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SoCalHoops Tournament News

SoCal Players Stand Out In New England
Prep School Tournaments--(Dec. 16, 2002)

In the past three weeks, there have been several prominent tournaments around New England which have featured some California players who have headed out to the east coast to improve their recruiting and work on their games while playing against some of the best competition in America.  This is prep school basketball we're talking about, featuring teams that are loaded with top talent from around the country.  Michael Kruse, who writes for ESPN and Dave Telep's Blue Chip Hoops (and who formerly wrote for the now-defunct Basketball America), calls it "the best sub-college basketball in America" that few (besides locals and college coaches) get to see....PrepStars Recruiter's Handbook and Jeff Goodman and Brick Oettinger follow Prep School hoops closely and they also publish a weekly poll of the top 20 teams in America which is worth checking out to see who's who among the best, and you can always find news about the Prep School players at sites like RivalsHoops.com from Mike Sullivan and Russ Blake, as well as from Clark Francis at The HoopScoop Online (who ranks 5th year prep players separately from high school seniors and underclassmen).

The first tournament which kicked off the season was one that we attended in late November, in Milford, Delaware, and it featured prep schools from up and down the east coast, not just New England, but also the Mid-Atlantic and the South.  We're talking about a premiere event, the "War on the Shore Prep School Invitational" which was put together by Bobby Jacobs, who also runs one of the top tournaments in the East, the Slam Dunk to the Beach.  The WOS, in its first year, featured 16 of the top prep school programs in the country, and it drew college coaches and pro scouts from all over the country (about 90 Division I programs by our count), and at least 20 NBA scouts, who were there mostly to look at a handful of players like Luol Deng, Charlie Villanueva from Blair Academy, as well as others like Regis Koundjia and a handful of others who may one day make it to the league.   The War on the Shore didn't feature a lot of California guys, but among the SoCal natives were Joel Smith (6'-6" Jr. F) from Lompoc and David Gale (6'-0" PG) from Sherman Oaks, both of whom are at Brewster Academy, as well as Jason McKinney of Inglewood who is currently at Hargrave Military Academy,   Steve Cotton from San Jose who is attending St. Thomas More Academy,   and Donovan Morris from San Bernardino who is at Winchendon Academy (the same school where Martin Iti attended last year before moving to Mt. Zion in North Carolina).   Not an overwhelming number of left-coasters at this event, but enough to notice.  The tournament was, for many of these teams, the first games the squads got to play, so things sometimes looked a bit sloppy or ragged,  in fact downright ugly at times, but just about everyone had a good time, win or lose, and more importantly, the teams got several shakeout runs in, as well as exposure to the many D-I coaches in attendance.  And besides that, the seafood is great in that area of Delaware....seriously.

Following the War on the Shore most of the teams regrouped and played local games before heading off to the next group of tournaments.  Among them was Brewster, which returned home to Wolfeboro, NH, after Thanksgiving and soundly beat visiting Redemption Christian from New York, a team which was, at the time, (as of a week ago) ranked as the No. 6 prep school team in the country (but that will all change after what transpired this weekend, as well as after MCI's loss in their own tournanment... see, infra).  In the Brewster vs. Redemption game, Brewster won 72-59 as Joel Smith scored 10 points and David Gale scored 12 points, all on three-pointers.  Brewster followed that win up two days later with a 100-66 win over Thayer Academy, at team which was led by Jamal Dixon and Maryland-signee Mike Jones.  All ten Brewster players scored in the game, led by Norm Plummer's 21 points (more about Norm below...and no, he's not from California, but he ought to be recruited by just about every Pac-10 school....if they don't spend some time on this guy, they're all nuts....).

The next weekend following the Thanksgiving break saw several other regional New England tournaments (e.g., MCI Invitational, Blackburn Invitational which was won by Worcester Academy, etc.).   One of the oldest and most competitive is the Maine Central Institute Invitational Tournament, which this year featured Winchendon, Brewster, MCI, Proctor, and several other top teams from the region.  For those interested in following California players, MCI has a few top California natives on its roster too, including Frank Robinson (6'-4" G) from Sylmar,  Marquis Kately (6'-9" F),  who has committed to Cal, as well as Rekalin Sims (6'-7" F) who recently de-committed from USF, both from Oakland.  

