I have to be honest, this ‘dead period’ of travel basketball during June gives off a weird type of vibe. Other scouts will probably agree with me, considering how we’ve been so accustomed to attending weekly tournaments. However, excellent news surfaced on my Twitter feed last month when I read that Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA) had put their own plans of hosting a ‘live period showcase’ into the works. I greatly enjoyed time attending my first Blue Ridge event last October, in the Barons’ ‘Fall Shootout.’ The coaching staff ran things with ease and brought in top-notch talent from around the state. This summer showing, titled the ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout,’ will feature recognizable private school teams from both in and out of Virginia; including other surrounding states of North Carolina, Maryland, and New York. There’s two sessions happening, with some teams participating in both. I’ll once again make the trip up to the mountains of St. George and can’t wait to see what the players have ready to display. Before Day 1 on Friday (6/21) arrives, I decided to go ahead and highlight each of the 18 teams who will be in attendance.
Session 1’s Teams
Bishop Sullivan HS (Virginia Beach, VA): I had a chance to see the Crusaders (14-12 overall in 2018-19) compete in the annual ‘Sleepy Thompson Basketball Tournament’ last December. They held a VERY veteran-heavy team. Five seniors have graduated, including three-next level commits. The 2019 senior trio of 6’9” Kenan Sarvan ’19 (Saint Joseph’s University), 6’5” Shawn Walker, Jr. ’19 (George Washington University), and 6’3” Brandon Cline ’19 (Virginia Wesleyan University) all worked together to provide the majority of Bishop Sullivan’s scoring load and much-needed leadership. With that crew having now departed, other returners and newcomers will have the chance to step up. Five 2020 players should be returning to the mix, as the team only featured juniors and seniors this past season.
Bishop Walsh HS (Cumberland, MD): The Spartans will likely draw strong attention after coming off of their best season record in years; finishing with a 20-8 clip in 2018-19. That stellar season also included a win in the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, being their first tournament victory in eight years. Some noteworthy members have moved on, however; including The 2019 Cumberland Times-News Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Oliver Robinson Nkamhoua ’19 (17.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg), who committed to the University of Tennessee last month on May 7th. Versatile 6’2” guard, Jalen Miller ’21 (9 ppg, 7 rpg, 8.5 apg, 3 spg) returns from the All-Area first team as only a rising junior. Bryant University offered him last week on June 15th. I’ll also make sure to keep an eye on Patrick Strite ’20, who’s been referred to as a ‘sharpshooter’ from others.
Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA): They’re the hosts. They’re the reigning Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division II state champs. They were one of the most impressive private school programs I covered last year. So, with all of that being said, I expect the Barons to hit the hardwood fully prepared and with an aim of protecting their home floor. A LOT went well for them in their 28-6 season, as that state title capped off a bounce-back year after Blue Ridge fell to Miller School (Charlottesville, VA) in the 2018 championship. One of the team’s best scorers, Michael Gray ’21 (a 2019 VISAA all-state first teamer who averaged 13 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg) should take on an even greater role as a playmaker who can get a bucket on his own. A duo of 6’11” Sasha Glushkov ’20 and 6’9” Houston Emory ’21 brings serious size and length to the frontcourt. Andy Nwaoko ’20 is a powerful 6’5” force, while William Lee ’20 provides valuable offense with his nice shooting touch and decision making. Old Dominion University extended offers to both Gray and Emory last week (June 15th).
Carmel School (Ruther Glen, VA): This weekend can serve as a perfect first setup for the Wildcats to start putting their big plans for 2019-20 in action. After finishing 12-16 with a first round loss in the VISAA Division II state tournament back in March, I have no doubt they’ll arrive hungry to show out and make a greater name for themselves in the 804 region of Virginia. Josh Campbell ’20 returns as both the leading scorer and rebounder (17.1 ppg and 10.2 rpg). I always like watching the gritty 6’3” guard play; he can fill it up from the perimeter and also appeared stronger/quicker the last time I saw him in a mid-May travel ball tournament. Elijah Roye ’20 also comes back as an important 6’6” piece. He’s a high-academic guy and hasn’t even been playing basketball for a long time. Nevertheless, his two-way approach, motor, and unselfishness all prove valuable. He contains plenty of promise and should stand out quickly to those who see him compete for the first time. Carmel also had three sophomores and another junior on last year’s team, having lost four seniors. It’s definitely Campbell and Roye’s team now, but other big contributors can emerge as well.
