- Joel Francisco
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HICKORY, N.C. -- Two nationally-ranked basketball powerhouses most definitely proved themselves last night, crushing their overmatched opponents in what was billed as National Basketball Night in Hickory.
The No. 1-rated prep school Patterson School (Lenoir, N.C.) continued its undefeated streak (22-0) with an event-opening 111-56 trouncing of newly-formed Charlotte Technical School (Charlotte, N.C.).
In the second game ESPN's current No. 11-rated Oak Hill Academy Warriors (18-3) gave Coach Steve Smith career victory 702 while cruising to a 90-63 win over undersized, but scrappy host team Hickory High.
Unsigned 6-3 senior second guard Varez Ward led Patterson's very balanced offensive attack with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Arkansas signee and our pick as the nation's best post-graduate player, 6-1 PG Courtney Fortson, again played a masterful game, leading his team with 8 assists, 6 steals and 16 points in only 18 minutes of playing time.
Other top performers for Patterson were unsigned senior 6-6 P/WF Mathiang Muo with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 takeaways; unsigned 6-0 senior PG Chris Kupets with 16 points; Memphis commit, temperamental 6-9 PF Matt Simpkins with 14 points and a technical foul; and rugged Florida International commit, 6-9 C Freddy Aspirilla with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
The reportedly recently-organized Charlotte Tech team began with a flourish, hitting its first three shots, including two 3-pointers, to take an 8-0 lead. However, Patterson quickly shed its rust from not having played since December 11 and vaulted out to a 52-27 halftime advantage and primarily played the reserves on its exceptionally deep roster for most of the second half.
The scoring leaders for Charlotte Tech were 6-7 junior forward Shawn Foster with 16 points and 6-2 junior point guard Rashad Toney with 12 points.
Oak Hill's exciting floorleader 6-2 PG Brandon Jennings did not have to carry the full load for his team in this game and actually played only 22 minutes. Jennings did not shoot well in the first half (3-11 FG), but dished out 7 assists to go with his 10 points as Oak Hill led Hickory 45-23.
However, Jennings was blazing in the third period, hitting 6-8 field goals and 3-5 3-pointers before taking a seat with 2:00 left in the quarter. His game totals were 25 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds and 6 steals. Rapid-rising 6-8 junior forward Glenn Bryant posted 19 points and 8 rebounds; massisve 6-9 junior center Keith "Tiny" Gallon had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks; and 6-3 sophomore second guard Byron Allen added 14 points for the Warriors.
Coach Shawn Johnson's "no quit" Hickory Red Tornadoes were paced by talented 5-10 junior PG Trevin Parks with 11 points and 6-2 senior wing forward Patrick Monroe with 10 points.
In the nightcap, Veritas Christian (Fletcher, N.C.) held off Mount Zion Prep (Durham, N.C.) 79-74. Clemson signee 7-1 PF Catalin "Bobo" Baciu, a native of Romania, scored 25 points while cerebral 5-10 PG Jonathon Ellington had 22 points and skilled 6-8 junior PF Sasa Borovnjak added 20.
Hot-shooting 6-2 senior 2G Jared Grady hit for a game high 27 points for Mount Zion; 6-4 senior G/F Zubay Muhammad had 14 points; and athletic 6-7 junior forward Renaldo Dixon added 12 points and 8 rebounds.
National Night notes
• Oak Hill stellar point guard Brandon Jennings remains our pick as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2008. Jennings performed more in his playmaking point guard role and could have had at least six more than his total of 12 assists if teammates had converted the on-target passes he gave them. Jennings has Allen Iverson-type abilities and could be the nation's top freshman next year at Arizona.
• Gifted 6-1 sophomore Pe'Shon Howard is developing into a very productive lead guard at Oak Hill. Howard, who transferred in November from St. Edward High (Lakewood, Ohio), now starts in the same backcourt with Jennings and fellow sophomore Byron Allen. Last night Howard hit one 3-pointer and had five assists and three steals. He and Allen should become a stellar backcourt for Smith during the next two years.
• A 2009 prospect who impresses us more every time we see him is Oak Hill's angular athlete, 6-8 P/WF Glenn Bryant, a resident of Roseville, Mich. Bryant was flying high last night to snare alley-oop passes from Jennings and Howard and was a force on the boards. He appears to be a high-major college prospect.
• Oak Hill's once depleted bench now has much more size and depth. The Warriors have added a promising junior in 6-6 wing forward Brian Oliver, who played the first semester at William Penn (New Castle, Del.). Oliver is still learning the system but showed good potential at times last night. Also back is rugged, 6-8, 250-pound junior C/F Chasen Campbell who missed a month of action with an injured wrist.
• According to Smith former Oak Hill player and Southern California commit 6-5 WF Malik Story is now at Ribet Academy (Los Angeles) and reportedly is now playing for that program.
• Patterson School has added another outstanding player in Georgia signee and Serbia native 6-9 PF Drazen Zlovaric. He comes to Patterson from Sagemont School (Weston, Fla.). He did not play last night but could see action this weekend when Patterson travels to Springfield, Mass., to play three games in the HoopHall Classic.
• I was very impressed with the aggressive play of Patterson's 6-6 senior forward Mathiang Muo, a native of the Sudan, who relocated with other Sudanese refugees to Sydney, Australia. Muo has been in the United States for 2 1/2 years and still is working to qualify academically for college. He has received offers from Iowa State, Colorado State and others according to his coach Chris Chaney.
• One of the best still available backcourt players is Patterson's 6-3 combo guard Varez Ward. Ward was a senior last year, along with teammate Courtney Fortson, at Sidney Lanier High (Montgomery, Ala.). He has the versatility to play both guard positions, and is a very hard-nosed, aggressive player. Chaney told us that Kentucky may now be the favorite for Ward. He is still considering: UAB, Missouri, South Carolina, West Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina and UTEP, among others.
• Among the coaches we observed in the stands last night were West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins; Appalachian State head coach Houston Fancher; and assistants from Tennessee Tech, South Carolina Upstate, Western Carolina and UNC-Asheville.
• Oak Hill Academy will play in the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass., this Sunday and then fly back to Greensboro, N.C., to play Christ School (Arden, N.C.) on Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the 6th Annual MLK Classic at the Greensboro Coliseum. Talk about your "Road Warriors."
Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.
Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and The Patterson School (N.C.) both cruised to victory Monday at National Basketball Night in Hickory, reports Bob Gibbons.