Paul VI’s Tim Higgins and Episcopal's Arnaud Adala Moto struggle for control of the ball. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Tim Higgins stands 6-foot-10 and has made a name for himself banging with the country’s best center prospects during his career at Paul VI Catholic, a program that travels tirelessly to national tournaments during the winter. The senior has lined up against Nerlens Noel, who is now a freshman phenom at Kentucky, as well as Kennedy Meeks, a senior at West Charlotte High (N.C.) who will play at North Carolina next year.

And just last week, Higgins helped hold Montverde’s Dakari Johnson, the top center prospect in the country who is headed to Kentucky next year, to 12 points in an upset win over the Florida school at the Brass Pro Shop Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo.

“I was confident going in there, and I knew I could handle him,” Higgins said.

But a few days after the Montverde win, Higgins drew his toughest assignment of the season during the MLK Hoopfest at Coolidge, where Paul VI was playing Math, Civics and Sciences (Pa.). He had to sit on the bench for the entire second half, having entered for only a few seconds late in the fourth quarter, as the Panthers employed a smaller lineup to match the speed of Civics and Sciences. Higgins watched anxiously on the sideline, having just one first-half block in his stat line – but was never a factor down the stretch. Paul VI lost the game, 65-53.

Higgins orally committed to Cornell last year, but knew he would transfer the commitment to MIT if he was accepted at the school this winter. On Dec. 15, deliverance came; he received his acceptance and immediately signed on to play at the Boston-area school. It marked the completion of a long-time goal to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the world, while also continuing his basketball career after high school.

“All the athletes have to apply like normal students there,” Higgins said. “That was a little bit tough [informing Cornell of the decision], but I definitely felt right going to MIT.”

He plans to join the Sloan School of Management once on campus, and he’ll also be joining one of the Division III’s most successful basketball programs. Engineers Coach, Larry Anderson, is in his 18th year and took the program to the D-III Final Four last season, when MIT won a school-record 29 games. The Engineers are currently 13-4.

Higgins is a raw offensive player (he’s scored just 22 points all season), but he’s a lanky prospect who is productive in rebounding and blocking shots, and Paul VI has grown to trust him on the defensive end — especially when it faces blue-chip big men such as Meeks and Johnson. Academics are the top priority for Higgins as he transitions into college, but he knows he is bringing tools to the basketball program, too.

“They’ve got a strong tradition there,” Higgins said. “They’ve been having some good years lately and are just looking to build off that. Coach Anderson always says that they want to be both number one in academics and number one in basketball.”