In April, Wilson basketball Coach Angelo Hernandez said students began approaching him in the hallways to ask if he noticed the two new students at the D.C. public school. When Hernandez saw those new students, twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, Hernandez said he recognized them from watching Amateur Athletic Union games the past year.
The Mitchell twins transferred from Montverde Academy in Florida. They played at McNamara before moving to Montverde.
Hernandez said he chatted with the Mitchell twins about their life and basketball goals, and soon the Maryland commits were integrated into practice with last season’s District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association and District of Columbia State Athletic Association champions.
“I was excited to see them,” said Hernandez, last season’s All-Met Coach of the Year. “I never thought in a million years they would end up with me.”
Wilson is the favorite to repeat as DCIAA and DCSAA champions, but the Tigers are also playing a tough non-league slate. They face nationally ranked IMG Academy on Friday, and in December, they’ll participate in the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., and the DeMatha Christmas tournament.
Wilson’s schedule is one way Hernandez has tried to make Wilson more like a college program to prepare his players for the next level. Last week, the Tigers held a team media day. Hernandez was on administrative leave for four months because of an investigation into the residency of two players on his team, but he was reinstated in August.
The Mitchell twins spent the summer developing chemistry with Wilson’s backcourt, which includes Boston College commit Jay Heath and Dimingus Stevens, who has several Division I offers. Heath usually plays shooting guard, but this season he’s moving to point guard, the position Boston College wants him to play.
Makhi and Makhel Mitchell offer Wilson rim protection, which allows other players to be more aggressive on defense, Hernandez said, knowing they have assistance behind them.
“This is probably the most talented team we’ve had,” Hernandez said.
No. 1 DeMatha looks for chance to measure up with nation’s best
On Friday night, the No. 1 DeMatha Stags opened their season with a 131-40 win over The Heights. For the Cavaliers, newcomers to the WCAC this season, it was a less-than cordial welcome to the conference provided by this year’s early favorite.
The hype surrounding DeMatha comes mostly from the talent it returns. Villanova commit Justin Moore is back, as are as the rest of last year’s starting lineup and some key bench contributors. Earl Timberlake Jr., Hunter Dickinson, Jahmir Young, Paul Smith Jr. and Carsten Kolgenik are each well-known names in the WCAC, proven talents that are back to hunt for more success.
But not every game will be like Friday’s. The Stags will play a schedule that is both ambitious and arduous, pairing the always-competitive conference slate of the WCAC with some cross-country meetings.
“We pride ourselves on playing tough schedules every year,” Coach Mike Jones said after a recent scrimmage. “If you look at our schedule every preseason, they are ranked in the nation’s top 50, and a lot of times the nation’s top 25. This year, MaxPreps came out with the 25 best high school games this year, and we are five of them. I am not sure if we are just nuts or what.”
December’s slate will include an appearance in the National Hoopfest, a three-day showcase event at DeMatha featuring some of the best teams in the country. The Stags will face Florida’s IMG Academy on Saturday Dec. 8 and Roman Catholic (Pa.) on Dec. 9.
Later in the month they will face two more WCAC teams, a D.C. public school, a Prince George’s County public, Guyer High (Tex.) and then the field of a Christmas tournament. Their work will be cut out for them.
“[WCAC teams] play that national-type schedule, so it is good for our league, and the kids deserve it,” Jones said. “For them to truly know if they are good and how they measure up with the nation’s best, I think they have a right to find out.”
- Michael Errigo
New-look South County begins title defense
As the South County Stallions begin their Virginia state title defense this season, they will do so with a 6-foot-9 hole up front.
Quentin Millora-Brown, the skilled big man who helped lead them to the program’s first-ever Class 6 championship last year, is playing at Rice now, and his impact on both ends of the floor would be missed by any team.
But South County Coach Mike Robinson said his team is focused and confident entering this year. They return seven players from last year’s squad and the big-game experience they received in that postseason run could be invaluable.
“We’re just going to have to score in different ways and play with a different tempo,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the most important thing to him right now is that his team has chemistry. From there, offensive success should follow.
Senior Noah Bullock returns as the team’s starting point guard, and he can help set the new tone. The Stallions kicked off their season with an encouraging 10-point win over Chantilly.
“In these early games I’m just looking for them to continue to share the basketball,” Robinson said.
An early-December meeting with Oakton could be a good measuring stick for the new-look Stallions.
- Michael Errigo
St. Charles has become a consistent force in Southern Maryland
When the St. Charles basketball team was founded in 2014, it lost its first 12 games. But Coach Brett Campbell said his players were never discouraged and were determined to improve. The team would “lose a tough game on the road and next day in practice, you never would’ve known,” Campbell said. The Spartans went 6-6 in the final 12 games of that inaugural season.
“That really helped us set the tone, what our culture would be here with regards to what we expect from our student-athletes,” Campbell said.
Now in their fifth season, the Spartans have become a consistent force in their county and state. They won a combined 50 games in the last three years and have advanced to the regional semifinal game the past two years. This year, with an established winning culture and the addition of transfer Darius Miles, St. Charles is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We have three core principles: intensity, discipline, unity. Our kids have really bought into that,” Campbell said. “Our kids have really bought into that and that allowed us to continue to grow. It’s easy to build off when you got a group of guys that are working hard to compete.”
Miles joins a roster that returns its leading scorer from last year, Anthony Bowman, as well as Tremaine Chesley, “the best defender in the state” according to Campbell.
“Guys know if they’re in the gym working hard, things will take care of itself,” Campbell said. “We don’t get too caught up in expectations or outside pressure. We just focus on ourselves and each other and those things will handle themselves.”
- David J. Kim