For many people, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend represents a time for reflection and understanding of the sacrifice that was made by King and others in the battle for equality. In the basketball world, it is the last major weekend of national-caliber matchups before the state playoffs roll around. This year's MLK weekend is loaded with showdowns from around the country, most notably No. 1 St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) vs. No. 5 Windward (Los Angeles, Calif). Here is a brief preview of the weekend's elite matchups:
Battle of the Southeast (Norcross, Ga.)
No. 13 Norcross (Ga.) vs.
No. 8 Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Two of the top teams in the Southeast will play on Saturday in an attempt to improve their position in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings. Norcross comes into the fold with an 11-2 record and playing its best basketball of the season after a win over Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.). Riverdale is coming off a runner-up finish in the Holiday Invitational after a loss to No. 4 McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.).
No. 20 Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.) vs.
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Wesleyan is the host school for the tournament, and the perennial Georgia High School Association Class A state powerhouse will put its national status on the line Saturday against a loaded Oak Hill roster. Wesleyan is led by four Division I-bound seniors in Missy Byrd (Air Force), Kaelyn Causwell (Georgia), Jordan Frazier (Wofford) and Holli Wilkins (Furman). Oak Hill counters with a big-time senior of its own in post player Jodie Cornelie (Dayton).
Classic in the Country (Berlin, Ohio)
Fairmont (Kettering, Ohio) vs. No. 14 Twinsburg (Ohio)
Last year, a young but talented Fairmont team lost to Twinsburg 55-42 in the Division I state championship game. On Saturday they will meet again. This time, Fairmont's dynamic duo of Makayla Waterman, the No. 17 prospect in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the class of 2014, and Kathryn Westbeld, the No. 19 player in 2014, are a year older. Will they be able to dethrone the recent dominance of Malina Howard, the No. 7 senior prospect, and Twinsburg, who haven't lost to a team from Ohio since March of 2010?
Notre Dame (Toledo, Ohio) vs. No. 23 Princeton (Cincinnati, Ohio)
This Sunday matchup features two of the best young players in the country, not just Ohio. Princeton is home to the No. 1 player in the class of 2014, 5-foot-7 guard Kelsey Mitchell and her smooth scoring attack. Not to be outdone, Notre Dame features one of the top 2015 prospects in the country in Tierra Floyd, a 5-11 wing.
McDonald's Shootout (Willowbrook, Ill.)
Montini Catholic (Lombard, Ill.) vs. No. 17 Whitney Young (Chicago)
Beating Whitney Young is no easy task, but Montini just might have a lineup that can compete. Montini features Malayna Johnson, a 6-4 junior post player who has committed to Wisconsin, and Diamond Thompson, a 6-4 post who has committed to Notre Dame. In order to pull off the upset on Monday, Montini will have to start by finding a way to corral Janee Thompson (Kentucky), the No. 35 class of 2012 player, and Linnae Harper, No. 6 in the class of 2013.
No. 7 Bolingbrook (Ill.) vs. Niles West (Skokie, Ill.)
Bolingbrook will look to make life tough for Niles West and Notre Dame-bound Jewell Loyd, the No. 4 player in the class of 2012. Bolingbrook's only setback of the season was against Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.), which features Breanna Stewart, the nation's No. 1 player. Niles West will hope to use the same approach on Monday night.
MLK Extravaganza (Phoenix, Ariz.)
No. 1 St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) vs.
No. 5 Windward (Los Angeles)
In what is probably the premier matchup of the holiday weekend, Windward travels to Phoenix on Monday to play St. Mary's. Both teams fared very well at the Nike Tournament of Champions, with Windward placing third after falling to Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 70-61 in the semifinals and St. Mary's taking the championship after beating Riverdale Baptist 79-69. Windward is led by Texas signee Imani Stafford and 2014 point guard Jordin Canada, while St. Mary's is led by Harvard-bound wing Shilpa Tummala, Louisville-bound post Cortnee Walton and 2014 guard Courtney Ekmark.
Philadelphia Play-By-Play (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Council Rock North (Newtown, Pa.) vs.
Prep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Council Rock North and its 6-3 Princeton signee Alex Wheatley will face off against Prep Charter, which is led by Rutgers-bound wing Kahleah Copper, the No. 17 prospect in 2012, and 2014 post Erin Garner on Saturday.
Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.) vs. Shipley (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)
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Brandon Clay is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the publisher of the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report and the owner of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001 as a recruiting analyst, event operator and trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.