National Hoopfest Takeaways 

This past weekend was the annual National Hoopfest at DeMatha Catholic. It is one of the top high school events in the entire country, and is known to attract some of the nations top talents. Last year, Cam Reddish lit the DMV on fire as he averaged over 40 points in his two games at DeMatha. This year’s event featured the area’s best (DeMatha and Paul VI), national prep powerhouses (IMG Academy, Sunrise Christian and Montverde Academy) and plenty of other talented teams. Anthony Edwards and Jalen Johnson put on a show, they are both top five players in the 2019 and 2020 classes respectively. Before I get into my biggest takeaways, I want to give a shoutout to Coach Keith Stevens and Coach Doug Martin for running a first class event. The gym was absolutely packed and there were multiple future pros in the building. Here are my biggest takeaways from  Hoopfest this year.

Paul VI’s “Next Man Up” Mentality:

In the last month, PVI has lost their two centerpieces in Jeremy Roach and Anthony Harris to torn ACL’s. This past weekend, the Panthers faced off against the defending national champions, Montverde Academy. Despite a close loss, Paul VI put up a great fight, scrapping until the final buzzer against one of the best teams in the nation. Freshman point guard Dug McDaniel and junior Josiah Freeman stole the show on Saturday night. McDaniel established his prescience in the game early on by dropping his defender to the ground on his first possession. He did whatever he wanted all night, showcasing his elite vision and playmaking ability. I’m not sure there are many passers better than McDaniel in the DMV, regardless of age. Junior sharpshooter Josiah Freeman (referred to as Jojo by his teammates) was on fire Saturday night. He finished the first half with 20 points, including a barrage of three pointers. Freeman is the epitome of a microwave scorer as he can heat up with just one shot. The duo followed Saturday night’s performance with co-MVP honors on Sunday. McDaniel finished with a double double (13 points 11 assists) and Freeman added 26 points (six three pointers).  

IMG Academy Is A High School Super Team:

Since they are just a few weeks into the season, it’s obvious they are still learning how to play with each other. But when the Ascenders click, they’re virtually impossible to stop. The gym was packed for the main event, hometown DeMatha vs. IMG Academy. DeMatha jumped out to an early first quarter lead, but the Ascenders stayed resilient. Starting guards Jaden Springer and Noah Farrakhan carried the scoring load down the stretch, while Villanova commit Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was a beast on both ends throughout all four quarters. UNC commit Armando Bacot was tasked with guarding Hunter Dickinson. The two were AAU teammates with Team Takeover and you could tell they were very familiar with each other’s game, they provided an exciting battle on the block all night long. Last but certainly not least, Arizona commit Josh Green fills the last starting spot. There’s no denying Green wasn’t at his best on Saturday, but you were still able to tell what makes him special. He impacts the game in so many different ways, Green scores from all three levels, plays lock down defense, and is an elite competitor. Each member of the starting five brings their own flavor to the table. Farrakhan has a signature swagger to his game that is extremely entertaining to watch, Springer brings grit and intensity with his slashing ability and on ball defense, Green is a highlight reel waiting to happen, Robinson Earl brings a unique versatility with his ability to score from the block and knock down the three ball, and finally, Bacot holds down the paint and glass while being an absolute force around the basket.

DeMatha Meets The Expectations, And More:

Given everything that was said about IMG above, DeMatha took them down to the wire, and if a couple of more bounces went in DeMatha’s favor they could’ve walked away with a W. The Stags return all five starters from last years three peat (WCAC, Alhambra Tournament and Maryland Private School State Tournament) team, and they are well aware that the expectation is another championship. The Stags starting five all feed off each other very well, they know their each other’s strengths and make it a point of emphasis to put them in a position where they are comfortable and effective. Justin Moore continues to be incredibly efficient for a number one option, Earl Timberlake is looking a lot more confident playing off his jumper, Jahmir Young looks unstoppable in transition, Hunter Dickinson has been a force inside and has played great defense without fouling, and Carsten Kogelnik continues to do all the little things for the Stags while also shooting the three ball at a high clip. While there are no moral victories on Madison Street, DeMatha proved they can play with anyone in the country.

Anthony Edwards Is The Real Deal

After blowing up this past summer, Anthony Edwards decided to reclassify from 2020 to 2019. Some scouting services immediately made him the number one player in the country, and after watching him this weekend, I have no issues with it. He fits the direction in which the game is trending, as he is an elite athlete that can shoot off the catch and the dribble. On Friday night he was held to just four points in the first half, before exploding for 37 in the second half. He always has great balance and elevation on his jump shot which makes the defense appear to be non existent. Edwards stocky but athletic build allows him to bully smaller guards in the paint while finishing it off with either power or finesse at the rim. The bottom line is he makes everything look way too easy, I truly believe he’s the best player in high school basketball right now.

This event never disappoints. Top talent in the country, historic site in the DeMatha gym and a crowd that appreciates exactly what they are watching. Always a highlight for me.  Keep an eye on these teams and the incredibly talented players. The season is just getting under way.

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