Video: Final Top 25 boys basketball rankings
Montverde Academy was the overwhelming selection at No. 1.
They really didn't need another three-day tournament to prove anything. Not a practice, a photo shoot or even a team meeting.
By all accounts, the Eagles of Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
were clearly the nation's best boys basketball team in 2019-20. Far and away. Bar none. Slam dunk.
But it would have been very nice to watch them one more time — three more games — to further the debate: Was this the best high school boys basketball team ever put together?
The coronavirus pandemic stopped that conversation in its track. GEICO Nationals, originally scheduled for next week in New York City, was moved to South Carolina due to the virus and then postponed indefinitely. Almost assuredly it will be canceled.
It's where all the top academy teams, and some that play for state championships, battle it out for the unofficial national crown.
Montverde Academy, guided by head coach Kevin Boyle, took home the GEICO crown four of the last seven years and featured many of the top prep players over the last decade, including current NBA standouts Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, D'Angelo Russell and RJ Barrett.
Those players as preps put up some predictably gaudy numbers, whereas the 2019-20 Eagles had a more balanced approach, even MaxPreps National Player of the Year Cade Cunningham
. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing averaged 13.9 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.
But what made these Eagles (25-0) soar was how many of them took flight. Seven averaged between 8.3 and Cunningham's 13.9 and none averaged more than 22 minutes per game.
Always fresh, perfectly balanced, Montverde simply ran over, through and past all of its 25 foes, by an average margin of 39 points per game. That included seven wins over Top 25 teams, meaning no cupcake schedule.
All of it adds up to a team for the ages. Any age, said MaxPreps National Basketball Editor Jordan Divens.
"It's impossible to compare eras," Divens said. "How would Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Power Memorial Academy of the 1960s stack up against the kids of today? We'll never know. But after talking to a lot of people who saw those teams and many since, this Montverde Academy team definitely has to be in the conversation of best of all time."
It's the best team Divens has seen and it's based on all that depth and balance and, of course, talent. Five of them are 5-star players, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
Only one team came kept the final margin to single digits, defending GEICO champion IMG Academy, which lost 63-55 on Dec. 23 for the City of Palms championship.
Nobody else came within 20, including a 67-46 rematch with IMG to close the season.
Perhaps the team's greatest strength, Divens said, is actually something it lacks: ego. They like to share.
"The thing that makes them so special is that they really, really don't care who scores," Divens said. "I've watched them l10 times this season and they've probably had seven different leading scorers. And rarely does anyone score more than 20. They literally don't care about their stats. That's just so special."
The top seven scorers could easily have scored 20-plus at other programs, but instead chose to play for Boyle, the MaxPreps Coach of the Decade (2010-20) at Montverde.
Here's a look at the key Eagles:
• Cunningham — The nation's No. 1 recruit and Oklahoma State-signee boasted a crazy-good 30.8 plus-minus per game ratio. Boyle thinks, like Simmons, Cunningham will be a very effective point guard in the NBA.
• Day'Ron Sharpe (12.1 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) —
The 6-10, 246-pound center has signed to North Carolina. He's ranked the third-best senior center in the country and No. 14 player overall.
• Scott Barnes (11.6 ppg) —
The 6-8, 210-pound senior is ranked No. 2 small forward in the country, No. 6 overall. He's signed to Florida State.
• Moses Moody (10.9 ppg) —
The 6-5, 185-pound shooting guard is the No. 45 senior recruit in the nation and committed to Arkansas.
• Caleb Houstan (10.0 ppg) —
The 6-7, 190-pound sophomore is the No. 3-ranked small forward in the country (No. 9 overall) for the Class of 2022.
• Langston Love (9.1 ppg) —
The 6-4, 190-pound shooting guard is the No. 25 junior in the country. He's got 15 offers including from Stanford, Baylor, Texas and Arkansas.
• Dariq Whitehead (8.3 ppg) —
The 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard is the No. 13 sophomore in the country.
"They have 5-star kids coming off their bench," Divens said. "Think about that. That's crazy. Their eighth player (point guard Zeb Jackson
) has signed to Michigan. Honestly, their bench could have been a Top 10 team in the country."
So dominating were the Eagles this season, there was social media chatter they could have made a run in the NCAA Tournament.
"Honestly, I think they were good enough to beat a quality NCAA team," Divens said. "They're just in a whole different category as a high school team. They were suffocating on defense. They have big men to play in the half court. They have multiple shooters. And get them in transition? Forget it. By halftime the game is over.
"They had depth at every position. Every player is replaceable so they could easily survive injuries or foul trouble. It's pretty much a perfect roster."
Though Divens, like everyone else, was disappointed GEICO was shut down, there likely wouldn't have been much drama.
"Every year at GEICO, several teams have a shot, but not this year in my opinion," Divens said. "They probably would have won every game by 15. Someone might have game-planned and got closer but I don't see it.
"It would have been nice to see them be able to bolster their resume and make a greater case for best of all time. But for this season, the gap between them and everyone else was way too wide. It was Montverde Academy and everyone else."
That said, Divens would have liked to see the Eagles take flight one more time.
"They were just fun to watch," he said.