Eight of the top high school teams in the country and six top-25 teams in the ESPN Fab 50 will participate in the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational (NHSI), which begins Thursday at 2pm. The best players from all over the country will be on full display for three days as the eight squads battle it out for the championship.
Defending-champion Montrose Christian (#9 — Maryland) and two-time champion Findlay Prep (#2 — Nevada) headline the event this week as Montverde Academy (#12 — Florida), St. Benedict’s Prep (#15 — New Jersey), Ely (#16 — Florida), La Lumiere (#23 — Indiana), Ravenscroft (North Carolina) and Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) look to challenge the two favorites.
Below we take a look at each quarterfinal match-up in order of when they’ll be played and breakdown the top players on both squads and the keys to victory for each team. National Recruiting Spotlight will have on-site coverage of the tournament Thursday and Saturday and you can also follow @JoshPaunilNRS for updates via Twitter.
#3 Montverde Academy vs. #6 La Lumiere, 2pm
Key Players: PG Kasey Hill (Montverde), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (La Lumiere)
Future Gator teammates class of 2013 point guard Kasey Hill (Florida) and class of 2012 shooting guard Michael Frazier (Florida) give Montverde the advantage in the back court. However, the most important player for them may be class of 2012 small forward Anthony Cortesia (Mississippi) since he is able to play both inside and out. Due to La Lumiere’s height and inside presence, he’ll have to be able to battle down low to get some rebounds and be effective as Montverde looks to avoid the first round upset.
Class of 2012 small forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Indiana), who has battled injuries during the season, will be one of La Lumiere’s most important threats and will need some help from class of 2012 shooting guard Raphael Davis (Purdue). The incredibly athletic Mosquera-Perea can rebound, score and is a force in transition and him and Davis will both have to play well to upset Montverde and make it to day two.
Projected Winner: Montverde Academy
#2 Montrose Christian vs. #7 Ravenscroft, 4pm
Key Players: SF Justin Anderson (Montrose), SG Anton Gill (Ravenscroft)
Montrose is loaded in the front court featuring a duo of highly-talented small forwards in class of 2012 standout Justin Anderson (Virginia) and class of 2013 stud Ishmail Wainright. The defending champs also have class of 2012 power forward Michael Carrera who provides them with energy and rebounds. Montrose has the size and experience you don’t want to see in the first round of a tournament and they’re also tough to stop in transition. However, Ravenscroft likes to run too and scores over 70 points per game. Montrose has size coming off the bench too in the form of class of 2012 center Kevin Larsen, who played quality minutes in last year’s NHSI championship run.
Ravenscroft comes into the NHSI as an under-the-radar team and one of only two squads not ranked in the top 25, let alone the top 50. However, they do have a highly touted shooting guard in class of 2013 standout Anton Gill (Louisville) who is joined by class of 2012 point guard Madison Jones and class of 2013 power forward Marcus Bryan. Bryan will have to be able to hold his own in the interior and Ravenscroft will have to execute their suffocating man-to-man defense as they hope to knock off one of the favorites of the tournament and last year’s champion.
Projected Winner: Montrose Christian
#4 St. Benedict’s Prep vs. #5 Ely, 6pm
Key Players: PG Tyler Ennis (St. Benedict’s), SF Clide Geffrard (Ely)
St. Benedict’s head coach Mark Taylor is 31-1 so far in his first year and a trio of highly talented guards is the main reason why. Class of 2013 point guard Tyler Ennis, class of 2014 point guard Isaiah Briscoe and class of 2012 shooting guard Melvin Johnson (Miami) have led the way for St. Benedict’s and is a trio of guards that are very tough to stop. As you can expect from a guard-oriented team, St. Benedict’s loves to light up the scoreboard and each of the three guys bring something different to the table as Johnson is a sniper from beyond the arc, Ennis is a terrific distributor and Briscoe does some of both.
Ely has already beaten a talented New Jersey team once this season with their win over Gill St. Bernard’s but St. Benedict’s is a tough match-up and a team who could have certainly earned a higher seed. However, Ely is a good team in their own right and have only lost to higher ranked Fab 50 teams. They’re led by class of 2012 small forward Clide Geffrard who averages over 17 points per game and shoots over 60% from the field. He’s coming off an eye-popping 33-point, 14-rebound performance in Ely’s state championship win and will have a size advantage no matter which St. Benedict’s guard defends him.
Projected Winner: St. Benedict’s
#1 Findlay Prep vs. #8 Coolidge, 8pm
Key Players: PF Anthony Bennett (Findlay), SG Khalen Cumberlander (Coolidge)
Findlay Prep is simply loaded, no doubt about it. They have elite talent all over the floor including point guard Dominic Artis (Oregon), small forward Winston Shepard (San Diego State) and power forwards Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley (Arizona). After suffering an upset in the first round of last year’s NHSI, the two-time champions will look to come out swinging early and often. Findlay wasn’t helped last year since they had two players participating in the McDonald’s All-American game the night before, something that will hinder them again this time around. Both Ashley and Bennett are McDonald’s All-Americans but both guys have missed multiple games throughout the season so far due to injuries and the rest of this highly talented squad picked up the slack.
Coolidge is no push-over, let’s get that out-of-the-way right now, but they will be in a very tough situation having to play Findlay Prep in the first round of the NHSI. They’ve already beaten Montrose Christian, the #2 seed in this year’s tournament, in January and look to shock everyone by becoming the first #8 seed to win a game in the three-year history of the NHSI. Class of 2012 shooting guard Khalen Cumberlander (Central Connecticut State), who runs point for Coolidge, will have to have a stellar game against Findlay Prep’s Artis and keep up his average of over 17 points and five assists a contest. Class of 2012 power forward DeShaun Morman will also have to play well against Findlay’s scary front line and hope to repeat his great performance against Montrose Christian early this year when he tallied 30 points.
Projected Winner: Findlay Prep