With spring just around the corner, basketball recruiting will soon enter its prime season, and few gyms will have a better crop of talent to pick from than St. John's.
In the latest ESPN player rankings released Wednesday, four of the top five juniors in the D.C. area rankings are from St. John's. Point guard Tre Campbell comes in at No. 1, followed by Darian Anderson, James Palmer and Allante Holston in slots 3-5. Also on college coaches' radars are Mike Morsell and third-leading scorer Darian Bryant, whom Cadets Coach Sean McAloon said has been the team's most consistent player during the last month.
"I get a lot of calls from a lot of people and a lot of coaches have walked through that door," McAloon said. "It's funny because sometimes a school will come in saying they heard about Tre and then they walk out liking James, too. Or another coach comes to see Darian Bryant and he leaves with interest in Darian Anderson, too. With so many talented kids with similar skill sets, coaches can come in and get whatever they want, which is pretty fun and interesting for me to see as a coach."
So far, most of the interest has gone to Campbell. Blessed with plenty of speed, the scoring point guard holds offers from George Mason, George Washington, Penn State, St. Joseph's, U-Mass. and VCU and is receiving interest from the likes of Georgetown and Miami.
But at 13.4 points per game, he's not even the Cadets' leading scorer. With one game left in the regular season, that distinction belongs to Anderson, who is averaging 14.7 points following Tuesday's 21-point outing in a tough loss to No. 1 Gonzaga. Surprisingly, Anderson has yet to garner an offer, although he's received interest from George Washington and Xavier.
Yet with four players averaging at least 10 points per game, the term "leading scorer" is pretty relative on this Cadets' team. Last Friday, it was Holston (offer from Towson) who led the way with 17 points in a win against Carroll. Two games before that, Bryant paced the Cadets with 15 in a loss to Paul VI.
"For this team, it's all about playing together and sharing the ball," Campbell said. "Whoever is hot is hot, and we just try to get them the ball. Since we're mostly guards, most of the 4s and 5s on other teams can't keep up with us, so we try to work that to our advantage."
Much of this chemistry was built prior to this season, as all six juniors have played together with Team Takeover on the AAU circuit. And in those times when one of the players tries to play "hero ball," McAloon is quick to call them out.
"These kids have done a great job buying into the team concept and letting their bond materialize on the court," McAloon said. "If anyone starts playing selfish, our coaches won't hesitate to call them out and nobody likes being called ‘selfish.' They realize that if they all look good, everybody succeeds."
This process has come with its growing pains. After seeing Gonzaga rally for a 72-65 win on Tuesday, five of the Cadets' eight losses have come to the WCAC's top three teams by an average of 4.6 points.
But if nothing else, these close contests and strong efforts again reinforce the bright future that the Cadets' junior-laden squad possesses come the WCAC tournament, next season and beyond.
In Wednesday's hoops action:
- McLean upset Langley for the second time in less than a week, this time by the score of 45-43. The Highlanders will look to defend their Virginia AAA Liberty District crown against Marshall in Friday's title game.
- North Point senior guard Marquis Wright became the second player in school history to surpass 1,000 points by scoring 16 in a 98-52 win against Huntingtown.
- Not to be outdone, North Point's girls' team put together another dominant performance in an 88-16 win against Huntingtown. During their 22-0 start, the Eagles have outscored their opponents by a whopping average margin of 44.5 points per game.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 40
Points scored by W.T. Woodson's Keara Finnerty to help the Cavaliers knock off West Springfield, 61-43, in the AAA Patriot District semifinals. The senior guard drained six three-pointers in the win, which came after Woodson lost to the Spartans by 23 and 20 points in their two regular-season meetings. Woodson will face T.C. Williams in Friday's championship.
Spingarn's basketball team will play its final home game Thursday, closing the door on 60-plus years of rich hoops history. Read this well-written retrospective piece by Roman Stubbs.
Last night I stopped by the Capitol City Hoop Classic Kickoff/MY lifestyle clothing launch at Sports Zone Elite at National Harbor. The Hoop Classic, which will be held May 25-27 and feature about 80 AAU teams ages 8U to 15U, isn't your typical tournament. Along with the games, participants will be treated to a grab bag of gear and financial literacy programming. As Monica McNutt wrote in her Transition Game column last month, educating kids with life skills like financial literacy while presenting them with a model of professionalism is essential in a time when the pipe dreams of athletes often leads youth to dead ends and bankruptcy court. And that's what this tournament is all about. Big ups to event organizers Mark Tillmon and Mel George for pushing this message forward.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
No. 20 DuVal at Suitland, 7:15 p.m.
Despite playing without one of the area's top players in Roddy Peters, Suitland has put together a 13-8 campaign thus far, including a near-upset of DuVal in their first meeting. Fans should keep a special eye on this box score, as DuVal's Michael Cunningham will go for his third triple-double in four games.