Church Hill Academy (Richmond, VA): I haven’t had a chance to scout or learn much about the Christian school up to this point, but this weekend will finally provide that first look. I’ll have an eye out for them, especially since there’s not a huge number of Richmond private school programs when comparing to the public school ones. Playing a total of six games this weekend, and against stellar competition, should give the Phantoms a strong chance to show their capabilities.
Collegiate School (Richmond, VA): Well, it’s never easy for any high school program when you lose a nationally-ranked top 100 kid like Robbie Beran ’19, who’s now preparing for his incoming career at Northwestern University. He wasn’t the only one to receive his diploma either; Cody Patterson ’19, Jackson Watkins ’19, and Ayinde Budd ’19 all played important roles as the other three team captains alongside Beran. Still, under the coaching prowess of Del Harris, I’m confident the disciplined Cougars will likely maintain their mark as a strong private school squad in Richmond. Execution of ‘playing the right way’ should continue to persist in their game plan, regardless of who’s on the floor. Deadeye shooter Mac Macdonald ’21 gave excellent minutes last season as an underclassman and has shown improvement within his game throughout this spring while competing for Team Richmond Garner Road 16u. I also have my eye on another young hooper, Quentin Toulson ’22, who already stands at 6’5” and displays athletic traits. They may feature more of a younger core but it doesn’t take away from how effective they can still play.
Davidson Day School (Davidson, NC): Whenever a North Carolina team comes to town, you can expect some prideful play to take place…I expect nothing less from Davidson Day. The Patriots wrapped up a very good winter season in going 20-5, which ended with a heartbreaking 66-64 loss to Wayne Country Day (Goldsboro, NC) in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) state quarterfinals. The good news is only three seniors have departed and one of the state’s best emerging prospect returns with two more years left: Bryce Alfino ’21. Phenom Hoops co-worker Jeff Bendel recently had much to praise about the 6’4” Alfino, stating “He’s phenomenal at attacking the rim, but is now a reliable perimeter shooter with the ability to spot-up or create off the bounce. He’s an exceptional two-way rebounder that positions himself extremely well and is able to outwork bigger/stronger opponents on the glass. Alfino’s legitimately capable of containing four positions at the high school level, which should definitely appeal to all types of college coaches. Expect his stock to continue to rise, as he is starting to become one of the top wing prospects in North Carolina.” Those words make me that much more curious to get a look at the promising Davidson product, as well as the rest of his squad.
Episcopal HS (Alexandria, VA): A team veteran and one of Alexandria’s top guards, Xavier Johnson ’19, has now moved on to his collegiate career nearby at George Mason University. Regardless, I’m again excited to see plenty of key prospects suit up once again for the Episcopal Maroons. Johnson’s younger brother, Darius ’21, exploded as a scintillating scoring guard last season; earning VISAA Division I all-state second team honors. The 5’11” rising upperclassman can flat-out score it from anywhere on the floor and now has received more high-major college interest. Two other 2020 prospects, Jack Fitzpatrick ’20 and Tymu Chenery ’20, will hold important roles in leadership and reliability. Fitzpatrick has a strong IQ and can really shoot it, while the 6’7” Chenery has the athletic tools and scoring feel to completely take over in spurts. Bryce Steele ’21 is another one who contributes nicely with his competiveness and athletic build. There’s a good chance for great things to again happen from the 2019 state championship runner-ups…motivation shouldn’t prove as any issue.
