I just watched the number 1 ranked high school basketball team in the country get beat by the number 3 ranked team on ESPN U. Findlay Prep out of Nevada knocked off St. Patrick’s Prep. This was a phenomenal game. St. Patrick’s star player who is heading to Duke next year, missed a free throw with one second left to come up one point short in a thrilling 71 to 70 contest.
At first glance, when putting on this game, it would be hard to tell you were watching high school basketball. First of all the game was being broadcast on ESPN U. There was a jam-packed gym with thousands of people screaming. Each team had predominantly players over 6 3 and fantastic athleticism. Both teams were sponsored by big time apparel companies such as Nike and Adidas.
There were two give away factors though that made it known this was high school ball. First of all the amount of college basketball coaches in the crowd. Generally you do not find bundles of head coaches attending another school’s game this time of year. Secondly, St. Patrick’s had a player starting that had no business in the starting lineup. Yes, I am talking about the coaches kid. This happens in high school frequently and was quite evident in this game. The kid could play. But did he deserve to be a starter on the number 1 ranked high school team in the country? No way.
Watching this game made me think about what I was really witnessing. The transformation of high school basketball. It is no longer a game where teams can simply just play rival schools within their city and then participate in the state tournament at the end of the season. It seems that every other weekend there is some sort of National Invitational going on matching up powerhouses from various states. This weekend there was the Spalding Hoop Haul Classic. Later in the year, there is a National Championship tournament which invites the top teams in the country. Findlay Prep won this tournament last year and therefore is the defending National Champion..
Both of these teams had multiple signed division one players on their roster. The Findlay Prep team does not even attend Findlay Prep for school. They attend a high school by Findlay Prep for class, and then play ball for Findlay. All the players live under the same roof, and they traveled over 35,000 miles for games last year. Seems like a college team or an AAU team to me.
High school basketball is just becoming a branch off the AAU circuit. Each year, more and more traveling all-star teams are forming like Findlay Prep and Oak Hill Academy. These kids do not even really attend school. They are already basically D1 college basketball players.
So is all this good for high school basketball? Is it raising the level of play? Or is it hurting the maturity and development of these kids as people on and off the court? I guess only time will tell and I cannot argue with it in that College Basketball is still as entertaining as ever.
Hats off to Columbus Northland, the defending Ohio State champs. They have knocked off both the traveling all star teams this year in Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep. Though I wish they did not travel to some of these invitationals, this team is currently ranked second in the country and will be moving up to first after St. Patrick’s loss today. This is a real high school, with players who attend the school for all 4 years. They play a normal conference schedule and will play in the Ohio state tournament at the end of the season. They even have a coach’s kid in their starting lineup (Jared Sullinger, number 2 ranked player in the country). That is real high school basketball.
So what are your thoughts on what high school basketball has become? Is it a good thing?
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.