At the MCI tourney, Brewster's first matchup was against Winchendon, again led by SoCal native Donovan Morris, who  was simply outstanding,  and Winchendon wound up winning that game 89-78.  The next day's action, however, saw Brewster bounce back against host-Maine Central Institute (ranked No. 11 in the December 6 PrepStars.com Prep school poll) which fell to Brewster (then ranked No. 12).   In addition to David Gale and Joel Smith, Brewster also features 6'-7" Norm Plummer from Ohio, who is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top-ranked juniors in the country, 6'-8" Mike Pilgrim, who has signed with Bobby Huggins at the University of Cinncinnati, 6'-7" Blake Schilb, and 6'-1" guard Deion James from Milwaukee, 6'-4" Ivan Kostic, and 6'-1" Frank Gilroy (whose father played at Fordham) .  Brewster had five players reach double figures in the game, led by Deion James'  22 points, as Brewster beat MCI convincingly 88-79.   We didn't get the details in scoring for MCI, but we understand that Kately is playing very well, as is Frank Robinson.

Brewster followed up the win over MCI at the MCI tournament with a win at home over Tilton School,  another New Hampshire prep school, by a score of 118-77.  In that one, SoCal natives David Gale had 12 points (two three-pointers), and Joel Smith finished with 16 points.  Plummer (remember that name) finished with 34 points, Schilb had 16, and Ivan Kostic, who is getting some attention from schools on the West Coast (mostly in the WCC) who have heard good things about him from some NBA scouts in Europe, finished with 13 points.

This past weekend, beginning last Friday, December 13,  2002, Brewster hosted not one, but two separate tournaments at their new multi-million dollar David Smith Athletic Facility, known collectively as the Brewster Prep Invitational Classic.  The two tournaments attracted about 40 coaches from all over the country during the weekend and featured several top teams, including MCI, Notre Dame Prep, Naval Prep (which also features another SoCal native, David Rhoiny from Long Beach St. Anthony) and others.   

In the first round of the Brewster Classic (the first tournament), Plummer again led all scorers with 27 points.  California natives Joel Smith and David Gale had 16 and 11, respectively in a 113-80 victory over Thayer Academy.  Thayer was led by Maryland-bound Mike Jones with 22 points. Teammate Jamaal Dixon scored 20 in the loss.    In it's first round game, Notre Dame Prep, featuring one of the best backcourts in New England,  with Gary Ervin, who is headed to Mississippi State, and Will Blalock, defeated MCI in the Brewster Classic, 80-72.   Ervin finished with 19 points; MCI was led by Marquis Kately who had 16 points.

In the Championship game of the Brewster Invitational, Notre Dame Prep, again with Ervin and Blalock, faced Brewster late Sunday, and it was a game to remember as Gary Ervin managed to score an impressive 40 points.  But even with Ervin's phenomenal scoring, Brewster pulled off the win, in dramatic fashion.  Brewster jumped out to what it must have thought was a comfortable halftime lead, up by 10 over Notre Dame, and then in the third quarter, added to the lead, stretching it to as many as 16.   But Ervin remained on fire, and with only a few minutes to play, Brewster found itself not up by 10, but trailing by 10.  

In a critical stretch run, with less than two minutes remaining, David Gale sparked a key comeback run by hitting a three, followed by another three pointer from Blake Schilb, who finished with 19 points.  With less than a minute to play, Brewster still found itself trailing by three, 101-98 and time running out.  .  With under 20 seconds remaining,  Gale drove the lane to the basket,  split the defenders, and scored the bucket,  and was fouled in the process.   He went to the line and hit the game-tying free throw to send it to overtime, 101-101. 

In the extra period behind some great play from Plummer (38 points), Mike Pilgrim (18 points), Joel Smith (14 points) and Deion James (14 points), Brewster outscored Notre Dame 20-14, to take the championship with a final score of 121-115.  Ok, we hear you say, "where was the defense?"  But remember, games in the NEPSAC league are college-length 40 minute contests, with 20 minute halves, so this kind of high scoring game isn't atypical.  We'd like to give you full boxscores, but unfortunately we don't have them, so this is the best we can do for now.  There are several other accounts of what happened this past weekend at various sites (RivalsHoops.com for example, has a nice account of some of the weekend games at Brewster, but it's behind a subscription firewall....well worth the money, and if you don't subscribe you should....).   Hopefully we'll be able to bring additional news throughout the season about how some of the California guys are doing back east as well as providing some news on the recruiting front.  We'll be traveling back and forth throughout the season, so you can count on additional reports from time to time. 

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