Trimming the Fat
More action from the ESPN/RISE National High School Invitational.
by Aggrey Sam
Yesterday’s NHSI semifinal action at Georgetown Prep didn’t go quite as I expected, but one thing it did prove was who is at the head of the class when it comes to boys high school basketball teams this season. I’ll be brief.
Oak Hill vs. St. Benedict’s:
–While this game close early on (five-point game at the half), Oak Hill extends its cushion by the late stages, and despite St. Ben’s knocking down treys, the held off the Jersey squad, 74-66.
–St. Ben’s senior Tamir Jackson, a 6-3 guard, is going to be nice at Rice. While I definitely believe he could play at a higher level, I love it when kids go somewhere they can make an immediate impact. “Pops” can shoot it, both from deep and mid-range, he’s heady, defends well and handles it well enough to get to the bucket.
–One senior who hasn’t made his college choice yet (although he committed to Louisville as a sophomore and pledged to–and subsequently de-committed from–Virginia Tech this season) is Oak Hill’s Lamont Jones. More of a scoring point or a combo guard than a true floor general, “Momo” has been on tilt for certain stretches of this tourney. Whether it’s getting to the basket and finishing tough shots with contact or knocking down deep jumpers with a hand in his face, he’s certainly proved to be an explosive point producer. That said, I hope the NYC native makes the right decision in regards to selecting a college. I mean, he’s switched schools (Rice to American Christian to Oak Hill) so often, I don’t think anybody would be surprised if he transferred in college.
–Just as I jotted down how St. Ben’s sophomore point Myck Kabongo was doing a nice job taking care of the ball and making solid decisions despite tough D by Oak Hill junior Pe’Shon Howard, the opposite begins to occur. Pe’Shon (much-improved lateral quickness) wears down the thinner Kabongo, forcing im into some crucial mistakes down the stretch.
–Classy move by St. Ben’s coach Danny Hurley to sub out seniors Jackson and Pitt-bound Lamar Patterson in their final high school game for the school.
–”Momo” leads Oak Hill with 22, while Tiny Gallon chips in with 13 and 14. St. Ben’s was led by Jackson’s 20, junior wing Aaron Brown’s 18 and Kabongo’s 14, six boards and five dimes.
Montrose Christian vs. Findlay Prep:
–While I wasn’t shocked at the result of the first game, I expected the second semifinal to be more of a contest. I was wrong. Findlay used smothering D to subdue Montrose by the count of 60-43.
–When I used the phrase “smothering D,” you could substitute that for “Avery Bradley.” The Texas signee was extremely disruptive in the early going, amking it hard for Montrose’s ballhandlers to live, let alone get the ball past halfcourt. On top of that, he was unconscious on offense. His explosive transition finishes, no-fear drives to the cup and pure shooting from all over the court were outright sensational. Talking to my man Joey Whelan, we agreed that he has some Ben Gordon to him offensively (although his handle needs to improve and he penetrates more frequently than Ben), but defensively, he has a chance to be really special.
–Findlay’s perimeter D–while Bradley led the way, Illinois recruit DJ Richardson was almost his equal–forces Montrose to play to their strength, feeding their star big man, Mouphtaou Yarou. “Mouph” was simply too big for Findlay’s slimmer bigs to handle one-on-one, but constant double teams and eventually a zone, limited his effectiveness. Findlay junior Godwin Okonji, a 6-9 junior, was the most impressive individual defender, but he had a lot of help, as Montrose was held to an abysmal shooting performance. Still, I liked how “Mouph” passed out of double teams, something he may need to do during his ‘Nova (tough loss last night, fellas) career.
–The fact that Findlay’s Tristan Thompson and Montrose’s Justin Anderson, the two players with perhaps the highest long-term ceilings in this contest (and tournament), both come off the bench, is funny to me. So is the fact that Findlay only goes eight deep (hey, that’s their whole student body), but has fans who traveled from Vegas with signs and all. It’s likes Findlay’s been waiting for this game all season to officially put them on the map.
–Speaking of Anderson, while he didn’t have the same performance he did on Friday, I was just as, if not more, impressed by him yesterday. He was assigned the unenviable task of defending Bradley, and while Bradley cooked him just as thoroughly as he did the other Montrose defenders, he at least made him work for his shots by using his length. Shows just how highly Montrose coach Stu Vetter thinks of him. In addition, he used his top-notch athleticism to make a couple of huge blocks on Bradley (a high flyer himself, he reciprocated on the other end) and had a big-time put-back dunk.
–For Findlay, Bradley finishes with 27, six boards, three (spectacular) blocks and four steals, Richardson adds 12 and five and Thompson contributes eight and 10, with three steals. Villanova signee Isaiah Armwood leads Montrose with 10, eight boards and four blocks in a losing effort.
–Stay tuned for my recap of today’s chip, featuring Findlay and Oak Hill, or catch it on ESPN at 3 p.m. Eastern. Should be a good one.