondo.

Kasey's comparison: Rajon Rondo

Hill says the two comparisons he hears most often are Rajon Rondo and John Wall, and he particularly enjoys the Rondo resemblance.

"People say that the way I pass is kind of like Rajon Rondo, and the way I move my feet is like John Wall," says Hill. "I love Rondo, and to say my passing is like his is like the highest level you can get. I love John Wall, too. I don't think I'm anywhere near their level yet, but I try to take things from them and put it in my game."

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).

Findlay steals NHSI title from Montverde

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
5:42
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BETHESDA, Md. -- Anthony Bennett knew it all along.

While everyone else had written him and top-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) off after falling behind by as many as 18 points late in the second half to No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in the ESPNHS National High School Invitational title game, Bennett knew it was only a matter of time before the Pilots turned the tables.

With 1.2 seconds left in overtime, Bennett tipped Eagles’ forward Patricio Garino’s inbounds pass out of bounds, clapped his hands together and yelled to the stands, “We ain’t losing fam! We ain’t losing!”

Bennett was right.

Findlay (32-1) managed an improbable comeback late in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually steal an 86-83 win over the Eagles (23-3) to claim the ESPNHS NHSI title Saturday at Georgetown Prep, in a game that was nationally televised on ESPN.

It was the Pilots’ third ESPNHS NHSI title in four years. Findlay, which is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

Brandon Ashley led the Pilots with 31 points, while Nigel Williams-Goss added 17 and Bennett, the tournament's MVP, chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds. Kasey Hill led Montverde with 23 points and six assists.

“I pulled out everything motivational that I could,” Findlay coach Michael Peck said. “I tried everything, but at some point their switch went on and they got it done. It was all them. It was all them.”

Added Ashley: “This was the best way to go out. We fought hard and we got it done. We never got down or hung our heads. We always believed in ourselves and we got it done, man. We got it done.”

In the first half it was the Eagles who were getting it done, dominating Findlay in all aspects and claiming a 38-29 lead. Findlay’s big four -- Bennett, Ashley, Dominic Artis and Winston Shepard -- combined to shoot just 5 of 17 in the first half.

The Eagles continued to pour it on in the third quarter, beating the Pilots to loose balls, owning the offensive glass and beating them in transition. Michael Frazier made Findlay pay for switching to a 2-3 zone, draining three of the Eagles’ four third-quarter threes to extend the Eagles’ lead 54-39 headed into the fourth.

That’s when Ashley came alive.

He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, overpowering Montverde’s frontcourt in the paint. Ashley drained two free throws with 20.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.

“Brandon Ashley put the cape on,” Peck said. “He was the Brandon he was supposed to be.”

Montverde coach Kevin Boyle pointed out the fact that the Pilots lived at the free throw line late in the game. The Pilots made 24 of 27 free throws in the second half.

“They got a lot of calls and they were living on the line,” Boyle said. “So that means they’re scoring without the clock moving. They fought hard, but I thought they got a lot of whistles too.”

Late in overtime, Williams-Goss hit a floater to give the Pilots an 84-83 lead, then Shepard corralled a miss from Hill, got fouled and made both free throws to secure the win.

“This was pretty fun,” Ashley said. “It’s been a lot this week with McDonald’s All-American Game and this tournament, but we got it done. This was the best way to go out. Better than I ever imagined it.”

Star points Artis, Hill clash for NHSI title

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
7:02
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Dominica Artis and Kasey HillJoe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesMontverde coach Kevin Boyle said he wants Kasey Hill, right, to play "more cocky" and sees an NHSI matchup with Findlay point guard Dominic Artis as the perfect opportunity to up his on-court swag.


BETHESDA, Md. -- Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) coach Kevin Boyle likes his point guards to have a certain pizzazz.

After 23 years at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), Boyle became accustomed to guards like Kyrie Irving, Shaheen Holloway and Dexter Strickland, who were so dominant it was hard not to have an on-court swagger about them.

That’s where he wants his current floor general Kasey Hill to get mentally.

“This kid’s so humble and nice,” Boyle said of Hill. “I almost want him to be a little cocky on the court. That’s something that he’s developing now so I like for him to play in games or against guys that help with that.”

Hill will get a key opportunity to build that bravado when he and the No. 3 seed Eagles face No. 1 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and dynamic point guard Dominic Artis Saturday (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) in the ESPNHS National High School Invitational boys' title game.

