Middleburg Academy (Middleburg, VA)

Classification: Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division II

2018-19 overall record: 17-8

Colleges in Attendance: University of Delaware, Richmond, Liberty, Howard, and Virginia State.

 

 

Ok, from what I’ve deemed thus far, basketball folks are in for a treat this year if they come across VISAA private school competition. Out of the association’s three divisions, I’m honestly expecting some of the best battles to happen on the Division II side. There’s a good balance of both returners and newcomers amongst different programs all across the state. Last year definitely showed plenty of talented prospects composing the makeup of teams but I, along with others, have noticed an increase of next-level targets emerging as of late. If the talent wasn’t enough, VISAA Division II hoops also holds a chance to become special in 2019-20 due to the fiery competitive nature within these same players. Consider the Dragons at Middleburg Academy for example. They have guys all across the roster with enough basketball skill to get by but nonetheless go after things with a killer mentality, first and foremost. That specific notion leads to why I’m seeing them as potentially one of the biggest threats in Virginia private school play this winter.

 

 

What We Know

  • My Phenom Hoops co-worker, Jamie Shaw, was with me for coverage at Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA) when Middleburg competed in this past season’s VISAA Division II state tournament final four. Matched up against the eventual state champions, Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA), the Dragons would give a strong effort for all 32 minutes in the semifinal round before suffering a 63 – 47 defeat. The loss obviously brought dissatisfaction with the acknowledgement of being so close to a shot at the title game but I’m sure the learning experience also provided its share of benefits. Two current college basketball freshmen graduated from Middleburg’s 2018-19 team roster: Joel Kabimba ’19 (Stetson University) and David Penney ’19 (Simon Frazier University). Nine upperclassmen return to the mix.
  • The lively atmosphere of Wednesday’s open gym had a stronger impression of any other school I’ve come across for the first few weeks of this ‘open gym tour.’ The players went right at it for a full two hours of competitive play. Transitioning from 3v3 to 5v5 went along seamlessly and plenty of fast-paced action sustained all evening long. I liked the coaching staff’s method of mixing encouragement and teaching points to stay in the players’ ears while the scrimmaging remained ongoing. The pace of things never had to slow down for this to happen either. As noted above, five college coaches showed up to check out the mid-week workout; a trend that’s become naturally expected for Middleburg already into this preseason. The coaches have done an excellent job of marketing their players and workouts to let next-level programs know when they’re in the gym.
  • I got a strong glance at the capabilities of this year’s team back in late-June when the inaugural ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’ took place at Blue Ridge. Participating in both sessions of the summer event, Middleburg arguably generated the most buzz in the gym, especially during Part I. They had a strong collective defense approach that usually led to exciting plays made on the scoring end against other notable teams. That showing had myself and other scouts/coaches sitting courtside with raised eyebrows.
  • Once again, there’s great size in this 2019-20 Middleburg group. Five of the seven guards stand over 6’2,” with many being interchangeable. On the wing and in the frontcourt, all six players have a height of 6’6” or taller. There’s solid depth and everyone seems to work well together operating at that aforementioned speedy style. The Dragons play with athleticism, strong instincts, and appear to highly embrace contact once they get a look in the paint. In all, I’d refer to Middleburg as a team full of SCORERS. They don’t have many pure shooters but nevertheless are producing guys who can put the ball in the basket constantly and in different ways. Personally, I’ve always seen those such players as the deadliest.

 

Who to Watch

Ben Li ’20 – He’s committed to Lehigh University. He averaged 17 points and 10.2 rebounds last year for a VISAA all-state second team nod. He’s the glue that keeps everything together. The latter rings the truest, in my eyes, and Middleburg should heavily rely on Li’s leadership and knowledge. The strong 6’6” wing plays with a combination of skill, shooting, attacking, and athleticism nicely to give defenders all sorts of trouble. Evident by his junior season averages, Li’s one of VISAA’s top walking double-double threats and has worked on small parts of his game to become even smarter with decision-making. Ever since the ‘Live Period Shootout,’ I’ve been impressed with how he’s taken the initiative of being the team’s main vocal leader. It’s what one wants to see out of a senior veteran.

 

Jaden House ’21 – The 6’4” guard had a great season at Henrico High School (Henrico, VA) last year when he posted 16 points per game for Virginia High School League (VHSL) Region 5B second team honors. Still, currently as a new face for the Dragons, House has made some of the best progress in the last seven months compared to many other Virginia products I’ve seen. He’s always had that prowess of slashing to the rim but now scores more prolifically by using an improved jump shot. During Wednesday’s scrimmages, House netted more points than anyone else on the floor. That feel, along with his impressive physical frame and solid defense, explains why his recruitment took a major leap back in June. Stetson, Old Dominion, Howard, and Mount St. Mary’s have all offered since then.

 

Isaiah ‘Zay’ Folkes ’21 – Another new arrival in the back court, the 6’2” Folkes brings top-notch athleticism with him from Northern Virginia. By now, I’m convinced that he has the best hang time in the state…based off of my own observations at least. Folkes floats through the air and can make all sorts of plays as a primary ball-handler. He attacks openings and uses screens well to get near the paint. Once stepping into the lane, expected him to either rise for a difficult finish or quick pass. The junior’s shot off of long step backs also worked effectively for him on Wednesday; he’ll pass the test as a complete guard if he can maintain consistent shooting and playmaking for others. Similar to House, Folkes has enjoyed a major boost in his recruiting status over the past several months: Youngstown State, Old Dominion, Radford, Norfolk State, and Stetson all extended offers.

