basketball Edit

Bob Kirk Invitational: What we learned, heard & can see happening


CUMBERLAND, MD. – While the road taken to the Bob Kirk Invitational was not the smoothest thanks to the surprising snow storm that hit the mid-Atlantic, the games at Bishop Walsh High School made the white-knuckle ride worthwhile. Hosting three of the top high school programs from across the nation, we assess all that we learned, what we can foreseeing happening and some nuggets learned along the way.


One of the top snubs from the McDonald’s All-American Game this year, Keion Brooks sure looked the part of a burger boy in Cumberland. The good sized and skilled 6-foot-7 wing made shots from each level, showcased improved toughness at the basket on the conversion attempt and a nose for the ball on the glass. He has all of the makings of a double-digit scorer in the college game next season. He told that he is getting closer to a decision but still has no timetable for his commitment. A final five remains as Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue and UNC remain in pursuit.


N’Faly Dante may be the best shot blocker in high school ball and it might not be close. He has always been a defensive specialist as he practically changes every shot attempted within his vicinity. However, it was nice to see the five-star junior display a much better offensive game where he scored on soft hook shots over his left shoulder and threw impressive passes in the half-court. His motor has improved, too, as there have been whispers that Dante could move into the 2019 class as LSU and Oregon, the latter a program that dispatched in assistant for him on Friday, are the two that have worked the hardest on such a transition in recent months.


The Pac 12 is down this year but there is an infusion of talent ahead thanks to some of the top members of the 2019 class pledging to its league members. One of those is Isaiah Stewart and while it might be difficult to imagine, there is a chance that the top-five prospect could win player of the year honors next season. He finished with another routine stat line of 13 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks, continuing to look the part of an elite producer now and within the college game. One high-major assistant coach on hand went as far as to say that he would made his respective team ten times better by having him on his roster. Stewart was ready for the college game yesterday….Washington has a stud headed its way.


You wished he would look to be more of a scoring threat but there is a lot of abilities and talent in tow with Rivals150 forward Tristan Enaruna. He finished with just two points but what the Netherlands native does best is put pressure on the opposing unit with the under-control but shifty dribble-drive attack, playmake and defend different positions. Creighton dispatched an assistant for him as he will likely visit the Big East program after his season complete, though Illinois, Kansas and Miami are just three others that will be in the mix until the very end.


He made news earlier last month with his decommitment from UCLA and while has had an up-and-down campaign this winter, it was a bunch of good for Rivals150 guard Grant Sherfield. More of a scorer than facilitator, Sherfield can really put the ball through the basket whenever he is filling it. A microwave scorer in the mold of current Arizona State standout Remy Martin, he might not have the explosiveness of the ASU guard but he does have the toughness, confidence and offensive output that makes him one of the best available guards in the 2019 class. He will wait the process out until his season completes as Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Purdue and Wake Forest are just a few involved.


Not many have been able to go head-to-toe with the physical monster that goes by the name of Isaiah Stewart but Mady Sissoko did his best in Maryland. The near 7-footer is an ublerly active and engaged center that plays out of his area on the glass and as a rim protector. His skillset has gotten a bit better but he will be valued, first and foremost, for his energy levels and tone setting capabilities. A number of Pac 12 programs have already shown great attention with Sissoko, a prospect that is much newer to the game compared to his 2020 contemporaries as he finished nine points, 10 rebounds and a number of shots altered in the paint.


He didn’t have the best of games on tap as he made just three of his 10 field goal attempts but it was enlightening to see Gerald Drumgoole step to the foul line with his team down one and with just seven seconds remaining and calmly sink each of his attempts, putting his top-ranked La Lumiere bunch over the top and keeping their undefeated record intact. A member of the Rivals150, Drumgoole is still most valued for his shooting on the perimeter as he will take an official visit to Pitt next weekend where the Panthers might be the team to beat heading into his trip to Oakland.


The evaluation process of Michael Saunders and Wendell Green might take longer compared to others due to their size, or lack thereof, but one thing is certain and that is each will win a lot of games in college.

Saunders has one the best first steps in the land and containing the downhill driver is a difficult task for any opponent. He came alive in his team’s second half on Friday, showing that he can make shots but also create for others. Green didn’t end things as well as Saunders but his team did get the win. He is an elite competitor that goes through different reads on the perimeter similarly as Tom Brady does in assessing various options in the backfield. A number of higher academic schools are involved but it won’t be much longer before some of the better Midwestern programs prioritize the junior guard.


Looking for a sleeper late in the year? Try Finnish forward Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua. The 6-foot-8 senior with the Bishop Walsh program was out of sight last year thanks to a broken leg and has just been in the United States for two years. However, Coach Dan Prete may have a major breakout candidate on his hand. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in his team’s hard-fought defeat as he is the perfect small ball power forward in today’s game. Arkansas and Wake Forest have begun to show greater attention with the intriguing forward.