This matchup between back-to-back defending ESPN Rise National High School Invitational Champions Findlay Prep (Nev.) and Yates (Texas), Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN3.com, might be the most entertaining game of the year.
Findlay Prep is led by a top-notch backcourt of Texas signee Myck Kabongo and Arizona signee Nick Johnson, two likely McDonald's All Americans. Kabongo is arguably the best pure point guard in the 2011 class. His elite level athleticism and quickness combined with high percentage decision making are what sets him apart from his peers. Johnson is one of the best competitors in the class and can impact the game in a variety of ways. Offensively, he can take it hard to the rim or nail the 3-point shot, while defensively he can lock down his opponent or make an outstanding block.
The No. 1 ranked team in the country also has quality depth with St. John's signee SF Amir Garrett and power forward Winston Shepard. Garrett plays with great energy and is a great competitor at both ends. He is a menace in the open court and tough to stop due to his speed and bounce. Shepard is an athletic forward who can make plays on the break or inside the arc in the half-court set.
Findlay Prep must focus on the three T's during this game. First is tempo. Don't get caught up in just trading baskets. Pass up the good shot and use some clock to get a great shot. Second is transition. On every shot attempt, Findlay must send three men back to make it more of a half-court game. Third is turnovers. Findlay Prep must limit them, especially the live ball ones because Yates thrives on points off turnovers.
Both clubs score at an incredible pace, but Yates is averaging 111 points per game. This is in large part because of its fast tempo and pressing defense. No lead is safe against this Houston team because it can make up a double digit deficit in a matter of minutes with constant pressing, trapping and harassing of the basketball. When Yates pressures it never stops which will make it hard for Findlay Prep to run any kind of offense. Yates will trap the first pass after an inbounds pass and continue with second and third traps down the floor as well. On top of that, the No. 27 ranked team in the country will trap all ball screens and randomly trap anyone it wants. If Findlay Prep shoots quickly and misses, Yates will sprint to score.
Offensively, Yates has a whopping 11 players averaging double figure points. Leading the way are Weber State signee SG Shai Fields and sophomore Damyeon Dotson who are both averaging 21 points per game.
If you leave your TV for just a minute during this game, you can count on the score changing when you get back.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.