Hoophall Classic emerges as a national showcase for high-flying prospects


Sierra Canyon's Brandon Boston (3), soaring for a dunk against against Dominican (Wis.), was one of several high-flying prospects who were showcased at the Hoophall Classic at Springfield College.
Sierra Canyon’s Brandon Boston (3), soaring for a dunk against against Dominican (Wis.), was one of several high-flying prospects who were showcased at the Hoophall Classic at Springfield College. JON LOPEZ / BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME/BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

Monday, the Sierra Canyon buzz reached a crescendo when LeBron showed up to watch his son play prior to the Lakers taking on the Celtics at TD Garden. Canyon fell, 70-62, to Paul VI (Va.), but fans did not go home disappointed from the spectacle.

Other observations from the Hoophall Classic. . .

Montverde magnificent

In the premiere matchup of Sunday’s slate, Montverde Academy (Fla.) defeated IMG Academy (Fla.), 74-64, avenging a loss to IMG in the 2019 Geico Nationals semifinals. Montverde, the top-ranked team in ESPN’s latest Top 25, led wire-to-wire and appeared to be on a different level than seventh-ranked IMG. With 15 recruits ranked in ESPN’s top 100, the game had no shortage of star power, but Montverde has established a winning tradition by emphasizing unselfish play.

“I don’t think anybody on our team knows what they’re scoring,” said Montverde coach Kevin Boyle.

“They don’t care [about rankings].”

Montverde is led by Oklahoma State-bound senior Cade Cunningham, who is a 6-foot-7 point guard in a power forward’s body. Cunningham, the second-ranked prospect in ESPN’s Top 100, exemplifies the program’s steady approach.

“[Cunningham is] one of those old school guards who are super tough,” said Boyle. “He reminds me of Oscar
Roberston. He’s incredibly mature for his age — really a humble kid, but confident and does a great job of walking that line with leadership, confidence, but never being arrogant.”

Embracing the spotlight

A few top prospects don’t seem to mind all the attention that comes their way in the age of social media. When unsigned senior Jalen Green, ESPN’s No. 3 recruit, prepared to take the floor with Prolific Prep (Calif.) on Sunday, half of the fan section rushed over the railing to take pictures and video of the 6-foot-6 guard while he got his ankle wrapped on the trainer’s table. A few minutes later, fans on the other side of the arena got a taste of the buzz, as Green uncorked several pre-game dunks worthy of the NBA Dunk Contest. Then, he showed why he holds offers from over a dozen premier college programs when he poured in a game-high 26 points and went 10 for 10 at the free-throw line to seal a 69-62 win over Indiana power La Lumiere.

The recruiting watch
While LeBron James is certainly the most notable celebrity guest, Hall of Fame coaches Roy Williams (North Carolina) and John Calipari (Kentucky) also took in the action at Hoophall. With Calipari sitting in the front row, sophomore guard Paul Lewis (30 points) put on a show to lead Bishop O’Connell (Va.) in a narrow 73-72 victory over Mater Dei (Ca.). Whitney Young (Ill.) unsigned senior Tyler Beard raised his stock with 24 points, 5 assists, and 5 steals in a 64-56 win over Mount Vernon (N.Y.) on Sunday. Arlington’s Bensley Joseph (’21, Cushing Academy) also continued his campaign for more offers when he produced 23 points, 7 assists, and 6 steals in a 62-61 loss to CBD-Montverde Sunday.

NBA connections
In addition to LeBron James Jr. and Zaire Wade, Camden (N.J.) star Dajuan Wagner Jr. is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father, former Cavaliers guard Dajuan Wagner. Camden is coached by Salem High grad Rick Brunson, whose son, Jalen, is currently on the Dallas Mavericks.

Alex Antetokounmpo, the youngest brother of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, produced 13 points in 7 rebounds when his Dominican (Wisc.) squad fell, 90-57, to Sierra Canyon on Saturday. Thon Maker’s cousin, Makur Maker, tallied 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks when his Hillcrest Prep (Az.) team fell 91-48 to sixth-ranked Sunrise Christian Academy (Ks.).

While not related to any NBA players, Montverde’s leader Cade Cunningham met Celtics star Marcus Smart through his cousin, Ashton Jennings, and has been training with Smart during the offseason. Cunningham will soon become the first 5-star recruit to attend Oklahoma State (where his brother Cannen is on the coaching staff) since Smart.

Going public
Only two public school programs competed on Saturday or Sunday, but both had stellar showings. Beard (24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) combined with Duke-bound guard D.J. Steward (28 points) to lead Chicago public school Whitney Young past New York private school Mount Vernon, 64-56, on Sunday.

