In Hoops We Trust
Recapping the National Christian Schools Championship.
by Rodger Bohn
With many states’ governing athletic bodies baring Christian schools from state tournaments due to recruiting tactics, it tends to make it a little difficult for some of the nation’s elite players to truly have something to play for night in and night out. Sure, they’ll be playing in a gym in front of tons of college coaches and against some of the best comp in the country, but many of the top cats don’t even have an opportunity to play in front of 1,000 fans in one game for the entire season…let alone play for a championship of sorts.
Soon to be NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans would be a prime example of this. For the majority of his high school career, he played in front of gyms with nothing but college coaches and absolute die-hard basketball fans. Reke was the prime example of a kid who was completely molded off of prep school and AAU basketball, which made many basketball fundamentalists state that he’d never be able to adjust to the more disciplined structure in college or the NBA. Well, looks like somebody is biting their words now.
Enter in Family First Sports Park, which has been host to the National Christian Schools Athletic Association National Championships for over a half of a decade now. One of the sickest facilities I’ve ever seen, it offers three full NBA courts, a number of soccer fields, and a state of the art weight room. If you’re ever making the trip through Erie, PA for some reason, it’s def a place to check out.
Quality Education Academy out of North Carolina ended up taking home the crown, topping Life Center from Jersey in the finals. The win not only gave QEA the crown, but put them with a 27-8 record against a schedule that pegged them against virtually every one of the nation’s top teams. Not to be deemed a prep school, QEA coach Issac Pitts informed us that his school does not accept fifth year players and has been a strong standing academic school long before the basketball program came around. We had a chance to check out both of the campuses during QEA’s Tourney in November and can say it definitely appears to be quite legit.
Here are some of the top PUNKS we saw in Erie:
Quincy Miller | 6-8 | SF/PF | Quality Education (NC) | 2011
Simply put, Miller straight killed anyone he went up against as Quality Education took home the crown. As the season has went on, the Chicago native has continued to make his case for top player of the Class of 2011 stronger and stronger. He gave us the full deal on both ends of the floor in his team’s W over our Savior. Offensively, he showed off his quick release from beyond the arc, took smaller guys to the blocks, and handled the ball well in the open floor. On D, Miller proved he can guard both bigs and wings with his length and athleticism. To top things off, Quincy had a nasty coast to coast take that resulted in a poster for an unnamed Our Savior defender. Mike Gilchrist, it’s your turn now in the next episode of “Who’s Number One?”
Dion Waiters | 6-3 | PG/SG | Life Center (NJ) | 2010
Life Center walked away with two pretty easy victories in the games that we caught, so the Syracuse commit was only forced to play sparingly on day one. The shifty guard was still a bit turnover prone, but showed the unstoppable scoring skills that made him one of the top guards in the country with his ability to finish in traffic and effortless jumper. The McDonald’s All American snub made some jaw dropping passes with both hands and should be able to see immediate PT for Syracuse next year.
LaQuinton Ross | 6-7 | SG/SF | Life Center (NJ) | 2011
In the same situation as Waiters, Ross saw little PT in the blowout victories. The super-skilled wing drilled a number of NBA threes and showed off the high talent level that made him the nation’s top player as a ninth grader. Unfortunately for “Q”, he hasn’t progressed quite as much as many of the other counterparts in his class and sees himself a ways behind athletically at this point in the game. Not taking anything away from Ross, he’s still going to have his choice of virtually any power school in the country but he’s not the top dog in the class anymore like he once was.
Stargell Love | 6-3 | PG | Quality Education (NC) | 2010
Love wasn’t quite on his “A” game when we saw him, largely due to the fact that he’s fresh off of a high ankle sprain. Coach Pitts told us this was the most he’d played in over a month, so he get’s a freebie from us. We didn’t see any of the usual ankle breaking handles but the Baylor recruit showed nice leadership on the hardwood. Things could be scary down in Waco next year with Epke Udoh (if he doesn’t bounce to the League), LaceDarius Dunn, and McDonald’s All-American Perry Jones in the fold.
Aaron Bowen | 6-5 | SG/SF | Quality Education (NC) | 2010
The “Flawda boy” from Jacksonville got it done at his transplant school, shooting the lights out of the rock and showing off his athleticism in traffic. Bowen’s ability to stretch the D should enable him to get some burn right away in Georgetown’s system, and it’s quite rare to find a shooter this late in the game with his size and athleticism. Good get, Mr. Thompson.
Juvonte Reddic | 6-9 | PF/C | Quality Education (NC) | 2010
VCU struck gold twice with NBA (or NBA bound) players in Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders. Both were relatively unheralded players who had holes in their game, but had nice amounts of upside. Reddic has a chance to find himself in that class one day, if he continues to build upon the considerable potential he has. The recent VCU commit has the ideal size, length and athleticism you look for a big. Throw in the blossoming offensive skills he’s developing and you see why programs such as Maryland and Oklahoma offered him a scholly. The Carolina native is still rough around the edges and has a long ways to go before he’s in same breath as his VCU counterparts, but the raw potential is definitely there for him to be there one day.
Jevon Thomas | 6-0 | PG | Our Savior New American (NY) | 2013
After catching our eye at the Morgantown Primetime Shootout, we came to check out this youngster again while we were down here in Erie. Unfortunately for Thomas, he didn’t fare as well against Quality Education this time around individually, or as a team. He struggled a bit dealing with QEA’s chaotic press and was forced into a number of turnovers before the ball even crossed half court. To his defense, he didn’t have much help handling the rock and when he did cross the timeline, dropped some sick dimes and showed his nasty court vision. Definitely a lead guard to peep in the Class of 2013.
Walter Pitchford | 6-10 | PF/C | New Creations (IN) | 2010
Pitchford is still really rough around the edges, but has tons and tons of upside down the road for a school that has time to develop a big man. Once committed to DePaul, it’s unsure if he will wind up heading there due to the coaching uncertainty that is going on in Chicago right now. What is sure is that Pitchford does a great job running the floor, is a very explosive leaper, and has shown the ability to hit the 12 foot jumper while facing the basket. There’s still a lot of work to be done before he’s ready to step in and make a major contribution, but definitely a name to remember for down the road.
Kervens Calixte | 6-4 | SG | God’s Academy (TX) | 2010
The Haitian native showed off his pure scoring tools in Erie, getting buckets from inside and out for God’s Academy. He’s not quite as elite of a prospect as the others we’ve mentioned, but is an athletic power guard who can drill the three and finish in the paint. Calixte is receiving interest from TCU, South Florida, North Texas, and FIU and could wind up being a real nice two guard at the mid-major level.