Findlay, which is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, is going for its third NHSI title (2009, 2010) in four years. The Pilots beat Montverde, which is ranked No. 12, 59-46 to claim the title in 2010.

“I’m looking forward to matching up against Dominic, for sure,” Hill said. “I don’t know if that’ll make me more cocky. I’m just not that kind of player, but it’d definitely give me even more confidence playing well against a big-time player like that.”

Artis, a senior who is signed to Oregon, is the No. 8 point guard in the ESPNU 100. Boyle referred to him as “Findlay’s head.”

“If you can cut off the head then you’ve got a real shot, you know,” Boyle said. “Kasey’s a great defender and he’ll have his hands full with Dominic, but Kasey’s more than capable of being a lockdown defender against anyone.”

Hill certainly proved that in the semifinal win over Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), last year’s NHSI champ. He held Mustangs star forward Justin Anderson, a senior who is signed to Virginia, to just one field goal and three points.

“I really try and go hard on defense,” said Hill, a junior who is the No. 3 point guard in the ESPNU 60. “Some guys rest on defense, but I go hard on both ends. I’ll definitely do that tomorrow against Dominic.”

Despite Boyle’s hope for Hill to use the matchup with Artis as a way to build a court-conceited mentality, Artis was quick to point out that, “I’m not the guy people make a name off of.”

“But either way, Kasey’s a great player,” Artis said. “He’s gonna be tough to stop, but we’ll do it together as a team. That’s the best way to stop a player like him.”

Through two games Hill is averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 assists. Artis is averaging 13 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals.

Findlay coach Mike Peck coached Hill at the freshman All-American Camp in Lexington, Ky., back in 2010 and said that Hill reminded him of a young Rod Strickland, the former All-NBA point guard who averaged 13.2 points and 7.3 assists over 17 years.

“He’s shifty and he’s got a great feel for the game,” Peck said of Hill. “One thing he’s gotten a lot better at is his ability to shoot it. Obviously he’s having a great tournament here, so he’ll be a handful, there’s no question.”

Peck said that the Pilots would employ the same “elbow block” defensive scheme on Hill that they used against Irving in 2010 when they beat St. Patrick 71-70 at the Hoophall Classic.

“Basically any time Kasey has the ball, the strong-side elbow or block needs to be occupied,” Peck said. “That way if he gets by his man, which he’s good at, the help is right there. Sometimes that will discourage a guy from challenging that first line of defense.”

Artis doesn’t anticipate Hill being discouraged by any defensive scheme the Pilots throw his way.

“I know how great point guards think, and I know that whatever another team tries to throw at me won’t matter," said Artis. "I’m still gonna do my thing. That’s my mentality, and I know that Kasey probably thinks that same way.”

Good guess.

Hill initially downplayed the matchup against Artis, but later admitted that a strong showing against him and the Pilots would “be a win for everyone.”

“Of course I can’t wait to play against a guy like Dominic,” Hill said. “We’re both competitive, and I know we’ll both bring it. I want to play well because it will help my team win a national championship. That’s what’s most important. I know that everything else that comes with that will be a good opportunity for me, 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.

Montverde squeaks past Montrose Christian

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
2:46
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BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 3 seed Montverde’s (Fla.) 50-47 win over No. 2 seed Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) in the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Friday:

Overview: The Eagles, who are ranked No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50, had to adjust to Montrose’s frantic defensive pressure, but when they figured it out, they made the Mustangs pay by moving the ball around and finding the open man. Michael Frazier knocked down two threes to ignite an early 8-0 run and put the Eagles ahead after falling behind 4-0. Still, neither team could do much to separate itself in the first half. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Eagles’ duo of Frazier and Kasey Hill, who led the Eagles with 20 points, started to really expose Montrose’s overzealous defensive scheme. That led to a 12-point Montverde lead headed into the fourth. The Mustangs, who are ranked No. 9 in the FAB 50, stormed back in the fourth quarter and took their first lead, 41-40, with 2:11 left in regulation on Michael Carrera’s putback layup. Down the stretch, Hill came up with big buckets to give the Eagles a cushion. Mustangs forward Justin Anderson’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer missed off the back of the rim and the Eagles marched on. Montrose won the ESPNHS NHSI last year, a double-overtime thriller over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

“They just couldn’t score in the halfcourt set,” said Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said. “They had one basket in the halfcourt in the first half. We just really tightened up defensively and got a big win over a great team.”

