William Shakespear was no hoops fan - the game wasn't invented yet - but if alive today he would appreciate the Bay Area shuffle of 2011-12, a modern day basketball version of his play "All's Well That Ends Well."
In two of the more – pick one – talked about, scrutinized or scoffed at transfers in Bay Area basketball prep history, top Division I college prospects
Brandon Ashley (Bishop O'Dowd-Oakland, Calif.)
and Dominic Artis (Salesian-Richmond, Calif.)
left their respect 2011 state finalist squads to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
out of Henderson (Nev.).
Top recruits transferring to basketball academies such as Findlay, Oak Hill Academy and St. Benedict's Prep is nothing new around the country. But what made these particularly sour was that O'Dowd and Salesian were in perfect position to turnaround around bitter state title-game defeats. Without its two stars, that path would be exponentially more difficult.
The fans, students and players of those schools also wondered how much better would their superstars get, and, at what cost? Leaving friends and family and all the social aspects of high school must outweigh the benefits of essentially leaving for college one year early.
But as it all turned out – after all the drama and hyperbole and scrutiny – all parties finished not just unscathed but triumphant.
Salesian (33-2) won the California Division IV title without Artis, finishing No. 22 in the country overall.
O'Dowd (26-6) missed getting back to the state finals for a third straight year, losing in the NorCal finals to Sacred Heart Cathedral. But the Dragons really flourished and grew throughout the year and won a North Coast Section Division III title, something it didn't do the previous season with Ashley.
Both teams and coaching staffs said team chemistry was never better.
And as far as Ashley and Artis? The double-A tandem finished out on top, as Findlay Prep (32-1) won its third ESPN National High School Invitational Championship on Saturday with a remarkable 86-83 overtime win over Montverde at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md. Findlay was No. 2 in the final Academy Top 10 national rankings
Ashley, a 6-9 senior forward headed to Arizona, saved perhaps his best game for last with a game-high 31 points including a 13 of 14 effort from the line.
Artis, a 6-foot point guard signed to Oregon, had 10 points and eight assists and made an acrobatic 3-point play down the stretch in regulation that helped Findlay Prep fight back from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit.
On Monday, Artis stood steadfast that the victory in the pinnacle game didn't prove the transfer was justified. "Win, lose or draw, I went there to get better and I know I am," he said. "But yes, of course, it felt really good to win it all."
Opposed to what one might think, there was no ill will or bitterness between the Salesian kids and coaches and Artis. Throughout the season, Artis was in contact with Salesian coach Bill Mellis, including just hours before Salesian's state-title win over Price-Los Angeles.
"Of course, I wanted to be there to support the guys and share that moment," Artis said. "I missed the team then. I missed them the whole season. We're close, we're still close. ... I was so happy for them and what they accomplished."
Said Mellis after the win: "When Dominic left, it was hard. He was incredibly well liked. But we had to move on. I know he's happy for us and we know he helped to make Salesian a better program to win a game like this."
Artis, who averaged about 16 points per game and led the team in assists, said he has no regrets. He and Ashley (18.3 ppg) were back home this week on spring break.
"I knew it would be hard, and it was harder than I thought," Artis said, "There's a ton of demands academically and on the court. Coach (Mike) Peck really demands defense. But I made the right decision. I'm more prepared for college."
Ashley's mom, Lashiem Clark, said her son feels the same way.
The nation's No. 17 recruit
(according to MaxPreps.com) finished a whirlwind week that started in Chicago at the McDonald's All-American Game with three straight wins in Maryland. Messages to Ashley were not returned.
"By that last game, he could barely find energy in his legs," Clark said. "But I could see it in his eyes. ... He wasn't going to let his team lose."
O'Dowd and Ashley lost in the state final the previous two years. That's largely why he was so emotional after Saturday's win.
"This was the best way to go out," Ashley told ESPN after Saturday's game. "We fought hard and we got it done. We never got down or hung our heads. We always believed in ourselves."DESTINED FOR NBA: Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas)
boys basketball coach Danny Henderson, who led the Marauders to back-to-back state 5A titles, said he's coached against four NBA talents while leading high school teams – three of them this season.
Henderson, who has been coaching 23 seasons, owns a spiffy 685-161 record and tonight participates in the
Kentucky Derby Classic
All-Star team along with Marcus standouts Marcus Smart
and Phil Forte
, said Findlay Prep and McDonald's All-American Anthony Bennett
is one of them.
Two others are twins from the 2013 class Andrew Harrison
and Aaron Harrison
, from Fort Bend Travis (Richmond)
, a team Marcus defeated in the state finals. Harrison is ranked the No. 3 junior in the country by MaxPreps, and Aaron is No. 5. Both are 6-5 and just over 200 pounds.
"Phenomenal athletes, NBA-ready bodies, shooters, passers, defenders," Henderson said. "Both are the whole package."
So was the fourth destined for the NBA. He was just a little larger.
"Some kid name Shaquille O'Neal," Henderson quipped.
It was Henderson's first year (1988-89) while coaching at tiny Liberty Hill
- he later coached at Peaster
for 16 seasons – and the Panthers reached the state playoffs before being eliminated by O'Neal and Cole (San Antonio)
"We held him (O'Neal) to 49 points and 29 rebounds," Henderson said. "He was incredible. I said then he'd play in the NBA and I haven't said that about a kid since until this season."E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MitchMashMax.