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January 14, 2011
Hoophall Classic loaded with talent
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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
It may be a high school basketball tournament, but with the players on the court at the 10th annual Hoophall Classic, it will look more like an AAU event than any other regular-season basketball invitational you will find this time of the year.
"It will be great to see," Jerry Meyer, Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst, said. "There will be a total of nine five-star prospects in the 2011 class and six five-star players from the class of 2012 playing this weekend."
Among those nine five-stars, Mike Gilchrist of Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick checks in as the highest rated player at No. 3 in the nation.
Meyer has given Gilchrist very high praise, especially for a wing player. He is ranked as the No. 10 overall passer in the entire class - ahead of many Division I-bound point guards.
That is not the only part of the game that shines for Gilchrist.
"No one plays harder or competes with more fire than Gilchrist," Meyer said. "Even if his scoring game is off, he is guaranteed to impact the game."
Gilchrist's team will going head-to-head with the No. 3 player in the class of 2012, Shabazz Muhammad and Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, on Monday.
But before Meyer gets to analyze those two teams and the plethora of players on the respective rosters, the chance to see other elite players will be a must.
Saturday will give Meyer the opportunity to check out not only the No. 1 team in the RivalsHigh 100, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill, but also the No. 17-ranked player in the Class of 2011, Ben McLemore.
McLemore remains uncommitted, but he is leaning heavily toward playing his college basketball at Kansas, according to Meyer. He is a player with a very high ceiling.
"When you watch McLemore play, upside is the word that comes to mind," he said. "His game is a little raw right now, but he has all the skills and unbelievable athleticism."
His ability to play off the ball combined with four-star guard Quinn Cook to distribute and Sidiki Johnson and Daniel Gomis on the inside provides for a lot of depth as well as significant troubles for opponents.
The Warriors will be defending their national No. 1 ranking against one of the best in Georgia, No. 11 Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton High.
While Milton does not possess the rare five-star player, it does have three four-star players who are all committed to major Division I basketball teams: Dai-Jon Parker (Vanderbilt), Julian Royal (Georgia Tech) and Shannon Scott (Ohio State).
Also on the court Saturday will be the No. 2 team nationally, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony.
The team is led by Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley on the sidelines and one of the best players of 2012 on the court.
Kyle Anderson is a five-star guard with the height of a power forward (6-foot-8) and the shot of a deadly off-guard, but plays point guard.
He draws an improbable comparison from Meyer.
"He reminds me of the effect Larry Bird had on the game," Meyer said. "Sometimes it is like Anderson is playing chess out there.
"He is one of my favorite players to watch because of the way the game slows down around him."
Ultimately Anderson will likely outgrow his position at the point and slide to a face up power forward, but for now the floor general will continue to round out his game.
St. Anthony will be taking on another Top 10 team in the RivalsHigh 100, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha.
Oakdale (Conn.) St. Thomas More is not currently ranked in the RivalsHigh 100, but it will have Meyer's eye because of one player: Andre Drummond, the No. 1 player in the class of 2012.
Meyer said his completeness as a player leaves very little doubt as to why he is considered the clear No. 1 in the junior class.
"He has great size and athleticism and an impressive skill level," he said. "There is a reason most everyone has Drummond as the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2012 class."
His team enters the event 10-1 and will take on the Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy.
Hargrave is a team not eligible for national high school rankings due to having fifth-year players, but individually has one of the best in five-star North Carolina commit, small forward P.J. Hairston.
Also on Sunday will be a head-to-head game of five-star guards as No. 16-ranked Michael Carter-Williams of Hamilton (R.I.) St. Andrews will square off with No. 24-ranked Myck Kabongo and his Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep Pilots.
With both players and teams playing very well, Meyer points to Kabongo as a possible difference-maker.
"Speed is the name of the game for Kabongo," he said. "He pushes the tempo with the best of them."
Kobongo and the rest of Findlay Prep will not have much time to rest as the team is the only one to play multiple games this weekend as it will take on nationally-ranked Dallas (Texas) Lincoln on Monday.
Lincoln is lead by the No. 4 player in the Class of 2011, LeBryan Nash.
Nash is a player, that according to Meyer, can make his presence felt on the drive as well as from outside the arc.
"LeBryan is one of the more explosive wing athletes playing high school basketball," he said. "Along with his ability to bully his way to the rim, he also has a nice shooting touch from deep."
The Oklahoma State commit has Lincoln in the thick of the national rankings as well as the hunt for a state basketball title.
One team that is new to the national scene - and from a state not well known to produce solid basketball teams - will be one of the last teams to take the court on the weekend.
The size that Bryn Athyn (Pa.) Academy of the New Church can put on the court is impressive.
The school, located just outside of Philadelphia, will be sending out a 6-11 center and Pittsburgh commit, Malcolm Gilbert, 6-foot-5 small forward, junior Villanova commit, Savon Goodman, and 6-foot-8 power forward, five-star Syracuse commit, Rakeem Christmas.
Christmas has the look of one of the next great shot blockers heading to Syracause.
"Christmas is one of the tougher big men to score against in the 2011 class," Meyer said. "He has great instincts as a shot blocker."
Academy of the New Church already has a stunning win over Findlay Prep on its resume for the 2011 season and is climbing up the RivalsHigh 100 with this trio of players.
But for a team with three Division I athletes on the court, it will still not be the most talented on the court during the event.
That is something that truly makes this year's Hoophall a five-star of its own.