Turning Point: After the Mustangs opened the fourth quarter on a 14-2 run and eventually took the lead, Hill responded by scoring six of the Eagles’ final 10 points to seal the win.

“I wasn’t gonna lose the game,” said Hill, a Florida commit. “I knew that I could get to the rim when I wanted to, and I would have to step up and make plays. I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Key Player: Anderson, the No. 55 player in the ESPNU 100, had one of his worst statistical games of the season, shooting just 1 of 14 from the field and finishing with just three points. He was scoreless in the first half, and scored his only field goal on a breakaway layup with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

“It happens as a ballplayer,” said Anderson, a Virginia signee. “Sometimes you have bad games. This was just a bad game for me.”

Added Boyle: “Kasey did a terrific job guarding Justin. He forced him into tough shots all day and when he drove he had to shoot over our big guys. Kasey’s impact defensively was huge.”

Key Stat: The Mustangs shot 7 of 16 from the 3-point line in their quarterfinal win over Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.). But in the loss to Montverde, Montrose missed all seven of its attempts from downtown.

“We did a great job of getting our hands up on their shot attempts,” Boyle said. “I don’t think they had a clean look all day, and that’s a credit to the kids and their defensive pressure.”

Up Next: The Mustangs will face the winner of No. 1 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and No. 4 St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) in the title game Saturday (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). Findlay Prep is ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

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.
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BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis from No. 4 seed St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) 67-61 win over No. 5 seed Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) in the quarterfinals of the National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep on Thursday:

Overview: St. Benedict's found itself trailing by double digits in the second quarter, but the Gray Bees tightened up on defense in the second half and surged past Blanche Ely, 67-61, to advance to the semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

Blanche Ely, the No. 16 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, shot 57 percent in the first half and held a 40-32 lead at the half. St. Benedict's, ranked No. 15 in the FAB 50, responded by coming out of the locker room in lockdown mode, holding Blanch Ely to just seven points in the third quarter. Senior guard Melvin Johnson and freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe were pivotal, as they came up with three steals apiece.

Johnson, the No. 92 player in the ESPNU 100, scored a team-high 17 points. Briscoe added 11, and junior guard Tyler Ennis chipped in 14.

Turning Point: The St. Benedict's defense was shredded in the first half. The Gray Bees gave up 40 points, with Blanche Ely senior forward Clide Geffrard and senior guard Benji Bell doing most of the damage on pick-and-rolls. St. Benedict's tried playing man and zone to slow the duo down, but nothing seemed to work.

That changed after halftime. The Gray Bees came out more focused on the defensive end and played straight man the entire half. They held Blanche Ely to 29.6 percent shooting in the second half and forced 10 turnovers (17 overall). That helped St. Benedict's get into the open floor, where the trio of Ennis, Johnson and Briscoe took over.

"We were disappointed in the way we defended in the first half," said St. Benedict's coach Mark Taylor. "In the second half we made the decision that we were going to go man. We hedged harder. We sent weak-side help. We stopped changing the D and went with what worked."

Geffrard scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, mostly on dunks and lay-ups right at the rim. After the break, the St. Benedict's defense held him to just four points on five shots.

"There was a lot of help-side defense (in the second half)," said Geffrard. "They kept switching and rotating."

Key Player: Just a freshman, Briscoe came into the tournament averaging about three points per game. But the 6-foot-3 guard came up huge during St. Benedict's second-half comeback. Briscoe scored 10 of his 11 points after halftime while adding four assists, three steals and a block.

Briscoe also made a game-changing play midway through the fourth quarter. With St. Benedict's clinging to a two-point lead, he stripped his man at midcourt and went to the floor to make the diving steal. He then got up, gained control and drove in for a lay-up to make it a 55-51 game.

Junior Isaiah Watkins also had a huge game for the Gray Bees, as the 6-foot-8 forward posted 14 points and 14 rebounds, including nine offensive boards.

Key Stat: With Blanche Ely making almost 60 percent of its shots in the first half, St. Benedict's couldn't fully utilize its three-guard offense in the open court. But once the defense clamped down in the second half, the Gray Bees' offense took off. St. Benedict's finished with 20 fast break points, compared to just 10 for Blanche Ely.