And on Saturday, Camden (N.J.) edged No. 18 Rancho Christian (Ca.), 61-59, in a thrilling contest. Rancho features versatile 7-footer Evan Mobley, who is committed to USC and listed as the top prospect on ESPN’s Class of 2020 rankings. But with Kentucky pledge Lance Ware (18 points, 14 rebounds) and freshman Dajuan Wagner Jr. (17 points) leading the way, Camden took the lead early in the third quarter and never relinquished.

The stars of tomorrow

In a losing effort, Hillcrest Prep (Az.) junior Mike Foster Jr. scored 31 points on 12-for-21 field goal shooting. The 6-foot-10-inch forward showcased the ball-handling and long-range shooting ability that should make him a surefire NBA prospect in a few years. In total, 44 players ranked in ESPN’s Top 100 lists competed at Hoop Hall, and several are bound to hear their name called in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Teamwork prevails

More often than not, cohesive teams triumphed over individual talents at Hoop Hall. Sunrise Christian put on an incredible defensive display and shot 15 of 24 from 3-point range to defeat Hillcrest Prep despite the fact that their highest ranked senior checks in at No. 74 on ESPN’s Top 100. North Carolina signee R.J. Davis was unable to lead Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) past a balanced East Catholic (C.T.) team in a 70-52 loss Saturday. And Evan Mobley, a tantalizing prospect with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, was unable to lead Rancho Christian to victory in either of their games.

Courtside chatter


 Tournament season continues this weekend with the MLK Invitational taking place at Northeastern’s Cabot Center this Sunday. After a pair of MIAA girls’ basketball games, Whitman-Hanson faces Charlestown (3:30 p.m.), Lowell meets Catholic Memorial (5:15 p.m.), and BC High takes on TechBoston (7 p.m.) . . . Sunday showcases more talent in the Black Coaches Classic at UMass Boston. Honoring coaching and community service legends Alfreda Harris and Charlie Titus, the tournament includes a premier boys’ matchup between Brookline and Everett (6 p.m.) . . . Several programs take the hallowed hardwood at TD Garden Saturday in the Good Sports Invitational. Patriot League rivals Hingham and Scituate (11 a.m.) highlight the action . . . Tuesday featured several exciting finishes, including a double-overtime thriller in which King Phillip outlasted Stoughton, 90-84, behind 30 points from Alex Fritz . . . Medfield handed Ashland a 68-66 OT defeat, J
alen Bing-Wallace recorded a triple double (16 points, 18 rebounds, 12 blocks) in South Boston’s 65-63 OT win over Fenway, and Rockland used a 9-0 fourth quarter run to force OT and eventually hand Abington it’s first loss, 56-51.


 Mystic Valley coach Tony Ferullo picked up his 250th career win when his Eagles topped Whittier, 76-70, on Tuesday. Ferullo recorded 51 wins at Revere and Newman Prep before becoming Mystic Valley’s first boys’ basketball coach in 1999.


 Nauset senior Bobby Joy scored 32 points in a 76-44 win over Nantucket to break the 1,000-point barrier for his career . . . Catholic Memorial junior guard Kurt Henderson scored 33 points in a 76-53 win at St. John’s Prep to become the 13th 1,000-point scorer in program history . . . Cambridge senior Khai Smith also topped 1,000 points with 26 points in a 77-49 win at Bedford . . . Gloucester senior Marcus Montagnino broke the 1,000-point barrier in style with 24 points and 19 rebounds in a 53-48 win over Saugus Friday . . . Medford’s Camaron Tongue and Franklin’s Jay Dieterle also topped 1,000 points at Rivers . . . A few days after losing his cousin to gun violence, New Mission product Charles Mitchell produced a career-high 34 points to lead UMass Boston in an 84-48 win over Castleton.

Games to watch

Wednesday, TechBoston at St. Mary’s, 7 p.m. – The two-time defending state champion Bears continue their tough nonconference schedule with a tilt at D3 contender St. Mary’s.

Thursday, Whitman-Hanson at Hingham, 6:30 p.m. – The Harbormen stunned the Panthers, 64-62, in their season opener. Whitman-Hanson looks to return the favor in a critical Patriot League battle.

Friday, Cambridge at Brockton, 7 p.m. – Historic programs clash on Friday with the Boxers hosting Cambridge in a premier nonleague matchup.

Friday, Lawrence at Billerica, 7 p.m. – The Lancers are coming off hard-fought wins over Andover and Central Catholic, while MVC Small leader Billerica has won three straight.

Saturday, Beverly at Lowell, 1 p.m. – Both teams come into this contest undefeated, and it’s the first huge test for Beverly against second-ranked Lowell. Can Duncan Moreland and Jack Crowley carry the Panthers to a statement win on the road?


Nate Weitzer can be reached at nathaniel.weitzer@globe.com.



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