Elite boys hoopsters ready to show out at UMBC Saturday
by Derek Toney
After winning an unprecedented third straight Class 3A state boys basketball championship last March, Poly High coach Sam Brand had his sights on bigger things.
“If it’s up to me, I want to know who’s the Top 10 teams in nation are and I want all 10 of them,” Brand said during the postgame press conference game.
Brand and the third-ranked Engineers will get a chance to play one of the nation’s Top 10 best teams. Poly will face Florida’s IMG Academy in the inaugural East Coast Bump mixer, Saturday evening at UMBC. No. 2 St. Frances Academy will take on Oak Hill Academy from Virginia, in a matchup of nationally-ranked squads.
The Panthers (29-3 overall), ranked 16th by ESPN and 22nd by MaxPreps, have won eight straight games since a loss at Mount St. Joseph. The reigning MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League champions have been driven by South Alabama University-bound forward Jamal West, along with last year’s VSN Player of the Year Adrian “Ace” Baldwin and junior post Julian Reese.
The East Baltimore school won’t be phased, playing in one of the top games this week on the nation’s boys hoops landscape. Two of the Panthers’ losses this season were to IMG Academy and Kansas’ Sunrise Christian Academy (10th by ESPN and No. 12 MaxPreps).
St. Frances gets one of high school basketball’s elite programs in Oak Hill. The small Southern Virginia private school has produced some of the NBA’s biggest stars including Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, who started his prep career at Towson Catholic.
Oak Hill (33-2), ranked No. 2 nationally by MaxPreps and winners of nine mythical national titles (last in 2016), is led by guard KK Robinson, who’s committed to Arkansas, and Virginia Tech-bound combo-guard Darius Maddox. Senior forward Darrick Jones Jr. is committed to Towson.
With its senior trio of point guard Rahim Ali, forward Justin Lewis and shooting guard Brandon Murray, Poly (17-2) held the area’s top-ranking for eight weeks and garnered its first national ranking, but fell out the polls after losing to St. Frances at Morgan State University a couple of weeks ago. The Baltimore City school hopes to get back into the national conversation, but will have to beat one of the nation’s most talented teams in IMG Academy.
The Ascenders (18-5), last season’s mythical national champions by USA Today, feature four Rivals.com Top 50 seniors in forward Jaden Springer, a Tennessee recruit, Duke-bound center Mark Williams, Matthew Murrell (Mississippi) and forward Kenyon Martin. Martin is the son of former NBA player Kenyon Martin Sr.
Nick Blake, a 6-foot-6 UNLV commit, and Darius Miles, a 6-7 forward, gives IMG (ranked 9th nationally by ESPN and 14th by MaxPreps) six Top 150 seniors. Lewis, a Marquette recruit, is the area’s only player (109th) on the Rivals’ Top 150 seniors.
Brand said Monday after Poly’s victory over City College, his team has been focus on the IMG match since it was finalized several months ago.
“These are the games that we feel our program deserve to play,” said Brand. “We’re excited to represent public schools, Baltimore City public schools on a stage like that and show if you support young people in the right way, they can compete with anybody.”
EAST COAST BUMP
Where: UMBC Event Center
Schedule: New Hope Academy vs. Rock Creek Christian Academy, 4 p.m.; No. 2 St. Frances Academy vs. Oak Hill Academy (VA), 6 p.m.; No. 3 Poly vs. IMG Academy (FL), 8 p.m.
Players to watch: IMG Academy – Nick Blake, 6-foot-6, Sr., shooting guard (No. 107 prospect in Rivals.com’s Class of 2020 national rankings; signed with University of Nevada-Las Vegas); Kenyon Martin Jr., 6-6, Sr., forward (No. 50); Darius Miles, 6-7, Sr., forward (No. 112); Matthew Murrell, 6-3, Sr., guard (No. 39; signed with Mississippi); Jaden Springer, 6-6, Sr., shooting guard (No. 15; signed with Tennessee); Mark Williams, 7-0, Sr., center (No. 35; signed with Duke)
New Hope Academy – Issac James, 6-6, Sr., forward (formerly from Patterson); Hassan Massenburg, 6-6, guard/forward (formerly from Poly)
Oak Hill Academy – Darius Maddox, 6-5, Sr., guard/forward (No. 118; signed with Virginia Tech); K.K. Robinson, 6-0, Sr., point guard (No. 67; committed to Arkansas); Darrick Jones Jr., 6-5, Sr., guard/forward (signed with Towson)
Poly – Rahim Ali, 6-0, Sr., guard (offers from Boise State, Canisius, Manhattan, Towson and Wagner); Justin Lewis, 6-6, Sr., forward/center (No. 106; signed with Marquette); Brandon Murray, 6-4, Sr., shooting guard (offers from DePaul, East Tennessee State, North Carolina-Greensboro and North Texas)
Rock Creek Christian Academy – Milton Matthews, 6-2, Sr., guard; Zaakir Williamson, 6-6, Jr., forward
St. Frances Academy – Adrian Baldwin, 6-1, Sr., point guard (signed with Virginia Commonwealth); Julian Reese, 6-8, Jr., center; (No. 109 prospect in Rivals.com’s Class of 2021 rankings); Jamal West, 6-5, Sr., forward (signed with South Alabama)