Up Next: With top-seeded Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) -- the No. 2 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 -- looming as a potential opponent in the NHSI semifinals, St. Benedict's is going to need more production from its bench. The Gray Bees played just two subs against Blanche Ely, with the bench guys contributing five points in 23 minutes. Findlay Prep is arguably the deepest squad in the nation and is uniquely qualified to take advantage of any team's lack of depth.
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Overview

If you like defense, this was the game for you. No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) used a pressure, trapping D to force fifth-seeded La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) into 19 turnovers en route to a 62-54 win in the opening game of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

Montverde, No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50, didn’t need much offense to win this one, but most of the Eagles’ scoring came from the backcourt of senior Michael Frazier and junior Kasey Hill. The duo combined for 35 points and consistently came up with big plays whenever La Lumiere threatened.

On the other end, Montverde’s defensive performance was staggering. The Eagles held La Lumiere to 32.3 percent shooting from the field and totally shut down the Lakers’ top offensive players. La Lumiere scored just six points in the first quarter and never recovered.

Turning Point

La Lumiere came into the NHSI ranked No. 23 in the POWERADE FAB 50 thanks in large part to the frontcourt of senior forwards Rapheal Davis, Hanner Perea and Jay Simpson. But that trio was almost completely neutralized by Montverde, combining for just 35 points (on 32 shots). Davis and Perea averaged 36.5 combined during the regular season.

Montverde senior forwards Michel Enanga, Landry Nnoko and Patricio Garino were dominant on defense. Enanga grabbed 15 rebounds, Nnoko blocked three shots and Garino played solid man-to-man defense on Davis. They set the tone from the opening tip and La Lumiere was never able to effectively run its offense.

“That was absolutely the difference in the game — they took us out of everything we wanted to do,” said La Lumiere coach Alan Huss. “Nnoko is the key to the whole thing. He’s back there protecting the rim, and even when we were able to beat the press we had trouble finishing.”

Key Players

Florida Gators fans are probably still numb after their loss in the Elite 8, but the performances of Florida recruits Michael Frazier and Kasey Hill must have made them feel a bit better. Hill, a junior point guard, scored a game-high 19 points, while Frazier, a senior shooting guard, tallied 15.

Hill shot just 6-of-21 from the floor, but he put in work at the free-throw line, hitting seven of his eight attempts. Frazier shot 5-of-14 from the field and added seven rebounds while playing tough defense.

“I just tried to play hard,” said Frazier. “My shot wasn’t falling, so I tried to contribute in other ways.”

Key Stat

Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle recognized that La Lumiere was lacking in quality ball-handlers, so he applied a pressure defense from the opening tip. The result was 19 turnovers for La Lumiere, which led to 15 points for MVA.

“Whenever they got close, we were able to force a couple turnovers and get easy baskets,” said Boyle.”

Up Next

Montverde Academy will take on the winner of the Ravenscroft-Montrose Christian game. Boyle is hoping for a better performance from Frazier, who was unable to practice for more than three weeks before Thursday’s game because of an illness.

“He missed some shots that he normally makes,” said Boyle of his leading scorer. “If he makes those, this is a completely different game. Hopefully he knocked the rust off and we get his normal results tomorrow.”

NHSI preview: Montverde Academy

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
10:48
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Team: No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 21-3, No. 12 (No. 2 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Kevin Boyle (1st year at school; spent previous 23 years at St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J., where he won more than 400 games and coached many top players, including 2011 NBA No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving)

Key Players:

Michael Frazier
A transfer from Plant (Tampa, Fla.), the 6-foot-3 shooting guard leads the team in scoring and is a leading contender to be Mr. Basketball in Florida. An ESPNHS Second Team Underclass All-American last season, Frazier is rated the No. 3 prospect in the state of Florida by RecruitingNation and has signed with the University of Florida. Frazier was MVP of the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament in January. He scored 16 points in the team’s 49-40 triumph over POWERADE FAB 50 ranked Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) in the title game. In the team's loss to Memphis Ridgeway (Memphis, Tenn.), Frazier went for 27 points, so they'll look to him for a big scoring night against a tough La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) team.

Kasey Hill
He’s regarded as one of the elite point guards in the nation among juniors. The 6-foot-1 floor general is No. 18 in the ESPNU 60 and has committed to Florida, where he figures to join current teammate Michael Frazier on the roster for the Gators’ 2013-14 season. Hill was MVP last summer at the Adidas Invitational Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis after he led the Florida Rams AAU squad to the championship. Hill began his prep career at Mount Dora Bible (Eustis, Fla.) and was a highly-regarded by Kevin Sutton, Montverde Academy's former coach. Hill had been a ESPNHS Underclass All-American the past two seasons.