 

Terique Brown ’21 – One of the smoothest players on this list, Brown’s left-handed shooting skills gives Middleburg another 2021 prospect who can light up the scoring column when he really gets going. In the few times I’ve seen him play since the 2019 summer, both at the ‘Live Period Shootout’ and ‘ASSIST DMV Top 100 Showcase,’ I’ve really liked how easily the 6’3” guard makes the game appear. Brown has a knack for quickly getting open for his looks and cashes them in with solid efficiency at all three levels. He strictly uses skill to stand out on the court; producing well both on and off of the ball. I’m curious to see if he keeps developing into a combo guard, as he appears to be slotted at both guard spots this season. That could work in his favor at that size.

 

Kwaku ‘Kwaks’ Agyapong ’20 – The tall and wiry ‘Kwaks,’ as they call him, always gives valuable hustle points to the Dragons whenever out there on the floor. He has a lengthy frame at 6’9” and terrific nose for offensive rebounds. I’d say he’s best in that area; attacking the glass and using his wingspan to haul in misses off of the rim. His effort on the rebounding end also transitions to his defense, where he provides an interior presence and can switch onto perimeter opponents. Developing more scoring go-to moves and filling into his body by staying in the weight room can help ‘Kwaks’ go further as a player down the road. His play did not go by unnoticed on Wednesday, however, as the senior forward pulled in his first college verbal offer from Virginia State after the workout had concluded.

 

Xzavier Long ’21 – Coming from Washington D.C. to enroll in the school, Long’s one whom I’m planning to keep a close eye on for the next two seasons. I’ve heard of the 6’6” junior in the past but Wednesday evening gave me my first true look of what he can do on the court. He definitely caught my eye by playing effectively both inside and out. There’s good pass perception in Long’s game that allows him to collect steals and take it all the way down the floor for a properly made decision. I loved his patience around the rim; he used shot fakes for drawn fouls and finishes that succeeded at will. He looked better shooting off of the catch versus creating for his own but clearly can do some things with the rock and knows how to get out in the open floor if the ball’s not in his hands. Simply another piece in the 2021 core with serious promise.

 

Kai Kueper ’20 – Listed as a 6’9” power forward, Kueper had a good showing in the latter portion of my visit once he started feeling it from the perimeter. He’s a strong option at pick-and-pop scenarios with his smooth shooting that has range. In one instance, he netted about three consecutive triples. That ability to stretch the floor appeared as one of the most comfortable aspects of Kueper’s game but there’s no doubt that his size makes him a post threat as well. He uses a soft touch around the basket and calls out screens when defending. It’ll be interesting to see how Middleburg plans to use him and their other frontcourt tools, as there’s plenty of size for different lineups.

 

Demarcus Spivey ’20 – Spivey has good control and pace to attack downhill for Middleburg when he has the ball in transition. At 6’2” with long arms, he uses his physical attributes nicely on both ends, especially for defense. The guard can defend up to three positions and contain dribble penetration with his lateral movements. Finishing-wise, he looks most fluid in that category, while also showing unselfishness and being capable of making jumpers. The more he improves upon his offensive consistency, to become more equal to his defense, the more his stock should grow.

 

Cavan Reilly ’22 – So, when I say that Middleburg is a team more so full of ‘scorers’ than ‘pure shooters,’ the young Reilly is an exception. The 6’2” guard shoots it just as well as any other roster member from three-point territory; I can recall observing him total four in a row during Session II of the ‘Live Period Shootout.’ Less than a month later, the sophomore again had another good showing for D.C. Premier 15u, 13 points and three trey balls, in one of the summer’s final tournament championships: the 2019 Hoop Group DC Jam Fest (Springfield, VA). Reilly’s a bona fide sniper from that level of the court and has already established a reputation early in his career that one cannot afford to give him an inch of space. He’s getting better with the ball to expand past being strictly a spot-up guy.

 

Yedidia Mubiayi ’22 – It’s pretty difficult to determine the team’s best athlete at the moment but Mubiayi undoubtedly should fall into the conversation. A word that best describes his game: EXPLOSIVE. He won’t hesitate in the slightest bit to attempt and dunk over anyone standing in his way, which usually leads to him creating contact for fouls in transition. The 6’0” guard is a terrific rebounder for his size, hustles for loose balls, defends at a high level, and spots his peers frequently for nice assists. His relentless motor serves as a prime example of how I would illustrate Middleburg as a whole. Mubiayi still has some work to do in becoming more controlled on his drives and learning how to take open shots when available but his style of play should excite fans for the next couple of seasons.

 

Where You Can Find Them

*Full season schedule is not officially finalized 

  • Hargrave Military Academy Invitational (Chatham, VA); November 15 – 16, 2019
  • Mid-Atlantic Basketball Classic’ (Washington D.C.); December 21, 2019
  • DMV Elite Governor’s Challenge,’ hosted at Wicomico Civic Center, MD; December 26 – 30, 2019

 

A Word from the Head Honcho

“The two main things for us will be improved communication and playing hard. That’s the most important thing: playing hard for each other. Everything else will take care of itself if we can accomplish that strategy.”

– Head coach Joe Philogene (3rd year)

 

Outlook

From the moment one steps into the gym, he or she can judge based off of the ‘eye test’ that Middleburg has a noteworthy squad. After watching them get up and down the court for a mere few minutes, the inevitable talent becomes that much more obvious. Still, to reiterate what I touched upon earlier, it’s the Dragons’ edge that can act as the main factor to separate themselves from opposing teams. I mean, think about it, a dragon initially brings an imposing presence, regardless of the situation, but becomes even deadlier once it starts breathing fire. I don’t think maintaining that fire will become a challenge for Middleburg due to how everyone on their roster, from the coaching staff to the 12th man, shares that zeal for the highest possible success.

 

 

 

Watch your head; the Dragons are circling above…