High school basketball is on national television once again as the Old Spice High School Showcase returns to the airwaves on Thursday night in Atlanta, Ga. Four of the top 25 teams in the country, according to Student Sports, take to the court at Georgia Tech in a pair of games that will be aired nationally on the ESPN networks.
Wheeler High School is no stranger to national television. The Peach State power was on ESPN last year in the championship game of the Academy National Invitational. Doug Lipscomb's squad is led by NC State signee J.J. Hickson, the No. 15 ranked player in the class of 2007.
Hickson teams with unsigned senior Trey Lang inside while Dequan Jones, a junior, and Ari Stewart, a sophomore, bring athleticism and versatility to the young lineup.
Columbia won the 4A state title last year and the majority of the team returns to defend the crowd. Georgia signee Jeremy Price, the No. 75 overall player in the class of 2007, anchors the blocks down low while future Georgia Tech small forward Lance Storrs gets a preview on his future college home.
Dante Harvey, a Toledo signee, is a new addition to the team and gives the squad another strong body inside the paint. Paired with Hickson and junior Darius Morrow, Columbia has a strong frontline that should give Wheeler some trouble.
Keep an eye out for high-flying junior Travis Leslie. The 6-foot-4 wing has some highlight reel material.
The real gem of the game will be the match-up between Hickson and Price, two of the best big men in the country.
The 9 p.m. game should be as entertaining as any high school game on national television this year. As always, Oak Hill Academy boasts a roster chalked full of big time talent.
Brandon Jennings, the nation's No. 7 ranked junior, is a double digit assist machine this year. The future Southern Cal point guard has plenty of options around him in the backcourt in Duke bound Nolan Smith and future Michigan guard Alex Legion.
Big men Howard Thompkins, a five-star junior, and Julian Vaughn, a Florida State signee, are a tough 1-2 punch. Thompkins, an Atlanta native, makes his first trip back to Atlanta since transferring from Wesleyan High School.
Norcross, the defending 5A state champs in Georgia, are poised for a repeat and with a tough national schedule ahead of the team, this game is the first of many big time battles. Eddie Martin has a team that should stay at the top of the national poll this season.
Underclassmen Al-Farouq Aminu, a five-star forward, and point guard Taariq Muhammad, a sophomore, have big roles for the Blue Devils.
The storylines are plenty in this game. Nationally, all eyes will certainly be on Jennings, rightfully so because of his floor vision and athleticism, or Lawal, the quick spring big man for Norcross. But for the locals, the game between Aminu and Thompkins is especially interesting. The two were once teammates together as freshmen and rank amongst the top 20 players nationally in 2008.
Ten players from the Rivals.com national rankings will be featured in the two game slate on Thursday night. Must see television? You betcha. Rivals.com will be on hand all day and will have live updates on the premium message board throughout the night.
6:30 p.m. - No. 24 Wheeler (0-0) vs. No. 15 Columbia (3-0) ESPNU 9:00 p.m. - No. 1 Oak Hill (9-0) vs. No. 4 Norcross (3-0) ESPN2
All times are Eastern Standard time. Rankings are from StudentSports.com.
Upcoming nationally televised games include:
Dec. 30 Les Schwab Invitational Championship Game 9:30 p.m. (third place game), 11:30 p.m. (championship game) ESPNU Jan. 6 DeMatha (Md.) vs. Huntington (W.V.) 9:30 p.m. ESPNU Jan. 18 Oak Hill (Va.) vs. Simeon (Ill.) 9 p.m. ESPN Jan. 27 Mount St. Joseph (Md.) vs. St. John's College (D.C.) 7 p.m. ESPNU Jan. 27 Towson Catholic (Md.) vs. DeMatha (Md.) 9 p.m. ESPNU Feb. 1 Loyola (Ill.) vs. North Central (Ind.) 7 p.m. ESPN2