SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – After a light Sunday with only three national teams playing – called “the calm before the storm” by one media member – the Monday of the Hoop Hall Classic at Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass. was one of the best days of the year in high school basketball. There were four national games, all televised on ESPNU. St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) faced Bishop O’Connell (Va.), St. Anthony (N.J.) took on Westchester (Ca.) and DeMatha Catholic (Md.) battled Mater Dei (Ca.). Furthermore, the marquee match-up of the tournament was St. Patrick (N.J.) against Findlay Prep (Nev.). The gym was packed with fans, coaches and plenty of media, and the games were certainly not a disappointment. Here is a look at some of the top performers of the day:
Note: Top committed players that were featured on Monday included Kendall Marshall (14 points, 5 rebounds and 7 turnovers, North Carolina), Myck Kabongo (20 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists, Texas), Sidiki Johnson (5 points, Arizona), Aaron Brown (14 points, Temple), Devon Collier (1 points and 6 rebounds, Oregon State), Ashton Pankey (DNP, Maryland), Derrick Williams (21 points and 7 rebounds, Richmond), Eli Carter (9 points and 5 rebounds, St. Bonaventure), Kareem Jamar (17 points and 6 rebounds, Montana), Kyrie Irving (30 points, Duke), Derrick Gordon (10 points, Western Kentucky), Chase Plummer (4 points, UMBC), Josh Daniel (6 points, Wagner), Tristan Thompson (8 points and 6 rebounds, Texas), Victor Oladipo (15 points and 16 rebounds, Indiana), Tyler Lamb (23 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, UCLA), Keala King (9 points and 5 rebounds, Arizona State) and Gary Franklin (17 points, California).
Gilvydas Biruta, St. Benedict’s Prep, 2010, Rutgers: Biruta had an excellent game; he is certainly a player. He is an inside-outside forward who has a very nice stroke from three-point range but can also bang down low. Biruta is active on the backboards and is relentless when going after the ball. Furthermore, he is surprisingly athletic, finishing multiple times with fierce dunks, including a put-back off a miss. Defensively, he picks up steals and also drew a charge in the first half. Biruta is always moving and has a nose for the ball. He finished with 16 points and seven boards.
J.P. Kambola, St. Benedict’s Prep, 2010: Kambola did some of the dirty work down low at both ends, rebounding the basketball and blocking shots. He had a couple of nice blocked shots and had a few put-backs around the basket on offense. On one play, Kambola made a nice catch in transition for a lay-up. He moves well for a big man, but needs to become more aggressive offensively and improve his ability to score.
Mike Poole, St. Benedict’s Prep, 2010: Poole had seen his stock fall in the past year after being hyped as one of the better NYC prospects in his class. However, he demonstrated his potential against Bishop O’Connell early in the game. Poole knocked down two threes in the first quarter, and also picked up a couple of steals. He showed an ability to penetrate into the lane and dish it off to teammates for easy baskets and also led the fast break and transition offense for the Gray Bees.
Jordan Burgess, Bishop O’Connell, 2011: Bishop O’Connell struggled mightily against St. Benedict’s and its pressure defense throughout the game, but Burgess was a bright spot. He was able to rack up plenty of transition lay-ups and also was active around the basket despite his size. He is a tough rebounder who can get put-backs and second chances. His outside shot needs work, but he can get into the mid-range and also score with his back to the basket. He had a nice catch in the post, leading to a jump hook. Burgess finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Dwayne Polee, Westchester, 2010: Polee might be the best athlete in the country. He has a long and wiry frame, which is more conducive to him playing out on the wing, but he is not a very good shooter and is not consistent with his ability to create his own shot. However, he has tremendous leaping ability and can finish with the best of them. Polee gets out in transition for baskets and can also score off of offensive rebounds or cuts to the basket. He is very quick off his feet and is active around the basket at both ends.
