By Russ Waterman
A grand array of the nation's top boys' prep school basketball teams and individual stars will compete this week at the 10th-annual National Prep School Invitational February 7-10 at Keaney Gym at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.
"There's a good crop of young players and a good mix of young and experienced teams," said Providence native Dave Maron, NPSI tournament organizer and national college talent evaluator. "We have 30 teams in 29 games and we expect to have over 100 Division I college coaches, plus some NBA scouts here."
Among the over 500 Division I players who have participated in the past are many of the current URI and Providence College players and some future NBA players as well, including Ryan Gomes, Caron Butler, Rashad McCants and Jarret Jack.
The most intriguing and compelling matchups for New England hoop fans will be Patterson School (NC) vs. Notre Dame Prep (MA); St. Mark's School (MA) vs. IMG (FL); Winchendon School (MA) vs. RISE Academy (PA); Brewster Academy (NH) vs Findlay College Prep (NV); Tilton School (NH) vs. Findlay College Prep (NV); Northfield Mt. Hermon (MA) vs. Lawrence Academy (MA); Hotchkiss (CT) vs. IMG (FL) and Worcester Academy (MA) vs. Lawrence Academy (MA).
For the complete schedule, please see http://www.nationalprepinvitational.com.
According to Jeff Goodman of Scout.com, Patterson School ranks No. 1 nationally, with Findlay Prep at No. 3, Brewster Academy No. 5, Notre Dame Prep No. 6, Winchendon School No. 7 and Bridgton Academy No. 10. Brewster Academy features Arizona-bound forward Emmanuel Negedu, while Worcester Academy has Austin Carroll, the son of former Boston Celtics coach John Carroll, as well as Rhode Island natives Ben Crenca (an imposing 6-8 forward from Exeter) and Sam Martin (West Warwick).
Boston natives Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs of Tilton School, both of whom have made verbal commitments to the University of Connecticut, will be featured as well. So will several other players either being recruited or having already made verbal commitments.
URI recruits Orion Outerbridge (New Hampton Prep) and Samuel Mejia (Lawrence Academy) will be followed closely at this URI-based tourney, while the Rhode Island natives currently competing at Northfield-Mount Hermon Academy are Mike Marra (Smithfield), Dave Rufful (Bishop Hendricken, Warwick) and Matt Brown (Barrington).
Winchendon features John Riek, a developing 7-foot 2 center who NBA scouts want to see.
Massachusetts Basketball News and Notes
There's a torrid race in progress for first place in the Mayflower League Large Division, with Southeastern at 12-1, Westport at 11-1 and Avon at 10-2. Avon has two players averaging more combined points than many teams: Akeem Williams (34.3 ppg) and Derik McCotrell (28.3) Williams already set a one-game school record with 56 points. He and McCotrell account for nearly 63 points per contest.
Accordingly, mark down any future game between Westport and Avon as must-see basketball, most likely in the Div. IV playoffs.
Avon lost to Westport in overtime and then followed up with a three-OT win over their league rival, 110-100, on Jan. 31, with a combined effort of 88 points by Williams (40) and McCotrell (48).
Seekonk's Tyler Patch, a 6-4 senior guard, is tearing up the South Coast Conference and is one of the Bay State's top scorers with his 30 ppg average for the 15-1 Warriors, who are in second place. South Coast-leading Wareham is paced by Steven Monteiro and Pat Murphy. In one of the greatest comebacks of the season, the Vikings overcame a nine-point deficit with a little more than a minute left to beat Martha's Vineyard, 86-85, on a buzzer-beating shot by Aaron Frye.
Central Catholic toppled Lowell from the unbeaten ranks with a 72-66 victory last week, avenging an earlier eight-point defeat at the hands of the Red Raiders. Billy Marsden led Central Catholic with 20 points in that Merrimack Valley Conference win, tying the two rivals at the top.
What an intriguing race there is in the Independent School League. For the past three seasons, Lawrence Academy has owned the league by going through the regular season undefeated and capturing the ISL title. Not so this year as St. Mark's has already defeated the Spartans.
Nobles is also lurking in the background in third, though Lawrence defeated Nobles handily, 74-45, during the teams' first matchup of the season.
Lawrence is led by the potent trio of Stevie Mejia, Darryl Cato-Bishop and Denzel Brito, while St. Mark's has 6-foot-10 Florida recruit Erik Murphy, a junior, and sophomore Nate Lubick as formidable inside forces. It is probable these two squads will meet again in the NEPSAC Class C playoffs, just as they did last year, when Lawrence Academy emerged on top.
Russ Waterman covers Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the New England Preps for MaxPreps.com. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org