Hoophall Classic preview
The Hoophall Classic, which is considered the best high school event of the year, features marquis talent and programs with great tradition. However, the unique aspect of this event in Springfield, Mass., is that these teams get a chance to break away from conference play, compete against other programs on a national scale and visit the National Basketball Hall of Fame.
Six of these games will be televised on ESPN's network of channels, starting with Saturday night's matchup between Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha and Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET. Here is a quick preview of this matchup and the five others on ESPN.
DeMatha (Md.) vs. St. Anthony (N.J.)Saturday on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET
DeMatha is lead by a three-headed scoring monster in Super 60 PG James Robinson, junior SF Jerami Grant and Georgetown signee C Mikael Hopkins. Robinson is the leader of the group and the go-to guy if the game is on the line. Grant is a long, versatile defender who can score at the rim. Hopkins is a force inside who rebounds, blocks shots and has a developing face-up game.
Helping out the DeMatha's big three are sophomore PG Jairus Lyles, an opportunistic scorer, Marcellous Bell provides instant offense and 6-foot-8 B.J. Anya leads the team in blocked shots.
St. Anthony has its own 1-2 punch in Rutgers signee PG Myles Mack and Super 60 SF Kyle Anderson. Mack is the catalyst with a good assist-to-turnover ratio, while Anderson is an extremely versatile matchup nightmare with a great basketball IQ.
Both teams are very aggressive defensively pressuring the ball and trying to force turnovers, so ball security will be key. St. Anthony also needs to find a way to defend against DeMatha's size advantage. Look for DeMatha to push the ball offensively, but in defense it has to slow down Mack, normally comes up big in big games and is a proven winner.
Milton (Ga.) vs. Oak Hill (Va.)Saturday on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET
While the two point guards are the keys to the game, they are from the only stars in this game. Milton has five starters with Division I ability -- Scott, Jordan Lloyd, Evan Nolte, Dai-Jon Parker and Julian Royal. Lloyd is a typical glue guy, Nolte is down to Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Stanford and Clemson, Parker is headed to Vanderbilt and Royal, a Georgia Tech signee, is extremely versatile and takes bigs away from the rim.
Oak Hill has been phenomenal all year, and that's without Arizona signee Sidiki Johnson, who's been out with a broken foot. There is a possibility he will play in this game, but even if he does it remainst to be seen how effective he will be after being out for an extended period of time. With Johnson out, Ben McLemore, who is one of the best unsigned players in the country, has been shouldering the load with Cook. McLemore, who is down to Kansas and Missouri, is a terrific finisher with a solid jumper to go with it. Junior Damien Wilson also scores well in the open floor and is a solid rebounder.
The wild card in this game is McLemore because you never know when he's going to go off, but Oak Hill will have its hands full because any one of Milton's starting five could carry his team to victory.
Westchester Country Day School (N.C.) vs. Christ the King (N.Y.)Monday on ESPNU at 11 a.m. ET
The reigns to Westchester's team have been handed over to Bello, who is trying to get the team back into winning form, but Westchester has fallen on hard times recently, losing three of its last four games, as it adjusts to Miller's absence.
As always, Christ the King -- which should be the favorite in this matchup -- is loaded at the guard position. Omar Calhoun is one of the top rated players in the 2012 class, while Isaiah Lewis is one of NYC's finest in the 2013 class. The Royals have been without the services of one of their best players, George Mason signee PG Corey Edwards, who has been serving a month suspension for cursing in school. When the suspension is finally lifted Christ The King is stacked at the 1, 2 and 3 positions.
Some important factors will determine the outcome of this game. Can someone else -- maybe Cleveland State signee Ike Nwamu -- besides Bello come up with a big game and replace some of Miller's scoring and rebounding production? Will Christ the King's relentless pressure force Westchester into submission?
St. Patrick High School (N.J.) vs. Bishop Gorman High School (Nev.)Monday on ESPNU at 1 p.m. ET
However, the Celtics are not a one-man band because they pose matchup problems at almost every position. Their front-line of Gilchrist, ESPNU Terrific 25 power forward Austin Colbert and center Dakari Johnson -- who is one of the Class of 2014's best -- would make many college programs jealous. Their backcourt has been just as deadly. With his scoring prowess, Western Kentucky signee Derrick Gordon is proving to be one of the biggest steals in 2011 class and has taken it to players that are going to higher profile programs, while combo-guard Chris Martin stretches the defense and keeps opponents honest with his 3-point shooting ability.
Bishop Gorman is not lacking in the star-power department in their own right with one of the most devastating wing combinations in the nation. Shabazz Muhammad is an electrifying finisher out the 2012 class that has the ability to carry his team. The long lefty has improved his perimeter stroke and has a mid-range game that he knows how to utilize. Rosco Allen is a deceptive athlete that is a skilled shooter that forces his defender to stay close. He has mastered the pump-fake and is able to get to the rim and finish or get to the line.
St. Patrick's has been difficult for all comers to handle thus far this season and any team with Gilchrist on it must be considered the favorite, but the intriguing head-to-head battles between Gilchrist and Gordon versus Muhammad and Allen should make for must-see TV.
Findlay College Prep (Nev.) vs. Dallas Lincoln High School (Texas)Monday on ESPNU at 3 p.m.
Although Findlay Prep is still relatively new on the high school basketball scene, the infant program has quickly established itself as one of the dominant programs in the country. It has arguably the best backcourt in the country with Texas-bound point guard Myck Kabongo, Arizona signee Nick Johnson and future St. John's small forward Amir Garrett. The front line is also strong led by junior four-star power forward Winston Shepard and 6-9, 245-pound center Landon Lucas.
Dallas Lincoln's strength lies at the forward positions with combo-forward LeBryan Nash, who is headed to Oklahoma State, and West Virginia signee Keaton Miles. Nash is typically the dominant player, but when Miles gets in an offensive groove Lincoln becomes very difficult to beat.
Findlay Prep, who is the favorite in this contest, doesn't lose often, but neither does Lincoln. Lincoln will struggle matching up with Findlay Prep's guards, while Nash should have the advantage at his position.
Academy of the New Church (Pa.) vs. Boys and Girls High School (N.Y.)Monday on ESPNU at 5 p.m. ET
Boys and Girls have a formidable pair of scoring guards that have the ability to score in a variety of ways. Rutgers-bound shooting guard Michael Taylor is a high-volume guy with an attack mentality and has the green light to let it fly. If he gets it going he can keep his team in the game single-handedly. Taylor is aided by Hofstra signee Malik Nichols who is a high-level athlete that can finish in transition and is effective attacking the basket off the dribble.
This game will come down to Boys and Girls' ability to make this an up-tempo track meet. If Academy of the New Church is able to control the pace it could be a long evening for the team from New York.
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.