NPS Weekend Preview
After another amazing start to the National Prep Showcase on Friday, this weekend’s matchups are sure to provide more drama and late-game heroics at Albertus Magnus, in New Haven, CT. Here are previews of just a few of the highlighted matchups coming our way, along with some key figures in the history of these powerhouse basketball programs.
Fork Union Military Academy vs St. Thomas More (Saturday 9:30am)
Matchup: After an emotional win against Notre Dame Prep to kick off this year’s Prep Showcase in style, Fork Union looks to ride their momentum into their matchup with St. Thomas More, another winner from Friday. Lewis Freeman’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Fork Union the 46-45 victory over Travis Atson and a strong ND Prep crew, but it was the physical paint presence of 6’8” Corey Douglas that really set the tone for Matt Donohue’s squad. They’ll have their hands full on Saturday morning against a St. Thomas More team that got off to an early lead against IMG Academy by neutralizing Jonathon Isaac (#9 in ESPN 100) behind the swift ball movement, smooth long range shooting, and unselfish team-oriented ball that we’ve become accustomed to in a Jere Quinn coached team. Villanova-bound big man Omari Spellman and future UNLV guard Christian Vital each showed off their well-rounded arsenals throughout. Spellman finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds while holding Isaac to 7 points and 6 boards. Vital’s 25 points and 8 rebounds were both game highs in an 89-79 STM victory. Fork Union will have to stick to their hard nose style of play in order to take their opponent, whose rotation goes 8-deep with future mid-to-high-major players, out of their comfort zone.
Hoops History: Both programs boast a proud history of producing players who have gone on to play at every level of college and professional basketball, but during the ’96-’97 and ’97-’98 seasons these programs played a key role on one of the best teams in the country. Fork Union product Shammond Williams and St. Thomas More alum Ed Cota combined to form one of the most devastating backcourts in America for the North Carolina Tarheels. Williams was in his final two seasons in Chapel Hill, averaging 15ppg over those campaigns, while Cota was just starting his storied career for Dean Smith, averaging 8 points and 7.1 assists per contest on a team that also featured Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. The duo played an integral role in leading UNC to back-to-back Final Four appearances, where they would lose to eventual National Champion Arizona in ’97 and an Andre Miller-led Utah team in ’98.
Hargrave Military Academy vs Northfield Mount Hermon (Saturday 1:00pm)
Matchup: Hargrave enters Saturday’s action after a strong defensive effort on Friday afternoon, while also receiving a tremendous individual performance from VCU-commit De’Riante Jenkins (32 points, 9 rebounds) during an 86-79 win over the Cardinals. Jenkins and his experienced teammates will matchup against the youngest team in this year’s field, but a team that might also feature some of the most talented long-term prospects in this year’s Showcase, in Northfield Mount Hermon. John Carroll’s team features prospects Tomas Murphy, Nate Laszewski, and Max Lorca in the Class of ’17, ’18, and ’19 respectively. But NMH’s talent only begins there. Ian Sistare and A.J. Brodeur (committed to Penn) lead this year’s team and are two of the most experienced players that you can find in NEPSAC basketball. That experience combined with youthful exuberance will have to pay major dividends if NMH hopes to pull off the upset of a Hargrave team that runs 8-players deep with D1 talent.
Hoops History: Northfield Mount Hermon’s presence can be felt throughout major college basketball, but nowhere is it more significant than in the Ivy League. Since 2007, NMH has sent 23 players to the Ivy ranks, including four off a 2013 squad that won a National Championship. John Carroll’s 2015 graduates included Stanford’s Josh Sharma and Northwestern’s Aaron Falzon, who are currently making immediate impacts on campus. Hargrave’s basketball alumni aren’t just making an impact at the college level, but they’re also winning at the NBA level as well. Mareese Speights won an NBA Championship with the Golden State warriors last year as a key contributor off the bench.
Brewster Academy vs Sunrise Christian Academy (Saturday @ 4:30pm)
Brewster Academy vs Spire Institute (Sunday @ 10am)
Matchups: Jason Smith’s Brewster Academy program might not feature some of the big-name mega prospects as it has in year’s past, but this year’s version of Brewster guarantees to be just as tough, well-coached, and might actually be able to play the Disrespect card for the first time in a while. Led by uncommitted breakout star Alpha Diallo, CJ Keyser (Wichita St), Rapolas Ivanauskas (Northwestern), and Deleon Brown (Colorado), what Brewster’s ’15-’16 team lacks in name recognition they make up for in unique skillsets and matchup nightmares. Both Sunrise and Spire will be hard pressed to match Brewster’s level of outside shooting and playmaking ability but each will bring future University of Illinois-Chicago players to the floor to face the challenge. Spire’s Jordan Blount and Sunrise’s KJ Santos, a familiar name to New England fans after playing at South Kent last season, committed to UIC in the last few weeks and will undoubtedly be ready to make a name for themselves when they face New England’s premier basketball program this weekend.
Hoops History: While Sunrise and Spire are relatively new programs to the Prep scene, Brewster features one of the most impressive recent groups of basketball alumni in the country. With six former players currently on NBA rosters (TJ Warren, Jeff Adrien, Thomas Robinson, JaKarr Sampson, Mitch McGrary, and Will Barton) and a few more well on their way in Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland and UConn’s Jalen Adams, you don’t have to go very far back to find the star power in Brewster’s program. But the fact that players like current Oklahoma City Thunder PF Mitch McGrary and current University of Wisconsin SG Alex Illikainen came off the bench on their respective Brewster teams highlights the unselfish nature of Jason Smith’s programs where winning and team chemistry is paramount.