PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
One stands 7-feet and weighs 240 pounds. The other is listed at 5-11 — probably closer to 5-9 — and 140.
One is outgoing, direct and borderline chatty. The other is quiet, reserved and always composed.
One is rapidly climbing recruiting lists. The other is a proven commodity — the No. 16 overall recruit
from the class of 2014.
One handles the ball constantly and makes impeccable decisions. The other fights for touches and changes decisions at the defensive end.
Though the Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
duo of point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright
and center Thomas Welsh
are at opposite ends in many respects, what they share, says their coach, is rare and un-coachable.
And it's largely why the Cubs, No. 19 in the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25
national rankings, are a legitimate contender to win their first state title — and capture the MaxPreps Holiday Classic.
Following a game-winning shot by Jackson-Cartwright in a
65-63 win over De La Salle (Chicago)
Thursday, Loyola (10-0) battles No. 18 Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas)
7 p.m. today at Palm Desert High School in a semifinal Invitational Division national showdown.
"I know it sounds like hyperbole, but those are the two of the best human beings you could ever want to coach or be around," Loyola coach Jamal Adams said. "Smart, thoughtful, caring, hard-working. I think those traits that all translate to their play on the court."
With Arizona coach Sean Miller in attendance, Jackson-Cartwright wasn't his best Thursday largely because of some hounding defense by 5-11 sophomore Martez Cameron, and a bout with the flu and a tender left ankle.
Jackson-Cartwright had six turnovers, missed three free throws and wasn't quite his explosive self to the basket.
He still had 15 points and handed out eight assists — which is consistent with his 14.2 point and 8.6 assist averages — but most critical he made the game-winning play.
With the score tied at 63, Jackson-Cartwright dribbled patiently along the baseline, surveyed all his options, then suddenly turned and swished a 7-foot floater with 7.5 seconds left.
De La Salle barely got a shot up at the buzzer.
"I just try to be myself and get us the best shot possible," Jackson-Cartwright said. "It just happened that I had the best shot. Part of my job is to hit big shots so this feels good.
"I wasn't have the best day that's for sure, but that's basketball. It's always about the next play, the next possession, the next shot."
That's what makes Jackson-Cartwright special, Adams said. His perspective and decision-making. It's why he's so coveted throughout the country and why Miller made the special trip to watch him play.
No doubt other college coaches will be at Palm Desert the next two nights. He has offers from just about every Pac-12 school and one from North Carolina State.
"He's so rare because he's a true point guard," Adams said. "He knows where every one on the court is at every moment. He trusts his teammates and makes them all so much better."
Like Welsh, who has turned himself into one the country's top 7-foot juniors. He showed a nice touch around the basket, soft hands and was extremely active with 14 points and 13 rebounds against De La Salle.
He made seven of his eight shots and for the year averages 11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
"Thomas is a great person and he really wants to get better," Jackson-Cartwright said. "He's really smart and that's helped him to improve."
His grade point average is 3.5 and it's why Stanford and Duke, among others, are looking at him and why Cal, Arizona State and USC have already offered.
His ability to listen and learn reflects on his efficiency on the court as well. He's shooting a remarkable 75 percent (55 of 83) from the field.
"The sky is the limit for Thomas," Adams said. "He just keeps getting better and better."
None are much better, personality wise said Adams.
"Big kids have a tendency to be aloof or shy, but Thomas looks you right in the eye, says ‘yes sir' and ‘no sir,' and is just very outgoing," Adams said. "He's totally comfortable in his own skin."
Same goes for Jackson-Cartwright. That's another reason, perhaps, why these opposites attract. They're best of friends off the court, though Adams notes all the Cubs are extremely tight.
Welsh said Jackson-Cartwright helps brings Loyola closer on and off the court.
"He's quiet and composed on the court, but he's very competitive," Welsh said. "We know we're in good hands when Parker has the ball. He always makes the right play."
Like at the end of the game. Jackson-Cartwright made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime in an 83-82 win over Santa Monica on Dec. 7, when he scored 27 points and added 10 assists.
"He's big time when we need him most," Welsh said.
Both will need to come up huge tonight against Fort Bend Travis, which features the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, a pair of high-scoring 6-5 guards and two of the top five players in the country.
Both have signed to Kentucky.
"It will be a big challenge," Jackson-Cartwright said. "But we like challenges."