As much of the Northeast prepares for snowfall, it’s not something the Barton brothers – Will and Antonio – are all that removed from.
State champions at Baltimore’s Lake Clifton High School last season, the two headed north to prep school this season.
Both are at traditional powers in the circle of schools that play the post-graduate/fifth-year senior level with Will attending Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) and Antonio at Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.)
The biggest difference from home?
“That’s everyday up there in New Hampshire,” Will, the 6-foot-6 scorer, said of the approaching storm on hometown B-More. “It’s cold, man.”
Neither one looks any different to the other yet, though. They’ve seen each other a couple other times when they’ve played at the same events. They even matched up once, with Brewster winning in overtime.
“We talked a little trash to each other,” Antonio, the 6-2 point guard, said.
When the pair committed to Memphis, it caught many by surprise.
The brothers popped at the Tigers’ elite camp this past summer. Will had been considered a Kentucky lean after John Calipari left Memphis for Lexington, but Josh Pastner stayed on the brothers once he moved up from assistant coach under Calipari to the new man in charge.
Joined by the city’s hometown heroes Joe Jackson (White Station High School), Tarik Black (Ridgeway) and Chris Crawford (Sheffield) along with Jelan Kendrick of Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), hopes are high for the incoming freshmen class.
“We blend in well with them,” Antonio said. “We all have the same personalities and have the same goal to win it all.”
Will Barton, Jackson and Kendrick – all Top 25 players – played at several of the top camps together.
He remembers his first meeting with Jackson at June’s Pangos All-American Camp in California.
“He was hearing about my interest in Memphis and he wanted to know if it was true that I was going to Kentucky because a lot of people thought that,” he said. “We respected each other’s games and he said if I go to Memphis then he’s going with me. “
The Bartons started it, Jackson followed suit in July and Crawford in August. Black made the locals sweat but joined the crew when he committed during the annual signing period week in November. Kendrick did too, flying from Atlanta to Memphis to make his announcement outside the historical Peabody Hotel with Tigers fans gathering around as word had leaked out earlier in the day. He was the mystery man of the nation’s 2010 class, rarely giving a list of favorites and claiming to have around 30 offers.
The rich got even richer when 6-foot-8 power forward Hippolyte Tsafack was also announced as a signee in the school’s press release announcing the class.
Memphis’ class is widely regarded as the top 2010 recruiting class in the country with its strongest competition coming from Ohio State.
“It’s a really deep class they have over there,” Will said. “They’ve got the best big man in the country Jared Sullinger and a monster forward DeShaun Thomas. And they’ve got all the pieces like we have that you need to make a run at a national championship. J.D. Weatherspoon is very athletic, Aaron Craft can shoot and plays good defense. Jordan Sibert and Lenzelle Smith – they’re going to have a great team too.”
The two could be on a collision course.
Sullinger, Craft, Weatherspoon and Sibert won the Nike circuit’s big chip – the Peach Jam.
Jackson, Black, Crawford and Kendrick teamed together to win the summer finale on the Adidas travel circuit – the Super 64.
The two teams actually squared off earlier in the spring at an event in Arkansas.
The Memphis boys (minus Kendrick) walked out the winners.
“Then I guess you could say we’ve got the best class,” Will laughed.
At the two top prep school events of the season, you could see them coming from a mile away in their Memphis gear.
“We want to represent the school because they have a lot of faith in us,” Antonio said.
The long road from Baltimore to New England may not be all that fun, but that party they’re hoping for could be just one more state away.
“We’re excited to play with each other and make a run at a national championship,” Will said. “We’re ready to get there with the whole gang and get this thing started.”
NEWS AT THE TOP
- Terrence Ross, 6-6 swingman from Portland, Ore., is transferring from Montrose Christian of Rockville, Md. Ross spent the last two seasons at Montrose after previously attending Portland’s Jefferson High School.
He had been committed to Maryland but did not sign in the fall and has since re-opened his recruiting. Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are said to be favorites, but watch for West Coast schools to make a move. Ross is expected to land at either Westwind Prep (Phoenix, Az.) or Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).
- Terrence Jones, 6-8 combo forward and one-time teammate of Ross’ during their underclassmen years at Jefferson, had Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel watch him play this past week. Jones scored 20 points and had four rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 42-39 win over Kentwood (Kent, Wash.), who was led by UCLA signee Josh Smith. Jones is down to UCLA, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington.
- C.J. Leslie, also a 6-8 combo forward, scored 16 points in a 60-57 win for Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.) in its win over Ravenscroft. Leslie drew Kentucky head coach John Calipari and the Wildcats’ are believed to be the favorite to land him. Wildcat freshman phenom John Wall was Leslie’s teammate at Word of God last season.
- Expect to see a head coach or two at the big Florida match-up tonight with Pine Crest meeting Winter Park highlighted by the two best at their positions in their respective classes squaring off – senior Brandon Knight and junior Austin Rivers. Knight, the top player in the country, is down to Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida and Miami while Rivers is considering Duke and Florida.
- Jordin Mayes, 6-foot-1 point guard of Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.), committed to Arizona after a visit to the Tucson campus last weekend.
“He’s acclimated himself really well to playing the point,” Westchester head coach Ed Azzam said. “Last year he just had to spot up and didn’t have to create too much. But he’s really provided leadership and he’ll be comfortable playing at either spot in college.”
Mayes’ best game of the year came against Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), where he scored 16 points in the 52-47 championship win at the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore.
“It was his best all-around game in terms of floor leadership, hitting open shots, getting other guys involved,” Azzam said.
The win was also Azzam’s first over Oak Hill, two cross-country rivals over the years as both have been national powers for some time.
Westchester came close when it had its monster team of Trevor Ariza (UCLA/Houston Rockets), Hassan Adams (Arizona), Brandon Heath (San Diego State), Brandon Bowman (Georgetown) and Ashanti Cook (Georgetown).
“I believe it was No. 1 vs. No. 2 at the time, but Carmelo (Anthony) took it to us in the end,” Azzam said.
- Daryl Traynham, 5-8 point guard at Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.) committed to Massachusetts following a weekend visit. He chose the Minutemen over Western Kentucky. Traynham is averaging over 20 points per game after joining Wise during the Christmas break, following his transfer from Lee Academy (Maine) where he played at the prep school with fellow hometowner Max Esho (also a UMass recruit).
- D.J. Newbill, a 6-3 scoring guard at Strawberry Mansion (Philadelphia, Pa.), committed to Marquette over West Virginia. Newbill scored a school record 64 points earlier this season and the team is 17-0.