Two of the top three players in the country will be on display when No. 2 Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick takes on No. 21 Winter Park (Fla.) in the sixth game of the ESPN RISE High School Basketball Showcase, which will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com at 7 p.m. ET. Friday.
Kentucky signee SF Michael Gilchrist, the No. 3 overall player, has lead St. Patrick to an undefeated season and is coming off an MVP performance at the City of Palms Championship, which the Celtics won for the first time. Look for the 6-foot-7, 210-pounder to do whatever his team needs in order to win. Gilchrist dominates opponents with his aggressive style of play in the paint offensively and defensively, but he is not the only threat Winter Park needs to worry about.
Freshman C Dakari Johnson showed what he is capable of at the City of Palms and the 6-10, 250-pounder, as well as 6-8 Terrific 25 PF Austin Colbert, will be fed early and often as the Celtics try to use their size, athletic ability and length against a smaller but feisty Winter Park squad. The more St. Patrick gets in the paint, the harder it will be for Winter Park to win.
However, what makes St. Patrick truly dangerous is that it can beat teams from the outside as well. Emerging senior Derrick Gordon, a Western Kentucky signee, can light up defenders with his long range or mid-range jumper by popping, curling or fading off screens. Fellow senior Chris Martin can also break open any game with his 3-point shooting.
Defensively, the Celtics' full- and half-court man-to-man pressure can be stifling and will only trap Austin Rivers, the No. 1 overall player, if they have to. Look Gordon to start out on Rivers, but Gilchrist will also get the call, which will be extremely entertaining. If Gilchrist can get out to contest Rivers' deep 3s without getting beat off the dribble, he could contain the explosive scorer.
For Winter Park to pull off the upset, Rivers must have a big game and trust his teammates when they are open. The Duke signee demands so much attention that his teammates will get open shots or drives, but they need to capitalize. Plus, Winter Park must continue to execute its set plays as a team and drive the ball when the floor is spaced.
Winter Park's starting lineup can all shoot 3s, so to offset the size of St. Patrick look for it to spread the floor and try to get the Celtics' bigs away from the rim. With no shot clock in this game, tempo can easily be controlled.
Other players to watch for Winter Park include FAU signee PG Brett Comer, who needs to be a smart defender and opportunistic scorer, and junior SF Billydee Williams, who must use his athletic ability and compete for boards against the Celtics' bigs.
On defense, Winter Park must get back in defensive conversion. It may even send two to the offensive glass and send three back on the shot to ensure St. Patrick gets no open-floor baskets. Plus, Winter Park must rebound as a team and have a defensive scheme on post defense.
Even though this game looks like a mismatch, St. Patrick is on the road and any game Rivers is in, his team has a real chance to win.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.