Highland School (Warrenton, VA): Finishing up as the Delaney Athletic Conference (DAC) regular-season and tournament champions once again in February, I think it’s safe to say many in the town of Warrenton, and especially in the DAC, know all about the Highland Hawks’ winning ways. They went 25-6 overall in 2018-19 with an undefeated conference record and their third DAC tournament title in four years. Angelo Brizzi ’21 (17.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.3 spg) looked nothing short of a special prospect and one of Northern Virginia’s most complete offensive players. The super lefty shoots with ease, draws fouls, uses pass perception, and shows smooth footwork. His scoring also tends to overshadow his passing ability. The Jasper twins, Jalen ’21 (9.9 ppg) and James ’21, play smartly and with a ton of energy, while Zion Hanberry ’20 (5.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg) can produce in various categories.
Life Christian Academy (Chester, VA): The reigning VISAA Division III state champions was arguably the ‘best kept secret’ in the 804 last winter. I remember making the statement in my ‘Mid-Season Thoughts’ article (January 2019) that I found it perplexing how area members had not been discussing more about the Eagles. They easily passed the ‘eye test’ and became an exciting team to watch when fully locked in. Satisfyingly, most of that 2018-19 roster returns, led by the 2019 VISAA Division III State Player of the Year, Marchelus ‘Chi Chi’ Avery ’20. Personally, I consider the 6’8” Avery a top-three talent in Richmond. Two of his other classmates, Christian McLeod ’20 and Logan Washington ’20, should hold it down at the guard and forward positions, respectively. Two-time all-state first team lead guard Antonio ‘Spider’ Bridy ’19 has graduated so I’m curious to see who’ll take over at that spot. McLeod, at 6’3,” has the tools to step into that role if needed.
McQuaid Jesuit HS (Rochester, NY): New York, New York…if it’s one thing to know, it’s that the state has bred some serious hoopers dating back to many decades ago. That trend has resurfaced more so in the past couple of years after going through somewhat of a hiatus years back. The Knights of McQuaid Jesuit fall right into that category of established New York programs, as they won their second consecutive Class AA sectional title, with a 20-5 record, a couple of months ago. Eight seniors are gone but two important 2020 guards, Jermaine Taggart ’20 and Kobe Long ’20 should again result as the team’s leading scorers. Both played exceptionally well enough last season to secure spots on the 2019 All-Greater Rochester first team. There’s curiosity to check out that duo, of course, but I’m sure McQuaid Jesuit has even more reliable weapons to showcase during their upcoming brief stay in Virginia.
Middleburg Academy (Middleburg, VA): I’m hoping to see more of Middleburg this season, after covering them only twice last year (preseason and postseason). They did well to finish with a 17-8 record and make it to the VISAA Division II state semifinal round. However, two 2019 standouts have departed for college hoops: Joel Kabimba ’19 (Stetson University/2019 all-state first teamer) and David Penney ’19 (Simon Frazier University). Ben Li ’20, a Lehigh University commit, is back and appears hungrier than ever; based on my recent interview/feature on him. The 6’6” versatile forward averaged 17 points and 10.2 rebounds as a junior captain. 6’9” Kwaku Agyapong ‘20 and 6’8” Oguzhan Ay ‘20 both have the size to replace Kabimba in the front court. Two 2021 newcomers, Isaiah ‘Zay’ Folkes ’21 and Jaden House ’21, give the Dragons a potentially dangerous backcourt. Folkes landed a nod on the Cedar Run All-District first team this past season at Stonewall Jackson High School (Manassas, VA) and House (15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg) gave opponents trouble on a nightly basis as a part of the Henrico High School (Henrico, VA) program; he earned his way onto the Region 5B second team.
Roanoke Catholic School (Roanoke, VA): Competing in the Virginia Independent Conference (VIC) Division II classification, nothing ever resulted as easy for the Roanoke Catholic Celtics. Still, they impressively stayed the course to finish up 20-17 and make a conference tournament second round appearance before Life Christian ended their season. Folks have noted 5’11” standout Jamonte Smith ’21 (20.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg) as one of the 540’s most electrifying guards. To put up those type of numbers as only a sophomore sure does speak volumes. Rising seniors, Jared LaTreill ’20 (9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Traevis Kopcial ’20 (5.6 ppg), play a bit undersized at the forward positions, each standing at 6’2,” but can nonetheless give additional production.
