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.”
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.”