Friday, April 5, 2013
Elite recruits shine in NHSI quarterfinals
By Dave Telep
NORTH BETHESDA, Md. -- Now in its fifth year, the National High School Invitational has evolved each season. On Thursday, in front of the best crowds the event has ever had, eight nationally ranked teams and more than a dozen ESPN 100 seniors competed in the quarterfinals of an elite national high school championship tournament.
Three of the players -- No. 1 seed Findlay Prep’s (Nev.) Nigel Williams-Goss and No. 2 seed Montverde Academy’s (Fla.) Kasey Hill and Dakari Johnson -- hopped on early morning flights directly from Wednesday’s McDonald’s All American Game. Sleep could be had later. There was a championship to play for, and they came with the best they could muster.
When the final buzzer sounded on a wild day of quarterfinal action that included two overtime games and a fourth-quarter comeback from the No. 1 seed, Findlay, Montverde, No. 3 seed Prime Prep (Texas) and No. 4 seed St. Benedict’s (N.J.) emerged from close calls to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
In the semifinals, Prime Prep will take on Montverde (2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.com) in a battle of teams loaded with Division I prospects, while Findlay will face St. Benedict’s (4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.com) in a clash of heady point guards between Washington recruit Williams-Goss and Syracuse-bound Tyler Ennis. The winners will play for the title on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.com.
Here were the highlights from Thursday’s quarterfinal action:
• Findlay had no business beating No. 8 seed Montrose Christian (Md.), especially after the Pilots got smoked on the glass. However, Williams-Goss was not to be denied. He has played so well at this event the past two years that they ought to hang his jersey at Georgetown Prep. He took over the game in the final quarter and literally willed Findlay to a win. NWG was the only Pilot in double-figure scoring with 26 points.
• Neither Montrose nor Findlay are strong when it comes to scoring. Despite the names on the backs of the jerseys, both can be prone to stretches of offensive inefficiency. Playing point for Montrose, Baylor-bound forward Ishmail Wainright had 21 points.
No. 1 senior center Dakari Johnson is a load in the post and on the boards.
• Montverde’s Dakari Johnson went big -- real big. The Kentucky-bound center had 17 points and 13 rebounds and powered the Eagles, who narrowly escaped a No. 7-seeded Oak Hill Academy (Va.) team that played loose and with nothing to lose. Florida-bound point guard Kasey Hill had 10 assists and junior D'Angelo Russell was accurate four times from 3-point range for Montverde.
• Remember this name: 2015 power forward Ben Simmons. Montverde is loaded, but this Australian import is the best prospect on the team. A triple-threat forward, Simmons dazzled with his passing, athleticism and skill. He’s among the handful of elite sophomores in the class, and that’s being conservative.
• Ennis wasn’t about to let St. Benedict’s leave D.C. with another first-round loss. No. 5 seed La Lumiere (Ind.) had no answer for the Canadian native.
• La Lumiere junior wing Sam Logwood should emerge as a high-major target this spring. He’s built for the Big Ten, and we’re just beginning to construct his profile.
• Had it not called a timeout when it didn’t have one, No. 6 seed Blanche Ely (Fla.) might have hung on for an overtime win over Prime Prep. Instead, it was Prime Prep that was fortunate to get a hard-fought win. Super 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay struggled with his shot, but he threw pinpoint alley-oops.
• The most improved senior so far has been Prime’s Jordan Mickey. He’s moved from prospect to player, and his live body in the lane combined with eight blocked shots make LSU’s future frontcourt of Mickey and Jarrell Martin look real good going into next fall. Mickey scored 28 points on Thursday.
• Rider signee Kahlil Thomas of Ely should be a player for his college. Slightly undersized but blessed with desire and toughness in the paint, he’s exactly what you want in a smaller conference big man.