DC and BMore’s finest come up big at the Under Armour I-95 Challenge.
by Kye Stephenson
As the summer hoops season kicks off, one of the marquee events featuring upcoming high school talent is the Under Armour I-95 Elite Challenge. The third-annual event pits DC-area schools against Baltimore, in three games from the 2013, 2012 and 2011 classes.
Founded in 2008 by Dwayne Wise, the event has become one of the top showcases of talent in the MD/DC-area. And this year was no different, taking in players from some of the top school’s in the region, including Montrose Christian (Kevin Durant’s alma mater), DeMatha, Dunbar, and St. Frances, whose head coach is former Temple University star Mark Karcher. Karcher and Wise, who are cousins, have used their connections to tap in to the talent-rich region and bring together a juggernaut of talent under one roof. (UA also repped its first annual Best of the Best tournament in Atlanta, another overlooked hoops hotbed–Ed.)
“Dwayne and I teamed-up and used the relationships we have with the various local athletic programs to bring these kids together,” Karcher said. “The area does not have a game of this caliber; therefore we wanted to bring an exciting new twist to Baltimore basketball. It is also a great opportunity for the kids because they are able to play against the best and showcase their talents.”
Karcher and his St. Frances team are also at the root of the connection to Under Armour, whose main headquarters is located in Baltimore.
“Under Armour is the brand the St. Frances Academy basketball program wears, so it was only suiting to continue to leverage the relationship with the brand and the school and have them take part in the tournament,” said Karcher.
Taking place this past Saturday, June 5 at Baltimore City Community College, SLAMonline was on-hand to take-in the games and check out the abundance of rising prospects from the area.
The Class of 2013 kicked-off the day’s festivities–with brand-spanking-new Under Armour kicks laced-up—and the two smallest player’s on the court made the biggest splash. On the Baltimore side, 5-6 Aquille Carr showed why he was named a Baltimore Sun All-Metro player and ESPN Rise top 10 ranked PG, as he reigned over the court with blazing quickness helping Baltimore build a sizable lead over their counterparts. A Patterson High School product, Carr finished with 20 points and proved he’s on his way to big-time recruit status, growth-spurt or not.
Not to be outdone, 5-11 Jevon Thomas poured in a game-high 24 points for DC, showing an ability to finish with both hands and attack the rim with controlled intensity. He was flanked by Emonte Rogers, who added 12 points, but ultimately their efforts were not enough as the first game went to Bmore 63-49.
The 2012 game was the game everyone came to see, due to the inclusion of the recently-transferred Chris Thomas. The 6-5 swingman is a Denver-native who is now attending Princeton Day Academy. Thomas, along with PDA teammate Jade Dade, are actually of the 2013 Class but played in the ’12 game due to transportation issues. The level-up proved to be a non-factor.
Playing for the DC squad, Thomas led both sides with 21 points and showed why the word “advanced” is always attached to his name; handling the ball, shooting from the outside and rockin’ the rim. “Chris Thomas is nasty,” Dwayne Wise stated after the game.
But, despite Thomas’ efforts, it was the Baltimore side that took control of the game getting solid scoring numbers from Isaiah Miles (17 points), Evan Singletary (14 points), and Quentin Judd (14 points) beating DC 81-70.
Capping-off the day was the 2011 game which boasted some notable names on both sides including St. Frances forward Greg Lewis (top 100/rivals.com), Durand Johnson (top 125/rivals.com), and Treveon Graham (WCAC co-player of the year).
Though both teams started off a little slow and lacked rhythm, DC gained an edge when 6-1 guard Tyler Hubbard checked-in. Hubbard, from Montrose Christian, took control offensively, slashing to the basket and hitting open shots. In a fairly haphazard, up-tempo game, Hubbard had a calming effect which translated to a sizable lead.
Baltimore was able to remain relatively close, in due part to Johnson’s scoring and some excellent passing from Kevin Smith. Johnson–currently attending Notre Dame Prep–nailed jumpers from all over the court and kept the game from becoming a complete blowout. He finished with 19 points.
He got some help from teammates Nick Faust (14 points) and Sam Cassell Jr (8 points) on the offensive-end but the defense was lacking—as is often the case in these types of games—and DC ultimately shut the door as Graham led all scorers with 20 points finishing-off Baltimore 78-64.