The NBA’s 2009-2010 schedule isn’t the only basketball action tipping off this week.
At storied Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) head coach Steve Smith’s Warriors begin their 39-game odyssey that will include contests in nine states Saturday night against Central Carolina Academy.
The Warriors, 40-1 a year ago with a trip to the National High School Invitational finals, have already scrimmaged against Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) and Stephen’s Prep (Raleigh, N.C.). Smith is upbeat about what he sees.
“I’m optimistic. We are playing better than I thought we would this early in the year,” Smith said. “We are not as deep, but I feel good about our top six or seven.”
That top six or seven includes 6-foot-4 guard Doron Lamb, the latest in a long line of star Oak Hill backcourt players. Lamb is being courted by the likes of Connecticut, Kansas and Kentucky and Smith expects him to lead the team's scoring charge. He will be joined by wing Roscoe Smith (6-7, Sr., Connecticut, Georgetown, Duke) and point guard Juwan Staten (5-10, Sr., Dayton commitment) to form a talented perimeter trio.
Pe’Shon Howard (6-2, Sr., G), Baye Moussa Keita (6-11, Sr., F, Syracuse commitment), Martins Abele (7-1, Sr., F) and Keith Hornsby (6-3, Jr., G) are others Smith expects to use in a regular rotation at this point of the season.
An interesting storyline to watch will be the play of Hornsby, the son of recording artist and former Grateful Dead collaborator Bruce Hornsby. He exploded for 30 points, 10 assists, nine steals and six rebounds in the scrimmage against Stephen’s Prep on Tuesday night.
“He’s going to help us a lot,” Smith said. “He’s done great in preseason practice and he’s a guy we will get a lot of minutes out of.”
With the emergence of Nevada’s Findlay Prep (“Oak Hill West”) and other high-profile academy programs, some are questioning whether the program’s reign at the top is over.
“There are a lot more schools trying to emulate what we have done,” said Smith, who is 761-45 entering his 25th year as head coach at Oak Hill. “When I started (25 years ago), there were maybe just a couple. Now there are hundreds. I guess because basketball is cheaper than building a football program, most of them try to get the word out about their school by building a basketball program.”
One positive result for the Warriors is more home games. Oak Hill has played host to as few as four games in a season in the past under Smith, but will stay at home for 16 contests in 2009-2010.
Oak Hill has finished ranked No. 1 nationally by one media outlet or another eight times. Don’t count out a ninth No. 1 finish this season. The program isn’t falling behind the times. Smith is even on Twitter, providing recruiting updates and assessments of his team’s practices and scrimmages.
Big dates on the Oak Hill schedule include Dec. 27-30 at the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore., Jan. 16 against Jared Sullinger and Northland (Columbus, Ohio) and a monster showdown Feb. 12 with Michael Gilchrist and St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J.
Of course, the biggest date would a rematch with Findlay Prep at the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational , a second-year event that has given the Warriors a nationally-recognized postseason tournament to participate in for the first time.
Oak Hill lost to Findlay Prep, 74-66, last April in the tournament final, spoiling a shot at an undefeated season and the inaugural title in the event. Although he wouldn’t mind seeing the timing of the event change (Oak Hill had a month off before heading to Washington, D.C.), Smith is excited about the opportunity.
“I like the tournament and what it stands for. It did have the best two teams in the finals last year,” Smith said. “Maybe that will happen again this year.”
^ Melrose (Memphis, Tenn.) head coach Jermaine Johnson confirmed that 6-3 junior Bobby Parks Jr. is enrolled at the school and completed his third day of practice with the team Wednesday. Parks was Tennessee’s Division II-A Mr. Basketball last season at St. George’s after averaging 22.1 points per game. While MaxPreps has Parks rated No. 46 nationally in the 2011 class, other sites have largely ignored him. Expect that to change at Melrose as Parks will be able shift to the perimeter after playing in the paint at St. George’s. “We had Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State), Josh Pastner (Memphis) and Mike Anderson (Missouri) all at practice today and they were like ‘Whoa,’” Johnson said of their reaction to seeing Parks practice with the Golden Wildcats. Parks’ arrival at Melrose – after spending the first couple months of the year at a school in Mississippi – also locks up a spot for the Memphis power in our preseason top 25. More on that in mid-November.
^ Just two weeks ago we reported that 6-8 forward Rod Odom of Middlesex School (Concord, Mass.) was headed to Arizona. That commitment was short-lived, however. Odom rescinded his verbal to the Wildcats and almost immediately made a new pledge to Vanderbilt.
^ Austin Carroll, a 6-3 senior guard at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), committed to Rutgers Tuesday night. Carroll is the son of John Carroll, who has a short stint as the interim head coach of the Boston Celtics in 2004. The future Scarlet Knight will be part of a talented cast at Brewster this season, including Will Barton (Memphis verbal commitment), Richard Peters (Oklahoma), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), C.J. Fair (Syracuse) and standout junior guard Naadir Tharpe.
^ An anticipated ESPN-televised matchup between Washington powers Kentwood and Garfield has been reshuffled due to the injury of Garfield star Tony Wroten Jr. Portland’s Jefferson High School will replace the Bulldogs and face Kentwood Feb. 2 on ESPN. The intrigue level remains high for that contest as Jefferson features versatile 6-8 senior Terrence Jones (No. 12 in the MaxPreps 2010 Top 100) while Kentwood counters with 6-10, 280-pound post force Josh Smith (No. 6).