St. Anne’s Belfield School (Charlottesville, VA): All supporters of the ‘STAB’ varsity team should have high optimism about what can unfold in the future. The Saints fell short of capturing a Virginia Prep League (VPL) tournament championship a few months ago but will have some of the most experience out of any other team within their conference. Nick Reese ’20 (9.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) and Malachi Poindexter ’20 (9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) should again stand out at the guard positions. The interchangeable Reese solely comes back as a captain from last year. 6’4” marksman Justin Taylor ’22 (13.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) has really good size and skill at his two-guard position. He impressively ended up as the only underclassman selected to the All-VPL team and already has received an offer from Liberty University. There’s a couple of young guys on the bench but Carter Lang ’23 intrigues the most. He played as a 6’6” eighth-grader last season. Yes, you read that right.
St. Christopher’s School (Richmond, VA): Another VPL member and different crew of ‘Saints’ will participate in the festivities also, as the St. Christopher’s team enters the live period event with an aim to build off of their past 2018-19 campaign. They had good moments but only finished with a record of 8-20; losing in the VPL tournament’s semifinal round. Gill Williamson ’20, a 6’7” lanky stretch-4, progressed throughout the year and continues to make strides as a valuable asset on both ends. I feel he could become one of the league’s top forwards as a senior. 6’3” Nigel Green ’20 and 6’6” Walker Wallace ’20 both also arrive back as key veterans, as the two can complete plays in different areas on the floor. Nikkos Kovanes ’22 can find open teammates REALLY well and his classmate, Andre Greene ’22, plays hard at all times to go along with his nice shooting touch. We may see a great deal of older guys leading this bunch…eight juniors held sports on last year’s roster.
Takoma Academy (Takoma Park, MD): After finishing with a strong 22-12 overall record for the 2018-19 season, Takoma has caught some attention in the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area by recently performing well in the annual ‘Capitol Hoops Summer League;’ one that features high competition on a yearly basis. Last time I checked, they stood at 5-1 after the league’s first six games. Successful play in that summer competition likely plays a large part to their immense experience back on the roster. The Tigers should have PLENTY of seniors to lean; nine 2020 guys composed of last year’s group. I’ve heard good things about David Nwankwo ’20, Jordan Beckett ’20, and Mike Brown ’20 (who led the team with 17 ppg last season as a junior) throughout the Capitol Hoops league but it honestly appears like a different player can take over on any given night. I’m sure most will agree in saying that particular notion always tends to serve as a strong component for team success.
Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): Once again, the Titans should make their presence known as a top threat in the VPL, after achieving a conference tournament three-peat back in February. National four-star prospect and 2019 All-Metro Player of the Year Henry Coleman ’20 (26.2 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 3.2 apg) has everyone in the state on notice about how dominant he can truly perform. The 6’8” bruiser easily earned my pick as the ‘Most Unstoppable’ player within Richmond last season. One of the area’s tallest players, 6’11” Burke Smith ’20, continues to improve his stock this summer and now holds 10+ Division I offers. Other returners look ready to take their game to new heights also. I considered Kendrick Robinson ’20 as the best overall defender I saw in Richmond last season. His elite play on that end has proven to change the entire course of a contest, along with strong rebounding as a 6’4” guard and facilitating. Erik Prosise ’21 can really get his shot going once he catches fire from distance and Mario Jackson ’20 plays with a lot toughness at his 6’5” athletic frame. Smith’s younger brother, Luke ’22, is back and healthy after missing all of his freshmen season with an ACL injury. He’s already standing at 6’7” and on the verge of becoming a special one in the 804’s 2022 class.
Williamsburg Christian Academy (Williamsburg, VA): After winning the VISAA Division III state title two years ago in 2017 and making another championship appearance in 2018, the 757 program went through some bumps in the road this past season. Their 13-16 record led to them missing out on an invite back to Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA), where the state tournament’s held each March. On the bright side of things, 10 of the Eagles 12-man roster will return to take care of business. Connor Simmons ’20 (10.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg), Jalen Vaughan ’20 (8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), and Ethan Conrad ’21 (8.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) all played imperative roles and will likely do the same this year, if not in greater fashion.
The weekend can’t come fast enough; let’s get to work!