Austin Rivers remembers it like it happened yesterday. It was the one and only time he and Brandon Knight played against each other one-on-one in a game of 21.
"I was 12 and he was 13," recalled Rivers. "He won the first game, and I won the second game."
Rivers, who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU Super 60, is hoping for more of the latter when he leads FAB 50 No. 16 Winter Park (Fla.) against Knight, ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 100, and Pine Crest (Fla.) Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
"I'm so used to playing with him," Rivers said. "This will be a lot of fun. Just different."
The two teamed up on Team STAT, out of Florida, to form the most lethal backcourt on the AAU circuit last summer.
"We were just dominating people," Rivers said. "So on Friday, I would definitely expect a lot of scoring. It will be intense because we've always been teammates."
Often times, Rivers guards the opposing team's best player. That won't change in this game, although he'll need to be spelled at times.
"When you're going against a player of Brandon's caliber, you have to rest a little bit," Rivers said. "Especially when you have to do a lot of scoring yourself. Then you don't want to get in foul trouble. So I'd expect to be guarding him most of the game, but probably not the entire game."
He went on to say the buzz around Florida is that this game will decide, once and for all, who is the best player in Florida, a claim Rivers doesn't agree with.
"You're not gonna be able to tell that in one game," Rivers said. "I could get hot and he could be off, or vice versa. When it's two really talented players it's just left up to people's opinions unless it's obvious, and it's not obvious either way. I'm really looking forward to it."
Montverde maturity shines through
FAB 50 No. 10 Montverde Academy (Fla.) is coming off of its biggest win of the season, knocking off previous No. 2 Findlay Prep (Nev.), 54-51, in the title game of the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament on Jan. 30.
Now Jamail Jones, a Marquette signee who is ranked No. 53 in the ESPNU 100, and James Bell, a Villanova signee who is ranked No. 40, will lead the Eagles against Sagemont (Fla.) Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. Montverde knocked off the International Community School (Winter Park, Fla.) on Tuesday.
"We always play a national schedule and had the opportunity to play and win against Findlay," said Montverde coach Kevin Sutton. "We have a very mature team, and I don't see this game as an opportunity for a letdown after a big win like that."
Jones and Bell combine to average 34.5 points per game.
"They're both outstanding players for us, obviously," said Sutton. "So we'll need big games out of them. Like I said, they're mature kids and they don't get rattled. This game will be no different."
Keefer confident in young club
Lawrence North's (Indianapolis, Ind.) duo of center Michael Chandler, ranked No. 27 in the ESPNU Super 60, and small forward Ryan Taylor combine to average 26 points and 18 rebounds per game. Both are juniors, close friends and even committed to Louisville a day apart (Jan. 4 and 5, 2009).
"They gel together really well on the court," Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer said. "It really helps to have two really good players that play so well together and know each other so well."
Despite his big reputation, Chandler is playing his first year on the varsity level and going through the typical growing pains.
"He's double- and tripled-teamed every game," Keefer said. "But I think that, all things considered, he's handling everything well. He gets more aggressive every game. It helps that Ryan is the guy we look to first, but both of them are very capable."
Keefer hopes that will help when the Wildcats face Bishop Luers (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) and its star small forward Deshaun Thomas, an Ohio State signee who is ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU 100, Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.
"You've just got to give him his 30 points and hope he doesn't get 40," said Keefer of Thomas. "He's prone to bad shots and complains, but he's got a lot of ability. We've got to contain him, but I'm confident in what we've got."
Sagemont ready for the challenge
Sagemont (Fla.) coach Adam Ross hopes that his team's exposure at big tournaments earlier this season will help combat any lingering nerves when they face Montverde Academy (Fla.) Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU.
"We've played on a couple of big stages at the City of Palms Classic and the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions," Ross said. "We were playing in front of 9,000 people every night. It's going to be an even bigger stage on TV, and I try not to speak about it too much because that can really start to mess with your head if you do. Our game preparation has been the same all year long."
That means getting the ball inside to star center Fabricio Melo, a Syracuse signee who is ranked No. 20 in the ESPNU 100. Melo is averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per game despite being the focal point of most opposing team's defensive strategy.
"He wants to score the ball more so it's frustrating," Ross said. "But he understands that all comes with it. It took him a little while to adjust and he's done a great job. He'll be ready for the game."
Give and Go
One player reportedly left a FAB 50-ranked club and another is returning to a team that hopes to crack the FAB 50 in the coming weeks.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Terrence Ross, ranked No. 26 in the ESPNU 100, withdrew from FAB 50-ranked Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) on Tuesday. ESPN RISE confirmed his departure with a source affiliated with the program. Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter told The Washington Post late Wednesday night it was, "a parental decision."
Ross, originally from Portland, Ore., played for Portland's Jefferson High as a freshman and a sophomore. Ross' mother decided to home school him for his sophomore season while his played on Jefferson's varsity along with Terrence Jones, who is now a senior for the FAB 50 West Region-ranked Democrats.
Another team regionally ranked in the West, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, welcomed the return on Long Beach State-bound Shelton Boykin in Wednesday night's 61-53 win over cross-town Millikan. The 6-foot-5 Boykin broke his wrist at the Whataburger Tournament in late December.
A source affiliated with the program was told by Boykins' mother his doctor cleared him to play sometime last week, after it was originally thought he would be lost for the season. In approximately seven minutes against the Rams, Boykin had a point and three rebounds. More importantly, Boykin still must be accounted for around the rim because of his athleticism and will become a bigger threat as he gets more comfortable playing with his off-hand. Our source indicates he's around "50 percent" and remained in shape even though he did not see game action for over a month.
The 20-3 Jackrabbits have not lost since a 45-40 setback to Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) at the Whataburger on Dec. 30 and earlier handed Portland Jefferson one of its two on-court losses. Poly is currently ranked No. 10 in the West and Jefferson No. 8. Jefferson handed FAB 50 ranked Federal Way (Wash.) its only loss while Poly lost to Federal Way by a point.
Ronnie Flores contributed to this story.