Jordin Mayes, Westchester, 2010: Mayes is a crafty point guard who has plenty of ability, but was admittedly not aggressive enough against St. Anthony’s on Monday. Offensively, he can shoot the three and get into the lane against defenders. He has good dribbling ability and vision, and is a very solid facilitator of the offense. Mayes had a few nice finishes around the rim and took a couple of mid-range jumpers. He finished with nine points.
Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick, 2011: Although Gilchrist was hampered by a prior knee injury, which was aggravated when he was stepped on early in the game, he still demonstrated his potential and skill set throughout the night. He started the game with several nice drives to the basket, either to finish himself or dump it off to a teammate. He played well around the basket, getting great position for rebounds or entry passes. Gilchrist also showed a solid ability to handle the ball and lead the offense.
Cory Joseph, Findlay Prep, 2010: In the first half, Joseph showed why he is regarded as one of the premier guards in the country. He was absolutely unstoppable offensively, getting to the basket at will against Kyrie Irving, and also shutting down Irving at the other end. However, in the second half, he struggled with a cramp, which slowed him down, enabling Irving to have a big finish. Joseph has excellent quickness and dribbling ability, and he can get separation against nearly any defender. He can hit the mid-range jumper and also step out and knock down three-pointers. When his shot is falling, he’s fantastic.
Nick Johnson, Findlay Prep, 2010: Johnson was another player who stepped up throughout the game and looked like a big-time prospect. Afterwards, head coach Michael Peck said that he wants Johnson to take on the same role that former Findlay guard and current Texas standout Avery Bradley did – a lockdown defender that can score. While Johnson is not on the same level as Bradley, that is exactly what he can do. He has tremendous elevation on his jump shot and he can also finish very well at the rim. Johnson is a smart player who can handle the ball well and find open teammates.
Winston Shepard, Findlay Prep, 2012: Shepard is one of the top players in his class, and is still developing. He is a tremendous athlete who is long and active, making him a tough player to prepare for at both ends of the floor. He runs the floor very well, and can really get to the basket. Shepard is a well-rounded prospect who is going to be a dynamite player as he matures and becomes more aggressive on the offensive end.
Godwin Okonji, Findlay Prep, 2010: The bottom line is that Okonji is a phenomenal athlete who can finish at the rim with authoritative dunks and also rebound the ball very well at both ends. He has a good body and build, and gets solid position on the low block. Once he gets the ball, he can turn towards the basket for a short finish or pass it to an open teammate. Okonji can also finish effectively with contact down low. He has a great motor and played all 32 minutes.
Jerian Grant, DeMatha, 2010, Notre Dame: The future Fighting Irish guard displayed what he usually does: an excellent first step and driving ability to the basket. He drove baseline past a defender for a solid finish, and also made another lay-up with contact in the second half. Defensively, he is quick and active, picking up steals and forcing turnovers. With his speed and athleticism, he will be a major boost to Notre Dame next season. He finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Quinn Cook, DeMatha, 2011: One of the top point guards in his class, Cook showed his quickness and penetration ability on multiple occasions. His outside shot was not falling early on, but he had a nice step back jumper while fading to his left that got him going. He also hit a couple of three-pointers, and was able to get into the lane past his defender for assists and nice finishes. Cook also handled the ball very well, not turning it over much or forcing the action. Defensively, he was aggressive and forced turnovers. Cook finished with 23 points and three assists.
Mikael Hopkins, DeMatha, 2011: Due to Mater Dei’s lack of size down low, Hopkins was able to have a big game in the paint. The junior has improved every time I have seen him over the past several months, and is developing into a go-to-guy on the block. Hopkins was able to get terrific position for rebounds and entry passes, and finished well. He also is expanding his game, adding a face-up jumper and dribbling ability to his repertoire. On one occasion, he spun past a defender off the dribble for an impressive finish. Hopkins had 12 points and four rebounds.
James Robinson, DeMatha, 2012: Robinson started slowly, but he continues to impress with his all-around ability. He knocked in a couple of jump shots, showing the smoothness with which he moves into his shot. Robinson has good vision and can find teammates for baskets. He is also a tough player who can play solid defense and get loose balls. Essentially, he can do a little bit of everything and will become a more aggressive player as he gets older. Robinson had six points, five rebounds and three assists against Mater Dei.