Anthony “J.P.” Cortesia
The No. 64 player in the ESPNU 100 was one of the Eagles’ most versatile talents from the first game of the season through the Montverde Academy tourney. The 6-foot-8 power forward will play next at Ole Miss. A native of Venezuela, Cortesia is not known for being a physical player, but with La Lumiere's towering size, he's going to have to battle down low and come up with key rebounds.

Note: Six-foot-10 sophomore Dakari Johnson, who followed coach Kevin Boyle to Montverde from St. Patrick of New Jersey and was the 2011 ESPNHS National Freshman of the Year, had to sit out this season due to the transfer.

Road to NHSI:

There’s little doubt the Eagles were the best team in Florida this season, regardless of school classification. They played a number of top teams in the state and when the Florida High School Athletic Association state playoffs were complete, Montverde had wins over the following champions: Hialeah Gardens (8A), Ely (7A), Lake Wales (5A) and Orlando Christian Prep (2A).

They did lose an in-state game to Hagerty of Oviedo, but were not at full strength at the time. The squad’s only other losses were to Ridgeway of Memphis and Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas). Both of those teams were top 15 ranked in the FAB 50 at the time and Grace Prep went on to win a state title of its own.

Even with those two losses, Montverde Academy had an 8-2 record against FAB 50-ranked teams and in its 24 games they outscored the competition by an average of 16.3 points.

Inside Scoop:

Boyle may not have coached in the NHSI before but has been around big-time basketball for many years. At St. Patrick, he coached Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2010-2011 Mr. Basketball USA Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, currently starring at Kentucky. Boyle also will be coaching the USA team on April 7 at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.

Perhaps Boyle’s biggest challenge is getting players ready to face a quality first-round opponent in the NHSI like La Lumiere without having been in a game since Feb. 4.

NHSI preview: Ely

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
10:47
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Team: No. 5 seed Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 30-2, No. 16 (No. 3 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Melvin Randall (11th year at school, 429-133 career record including eight previous seasons at Deerfield Beach)

Key Players:

Clide Geffrard
A 6-foot-6 senior forward, Geffrard came on strong toward the end of the season. He pumped in 33 points and hauled down 14 rebounds in the Class 7A state championship game win over Oak Ridge (Orlando). He also had 22 points and nine rebounds in the semifinals as Ely stormed through the state final four bracket. For the season, Geffrard averaged 17.4 points per game and shot 63 percent from the field. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. The unsigned senior could be the best player at Ely since current Florida Gator standout Kenny Boynton, who led the Tigers to a state title in 2007. “We’ve had a good ride with Clide,” Randall said. “He has been very consistent and one of the leaders we’ve depended on. Not a verbal leader-type but leads by example. He’s extremely competitive."

Josephus Bell
Bell was solid at the end of the season just as Geffrard was, but his most eye-opening outings took place earlier in the season. The 6-foot-2 senior guard lit it up for 26 points when Ely beat FAB 50-ranked Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) at the City of Palms tournament and had 22 the same week in a win against Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.). The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.1 points and three assists per game for the season. He's capable of big scoring outputs, but if he doesn't hit his average, Ely could struggle against the talented backcourt of St. Benedict's.

Krishaun Myers
Highlighting a third player for the Tigers is tough because so many players (including Anterrio Smith and Kahlil Thomas) are capable of stepping up and getting into double figures. Myers was third on the team in scoring, however, at 8.7 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior guard’s best performances included 23 points against Constitution (Philadelphia, Pa.) and 27 points against Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He also plays good defense (1.8 spg), and that will be key since both Ely and St. Benedict's rely on their backcourt to score. “There was any of five or six guys who could have scored 20 points per night at other schools,” Randall said. “Thomas, Myers and Smith were just outstanding and all have their roles. We call Smith ‘Locksmith’ because he’s very aggressive on defense. Tough to get around.”

Road to NHSI:
Ely hopes to make a similar run in the NHSI as Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) did last year and comes from a similar pedigree. Guided by a veteran coach and coming off of an FHSAA state title, the Tigers have lost only to teams that are higher-ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 than they are – Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) and fellow NHSI participant Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.). While the loss to Gorman was by just one point (58-57), the loss to Montverde was more lopsided (67-53). “We can’t go into the NHSI and go off of what other teams from Florida may have done,” Randall said. “It’s exciting to know that Dwyer won its first game last year, but we’re going there to play our attacking style and see what happens.”

