Beginning in 1990, two of the nation's premier prep basketball programs, Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., and Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., have tipped off their basketball season with a hotly contested scrimmage. This event provides challenging matchups for both programs, and allows the coaches a unique opportunity to assess the abilities of their players against top competiton.
The basketball talent at this 15th annual scrimmage was equally impressive with perhaps 20 Divison I prospects on the two rosters.
By no means does coach Steve Smith have the same level of talent that he did last year at Oak Hill Academy. There is not a Josh Smith, or a Rajon Rondo, or even a Brian Johnson on the Warriors roster. His best players are two prime-time juniors, 6-foot-9, 190-pound power/wing forward Kevin Durant, and 5-foot-11, 180-pound point guard, Tywon Lawson.
The other top players at Oak Hill this season are Syracuse recruit, 6-foot-3, 180-pound two-guard Eric Devendorf, 6-foot-4, 225-pound guard/forward Jamont Gordon, and Illinois bound 6-foot-9, 225-pound center David Palmer. Perhaps, Oak Hill's best senior, 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard KC Rivers, (committed to Clemson) has a broken foot, and is not expected to play until mid-December at the earliest.
Coach Kevin Keatts' Hargrave Military Academy squad appears to be deeper and more talented than his 2003-04 team. The top performers for Hargrave are Pittsburgh recruit, 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward Sam Young, a relentless warrior from Clinton, Md.; Puerto Rican sharpshooter, 6-foot-6 guard/forward A.D. Vassallo, (committed to Richmond); 6-foot-7 wing forward Shane Clark, who is expected to decide between Villanova and Maryland; 6-foot-5 one/two guard Bilal Benn, who may sign late, although he has visited Penn State, and is scheduled to visit Villanova the weekend of October 23.
Other top prospects for Hargrave Military Academy are 6-foot-8, 225-pound center/forward Jerome Johnson, once committed to Clemson, but has now opened up his recruitment since he was denied academic admission to that institution; and versatile St. Louis recruit, 6-foot-5 Tommie Liddell, from East St. Louis, Ill.
The scrimmage is actually played in three segments in which amount to three separate "mini-games" since the scoreboard is zeroed out after each period. Oak Hill Academy, led by the high-flying antics of Durant with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks, beat Hargrave 52-40 in the first period. Lawson had 12 points and 7 assists for Oak Hill, and Gordon and Devendorf each scored 9 points for the Warriors.
The leaders for Hargrave were A.D. Vassallo with 18 points, including 5-7 three-point attempts; and rugged Jerome Johnson with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
In the second period powered by the superb effort of Sam Young, who dominated with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Hargrave Military Academy held off Oak Hill Academy 50-45. Clark added 10 points, including 6 crucial free throws at the end of the period; Johnson scored 8 points and Vassallo 7 points for the victors.
The leaders for Oak Hill were Durant with 16 points; Lawson with 13 points; and Gordon with 8 points. Devendorf had only 2 points, and Palmer did not score.
In a ten minute third period which featured the reserves for each team, Oak Hill won 25-21.
Overall, the most impressive prospect in the scrimmage was Oak Hill's Durant. He, unquestionably, will be one of the top prospects, behind 7-foot-1 Greg Oden, in the Class of 2006.
And, according to Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith: "It is very unlikely that Durant will ever play college basketball. I think that with added strength and physical maturity Kevin will go directly to the NBA," said Smith.