A slate of seven top notch high school basketball games were televised live from the 2016 Cancer Research Classic, held at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia. Literally dozens of nationally ranked players, including several potential professionial players down the line, showed their wares on center stage at the event, which is arguably the top one day showcase event nationally.
Duke Blue Devils signee Jayson Tatum was unquestionably the star of the day. The 6′-8″ do-it-all forward showed his top notch skill-level and offensive game, scoring from all three levels in an 84-83 win against Huntington Prep (WV). Tatum realistically likely could have scored more, but also set the table for teammates on several occasions. Tatum scored 46 points, which included the most important final two points to provide the final victory margin for his squad. Tatum handled a heavy amount of the ballhandling chores, and also found time to grab 8 caroms.
Tatum was occasionally covered by top-10 recruit Miles Bridges, a Michigan State-bound forward who also had 25 points. Bridges demonstrated his versatile offensive game, but at times was out of control at inopportune times. Bridges’ teammate Curtis Jones, who is signed to Indiana, also kept Huntington Prep in the game at times when Tatum’s scoring threatened to widen the gap.
Tatum was most certainly responsible for the best performance of the day, but a close second was the tremendous effort put forth by Washington signee Markelle Fultz, a scoring guard who put up 31 points with minimal quit, and also grabbed 5 rebounds. Fultz put his team on his back for stretches and really impressed with his versatile offensive game. Fultz had an able sidekick in junior forward D.J. Harvey, but against a sizable and talented roster that came at them in waves, Fultz almost always had an answer for the oppposition.
Fultz’s DeMatha Catholic (MD) squad pushed Montverde Academy (FL) to the limit before falling 74-71. Montverde Academy (FL) is a top-5 team nationally, and arguably has the deepest roster of any squad in the land, particularly with several trees in the frontcourt. For Montverde Academy, senior post Bruno Fernando had a grown man’s game and was hard to stop in the paint. He put up 21 points and grabbed numerous key rebounds. Fernando, originally from Angola, is a bruiser with a college-ready frame. He should compete to be a consensus top-100 player nationally by the end of the season. Top 20 sophomore talent Simi Shittu also excelled in the paint, scoring his own 21 points.
In keeping with the trend of one possession games, the evening’s action was closed out by La Lumiere (IN) taking out Wheeler (GA), 59-57. Fittingly, top-25 junior talent Jeremiah Tilmon won the game on a tip in for La Lumiere, as he was solid throughout the contest in accumulating 17 points and 6 rebounds. Assuming Tilmon continues at his recent pace, he’ll be one of the most heavily recruited big men prospects in the 2017 class. For now, he shares time on a deep roster and doesn’t need to be the featured player.
An earlier battle waged between traditional East Coast powerhouse programs saw Gonzaga (DC) take out Neumann-Goretti (PA), 71-70. Gonzaga is a team blessed with tremendous underclassman, as juniors point guard Chris Lykes and forward Eddie Scott, and sophomore wings Prentiss Hubbs and Myles Dredd all showed flashes of brilliance at times. That entire quartet will likely end up at the D-1 level, and Gonzaga has the horses to be a top 10 nationally ranked program next season if they can keep their core players together.
Gonzaga’s win should do nothing to diminish the elite performance from Quade Green, a 2017 point guard from Neumann-Goretti, a deep and talented program from Philadelphia. Green put up 12 assists in a near triple-double game and showed he is easily a top 50 talent in his class, and likely to be a priority point guard recruit for several high-major programs, at least regionally. Green’s size isn’t ideal, but one cannot argue with his performance.
In the other game involving “national” programs, API (TX) ran Westtown (PA) off the court in a 105-71 victory. The contest involved three top-10 prospects in the class of 2017 nationally, and API’s point guard Trevon Duval was the most impressive of the trio. Duval has good size for his position, and demonstrated his overall efficiency in scoring 25 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and dropping 4 dimes to his teammates.
While Duval may be today’s standout, the sky is truly the limit for 6′-11″ junior center Mohamed Bamba of Westtown. Bamba scored 24 points and has the potential to end up as the top player in the class nationally. Bamba put up 24 points, nearly all of which was near the cup. He shows tremendous defensive instincts as a rim protector in collecting 4 blocks. Bamba has a frame that will allow for more strength and size, and could turn into a terror in the paint down the line as he develops.