Rolling to the Class 7A state title was impressive, but more important to the team snagging the FHSAA’s guaranteed berth into the NHSI were wins over Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s. Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s have been nationally ranked, with Salesian in the top 20 as of March 20. Both losses and both big wins took place at the City of Palms tournament in Florida.

With Dwyer's impressive showing at last year's tournament, Ely won't sneak up on a hungry St. Benedict's team that truly feels it is the second-best team in the field. “It helps a great deal (coming into the NHSI) that we know we’ve already played some of the top teams in the country and have fared well,” Randall said. “With the Bishop Gorman game, we had a chance to win at the end and missed a layup.”

Inside Scoop:

Randall and the rest of the team thought there was a good chance that Ely was going to be chosen for the NHSI. “The kids are real excited and know that this is an out-of-state tourney,” he said. “But it’s not a field trip.”

The Tigers have already played a strong New Jersey team – Gill St. Bernard’s – but they assume that the St. Benedict’s team they are playing in the first-round of the NHSI is going to be harder to beat.

“We know they have a lot of great players,” Randall said. “Our preparation is that we are going to have to defend. It’s a well-rounded team and we hope we can slow them down.”

Findlay Prep gets No. 1 seed for NHSI

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
11:36
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ESPNHS has announced the seedings for the eight boys' teams that will compete in the fourth annual ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

The year's event, which features six POWERADE FAB 50-ranked teams, will be March 29-31 at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md. The championship game is set for 2 p.m. ET March 31 on ESPN.

As expected, two-time NHSI champion Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was awarded the top seed and will face No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) March 29. Coolidge (29-7) will have its hands full with the No. 2 team in the country. In three years, only Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) has played the top seed in the No. 1 versus No. 8 game down to the wire, and that came in 2010 when Montrose lost to Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) by two points.

This year, FAB 50 No. 9 Montrose Christian (20-2) snagged the second seed and opens the tournament with seventh-seeded Ravenscroft (Ravenscroft, N.C.). The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A champions come in with a 31-3 mark, but they didn't venture too far from home this season and are decided underdogs against the defending NHSI champions.

Returning from last year's championship team is emotional leader Justin Anderson, a Virginia recruit, and Michael Carrera, who averaged a record 12.7 rebounds in Montrose Christian's three victories. Stu Vetter's club has to show its backcourt is capable without reigning tourney MVP Tyrone Johnson (now at Villanova), but Ravenscroft has even more to prove. The last two years, the NCISAA entrant has been routed in its opener.

After missing last year's event because of key early season losses, No. 12 Montverde Academy is back in the fold as the third seed. Kevin Sutton coached the team in 2010 when they advanced to the finals, but this year the 21-3 Mustangs have a new coach in Kevin Boyle. He turned St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) into a national power but his program never had the opportunity to compete at the NHSI.

Boyle now gets the opportunity against No. 6 seed La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), a newcomer on the national scene with a big and talented roster. Montverde not only faces the challenge of a hungry 25-2 team ranked No. 23, they also face the challenge of idle time. Montverde had not played another high school since Feb. 4.

One team that certainly won't have any problems with idle time is fourth seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), which competed in the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational last weekend. Gray Bees lost only their second game of the season (33-2) to eventual tournament champion DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) in the semifinals.

Had St. Benedict's won that tournament without its point guard (Tyler Ennis) and sixth man (Jordan Forehand), there's a strong possibility they would have been seeded second. They only dropped five spots in the FAB 50 to No. 15 (two spots behind DeMatha) and will open the NHSI against fifth-seeded Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.), the FHSAA Class 7A state champ ranked No. 16. If Ennis and Forehand are not healthy for St. Benedict's, they could have trouble stopping the backcourt of Ely, which has proven its scoring ability in big games this season.

If St. Benedict's situation is any indication, this could be the most balanced NHSI field yet. Findlay Prep wants another crack at La Lumiere to avenge its only loss, but in order for that to occur both teams have to advance to the championship game. If history is any indication, La Lumiere might have a good shot at the semifinals (where defending champion Montrose Christian could be waiting) since the No. 6 seed has won in the opening round the past two years.

"You play 30 games for a seeding, but when the ball goes up, everyone is 0-0," said Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck. "We're blessed to be able to participate, as these games give the competing teams some closure."

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

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