Jerami Grant, DeMatha, 2012: The next in a long line of various Grant legends, Jerami also will likely team with Robinson to form a potent combo over the next couple of years. He is very long and athletic, but is a versatile performer who can defend down low and also play on the perimeter. Grant moves well without the ball and can pass. Furthermore, he knocked down a three-pointer from the corner and was not afraid to take shots.
Max Hooper, Mater Dei, 2010: Right now, Hooper is not much more than an outside shooter who struggles to create his own shot. However, he steps into his shot well and will knock down three-pointers in transition or in a half-court set. Once he heats up, he is difficult to contain on the perimeter. At one point, Hooper did show a nice spin move and drive, but he failed to finish once he was at the rim. He will need to become more mobile and improve his ability to create his own shot, though. Hooper had 11 points and five rebounds against DeMatha.
Katin Reinhardt, Mater Dei, 2012: If you’re looking for the next big-time scorer to come out of Mater Dei, look no further than Reinhardt. The Jason Kapono-clone is an absolutely deadly outside shooter who has tremendous range and will knock it down from anywhere on the court. He has excellent form on his jumper and is not afraid to take the big shot. Reinhardt plays with a certain swagger and bounce in his step that is impressive in such a young player. He also showed his all-around ability with a rebound at one end, leading to a crossover and pull-up jumper at the other. Reinhardt finished with 13 points.
- Jordan Burgess has offers from VCU, George Mason, Delaware and Richmond, with interest from Old Dominion, Towson and other CAA schools. However, he did say that he’s “trying to get to the Big East.”
- Mike Poole holds offers from Virginia, Providence, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Marquette, with interest from USC and Florida. He has taken visits to Connecticut and Florida and hopes to make a final decision about a week or two after the season ends.
- Jordin Mayes has a final four of Oklahoma, Arizona, San Diego State and Boston College. He’s visited Boston College, and hopes to check out Oklahoma and Arizona soon.
- Since decommitting from USC, Dwayne Polee has offers from Arizona State, Arizona, UNLV, Washington and Oregon, while Missouri recently contacted him.
- Westchester guard Denzel Douglas said his recruitment is wide-open, and he is looking to pick up more interest in the near-future.
- Cory Joseph has taken all five of his official visits, with his list at Texas, Connecticut, Villanova, UNLV and Minnesota. “When I’m 100 percent sure, that’s when I’ll decide,” he said.
- Godwin Okonji said he currently has offers from New Mexico, TCU, Hawaii, Missouri, Marquette, UCLa and Houston.
- Findlay head coach Michael Peck said that Nick Johnson has interest and/or offers from Kentucky, Arizona, California, UNLV and some other Pac-10 programs.
- Peck also said that 2012 prospect Winston Graham is receiving the most interest from Texas and Kentucky at this point.
- The foreign shooting combo of Thomas Laerke and Marko Petrovic is picking up some momentum, as they become better known in the United States. Laerke is getting interest from New Mexico State, while Peck said Petrovic is starting to increase his college looks.
- Katin Reinhardt, who lived in New Jersey for two years before heading back out to California, has an early favorite of Syracuse, with San Diego State, San Diego and Villanova also giving him looks.
- DeMatha head coach Mike Jones said that sophomore Jerami Grant is getting early interest from Clemson, Oklahoma, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Virginia.
- Mikael Hopkins, who is quickly developing into one of the top big men in his class, has offers from Kansas, Syracuse, Georgetown, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Maryland, Villanova, Miami (Fl.), Clemson, Florida and Florida State. He added that his favorites right now are Syracuse, Kansas and Miami (Fl.).
- Quinn Cook said that he has offers from Arizona, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Maryland, Tennessee, Baylor, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Villanova. He has visited North Carolina, Wake Forest and Villanova, but does not plan on making a college decision until his senior season.