It was dark, wet and rainy in Dayton but 4,200 people found something to do on Saturday afternoon. They packed into the gorgeous Student Athletic Center at Vandalia Butler High School and watched the local schoolboy star and his teammates take on the nation's top rated high school team at the Flyin' to the Hoop.
Oak Hill Academy, the nation's top ranked team according to USA Today, had to earn a victory against Trotwood Madison.
The standing room only crowd got what they paid for in the first half as Oak Hill saw their 14 point lead diminish to three and was only down 37-33 at the half. Madison was able to cut the lead down to four points in the second half but Oak Hill had too many weapons and too many answers at the end of the day and walked away with an 81-74 victory.
Oak Hill took advantage of the three headed monster in the backcourt as Nolan Smith, Alex Legion and Brandon Jennings combined for 63 points.
Trotwood kept the game interesting from start to finish and the Rams got the scoring punch from the smallest guy on the floor, 5-foot-8 guard Duane Morgan. Morgan came up with big buckets, especially when Chris Wright, a Rivals150 senior, struggled with his offense in the first half. Wright, who finished with a team high 21 points and eight rebounds, signed with Dayton in the fall.
In Oak Hill's game against Norcross, the only real non-tournament battle the team has faced this year, Jennings scored on a ridiculously difficult floater over Gani Lawal to help seal the victory.
On Saturday, he knocked down a similar shot over Wright but drew the foul and sank the free throw to accomplish the three-point play to give Oak Hill an eight point lead that stuck until the end of the game.
"I kind of knew that if I missed that shot and they came down and scored that the lid would come off this building," Jennings said. "We needed to get a basket and I was willing to take charge."
Smith, the vocal leader of the team, spoke highly of his junior teammate after the victory.
"When you have a point guard that can go in and out and pass anywhere on the floor, you are going to be in good shape," Smith said. "He can mix scoring an passing and makes it all make sense for us. It's nice to have that."
Jennings finished with 20 points, five assists and three steals while Smith scored a game high 22 points. Legion was equally effective, putting in 21 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals and assists.
Hitting the Kosh-wall
Trimmed down and slimmed out, DePaul commitment Nayal Koshwal is still doing what he does best – pounding it inside and facing up out to the perimeter. The 6-foot-8 scored whenever he wanted in the post and went to work against an under matched Cornerstone Christian squad from Texas. He mixes strength with finesse nicely but when he is playing with power and punishing the rims, Koshwal is certifiably nasty.
The four-star prospect is doing the things necessary to be a guy that helps out from the outset for Jerry Wainwright at DePaul next year. Koshwal finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
The class of 2008 point guard pool is looking for players to make a splash at the position and one player to watch is Boys II Men general Jeremiah Kelly. In the helter-skelter, up and down style that prep school hoops is, the junior doesn't get caught up in forcing the issue and is content with taking his time in order to get a good pass or a good shot for himself.
The 6-foot-1 guard said he is hearing from DePaul, Washington and Illinois. While the Blue Demons look like the early favorite right now and understandably so with Koshwal there and former Boys II Men player Thijin Moses in his freshman year at the Big East school. But he isn't closing the door on any other programs, saying he is remaining wide open.
Life Center lessons
Back in his native Ohio, Nate Miles Miles drilled four gorgeous pull-up three-pointers against Genesis One. The future UConn wing is getting used to his role at Life Center and not forcing anything offensively. Even though he put in 21 points, the 6-foot-6 wing was content with sharing the rock and getting his teammates involved. He transferred from Cornerstone Christian at the holiday break. Interestingly enough, Cornerstone Christian is also in the Flyin' to the Hoop.
The window between the nation's top seven players is a small one and each of the elite level guys bring something different. DeAndre Jordan, the No. 8 ranked player in the class of 2007, isn't too far off himself from that elite group. He's as unique of player in this class because of his sheer size (every bit of seven feet) and athletic as they come. Jordan finished with a modest 18 points in the victory.
It wasn't his best game of the year, especially if you consider he's been averaging over 30 points a game in the last three contests. Jordan has the tools to be a big time pro prospect after a year at Texas A&M. Billy Gillespie's attention to defense will only toughen the Houston native up and mix all of his physical traits together.
Genesis One forward Malcolm White White finished the game on the bench with a deep cut on his nose after meeting Jordan at the rim. He needed a couple of stitches to close up the gash after the game. Here's a guy that runs on his own brand of energy source and plays with a fearlessness that only cage fighters and soldiers possess. White is raw but there is a player inside of him. Remember, Tyrus Thomas fit that same mold. And remember, White hails from Louisiana and laid low under the radar, too.
News & Notes
Miami freshman James Dews is no longer nailing long balls for Lakota East but senior guard Rafee Smith is happy to taking over the shooter's role. The 6-foot-3 lefty nailed seven three-pointers in his team's 54-50 loss to Prince Avenue Prep. He created shots and knew what to do when he saw an opening.
All eyes on you
Coaches from Cincinnati and LaSalle were the only two schools that we saw in the building on Saturday.
Ohio State senior forward Ivan Harris and freshman guard Daquan Cook made the quick trip over to Dayton after the Buckeyes' fantastic last second shot win over Tennessee in Columbus on Saturday afternoon. Harris played for Oak Hill prior to taking his game to Columbus.
Duquesne forward Sam Ashaolu made it out to see his younger brother, Olu, play for Christian Life Center. It was good to see him out and about and around the game just months removed from being shot in the head in Pittsburgh last fall.
Boys to Men (Ill.) 91, Cornerstone Christian (Texas) 62
Prince Avenue Prep (S.C.) 54, Lakota East (Ohio) 50
Christian Life Center (Texas) 81, Genesis One Elite (Miss.) 80
Oak Hill Academy (Va.) 81, Trotwood Madison (Ohio) 74
Mason 55, Vandalia Butler 37
Sunday, Jan. 14
11 a.m. – Stoneridge Prep (Calif.) vs. Boys to Men (Ill.)
12:30 p.m. – NC Georgia Elite vs. Prince Avenue Prep (S.C.)
2:15 p.m. – Eastern Commerce (Can.) vs. Rhodes (Ohio)
4:00 p.m. – Cornerstone Christian (Texas) vs. Genesis One (Miss.)
5:45 p.m. – Stoneridge Prep (Calif.) vs. Life Center Academy (Texas)
7:30 p.m. – Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Ohio) vs. Centerville (Ohio)