Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bishop Montgomery (CA) Bounces Back After Chino Hills Loss

Bishop Montgomery bounced back in a strong way on Tuesday night after suffering their first loss of the season on Saturday to Chino Hills (CA), the No. 1 team in the country. The Knights were led by their talented trio of under-classmen in junior guard Ethan Thompson, junior guard Jordan Schakel, and sophomore guard David Singleton, as they took down St. Bernard 77-60 in a home match-up.

6’5” four-star guard Ethan Thompson scored 15 points on a mixture of outside shots and drives to the basket off the dribble. Thompson, the younger brother of Oregon State sophomore guard Stephen Thompson Jr., scored 13 of his points in the first half and finished 4-8 from the field. Throughout the game, Bishop Montgomery used Thompson on all parts of the court. He brought the ball up the court and initiated offense at times and also tried to utilize his height advantage in the post. Playing calm and collected, Thompson found the open manner when faced with a double and attacked the basket off the bounce usually utilizing a right to left spin move. On his outside shots, Thompson hit both three’s from the left wing, with the first one coming at the first quarter buzzer resulting in an and-one. The only three he missed was from NBA distance and even that one went in and out. Thompson is currently receiving a bevy of PAC-12 interest from schools such as Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA.

Sophomore guard David Singleton was the team high scorer finishing with 22 points. As the quickest player on the court, Singleton used his quickness to get a step on his defender and finished with soft shots in the paint. The sophomore guard also knew how to free himself for an outside shot. Given an inch of space, Singleton wouldn’t hesitate to let a three fly using his lightning quick release. While his style is a bit unorthodox as he shoots from just above his right shoulder, the result is usually the same. He hit two three-pointers on the game with both finding the bottom of the net without touching any part of the rim. In the second half, Singleton went to the line eight times and went a perfect 8-8. Once again, the shots did not touch any part of the rim.

Q: What was the team’s mentality after the loss to Chino Hills?

A: We weren’t discouraged at all. We were actually encouraged and fired up. It was more of a wake-up call for us as we were so we were getting so used to winning and starting to get kind of complacent. It was a wake-up call to show there is still room for improvement.

Q: How did you try to attack St. Bernard?

A: From the beginning we were just trying to take advantage of our size. Get post touches, look for easy cutters, and lay-ups.

Q: On your free throws and outside shots, none of your makes ever touched the rim. What do you focus on when working on your shot?

A: Just repetition. I focus on my form in great detail, because that’s all that matters is detail. Right now, shooting and attacking the basket are my strengths and I’m trying to work on everything.

Q: Recruiting is in the early stages for you, but who are some of the schools showing interest and what is their pitch?

A: Lately I’ve been to UCLA and USC games so far. UCLA is coming out with a new gym (Mo Ostin Basketball Center) and also getting to play with the Ball brothers is their pitch. USC is playing in their new gym. The schedule is going to be getting competitive as well. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PAC-12 Awards: Halfway Point

Surprises are a plenty at the halfway mark of the PAC-12 regular season. Nine game down. Nine more to go. The Oregon Ducks currently sit in first place at 7-2 while four teams sit just one game back including USC and Washington, who were both picked to finish near the bottom of the conference. The road trips have been dangerous so far with just two road teams (Utah and Oregon) sweeping any of their road trips. Utah is coming on strong winning five in a row while pre-season Arizona has been plagued by injuries and a few close calls. The league currently has a plethora of talented players with only five being able to be named to the all-conference team. Who has a leg-up with nine games left?

Player Of The Year:

Andrew Andrews, G, Washington: 22.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.7 apg

The Huskies were coming off a disastrous 5-13 conference record last year and not a lot was expected out of one of the youngest teams in the country which starts four freshmen. Andrew Andrews put together a strong junior season averaging 16.6 ppg in conference play, but hit the ground running helping Washington win the first three games of conference play as he scored 35 points in a win against UCLA and then went for 29 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a road win at Washington State. Andrews has topped the 30-point mark in 33% of his conference games and has easily put together one of the more impressive stat lines as the Huskies have returned to an up-tempo style of play. The senior guard struggled in his last trip to Southern California shooting just 6-24 from the field and will need to return to his stellar ways as a few other opponents are nipping at his heels.    
 1st Team All-Conference:

Dillon Brooks, F, Oregon: 17.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.2 apg

Last year the surprising Ducks were led by Joe Young who was sensational in conference play. Dillon Brooks impressed in his first year although he experienced the traditional ups and downs one might expect from a freshman. This year, Brooks has taken over the reigns and is the leading scorer for the top team in the league. He’s scored in double-figures in 8 out of 9 games and is averaging over 22 points over the last three games which included a road sweep of Arizona and Arizona State. If Brooks can continue his sophomore leap the rest of the way, he could easily make it back to back player of the year awards for the Ducks.

Jakob Poetl, C, Utah: 16.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.2 apg

Utah is the hottest team in the conference winning their last five games and a big reason why is that Poetl has been living up to his billing as a potential lottery pick. In conference play, the sophomore center is shooting 54% from the field, but over the last five games he is approaching 61% and has scored 20 or more in the last three. Last year Poetl struggled at times in conference play and only broke double figures four times, but this year with some added strength he has turned into a dominant player down low.

Gary Payton II, G, Oregon St.: 15.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.0 apg

Gary Payton II was challenging for POY status before an off week in Arizona. For the year, Payton II has put up some monstrous numbers including a 22 point, 15 rebound, eight assist effort against USC and a 26 point, 15 rebound game against Colorado. He is currently leading the conference in assists and is also second in steals. The 6’3” guard came down to earth last weekend as he scored just two points in a loss to Arizona State and then struggled a few days later against Arizona.

Josh Scott, F, Colorado: 15.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.3 apg

It feels like Josh Scott has been around Colorado forever. The Buffs stumbled to a disappointing 7-11 season last year, but behind the play of Scott (and George King), Colorado is sitting pretty at 6-3 following a sweep of Stanford and Cal. Scott has scored in double figures in every game and has also recorded five double-doubles. He was previously named as the conference player of the week as well.

On The Cusp:

-Ryan Anderson, Arizona
-Julian Jacobs, USC
-Chris Boucher, Oregon
-Julian McLaughlin, USC
-Jaylen Brown, Cal
-Josh Hawkinson, WSU
-Isaac Hamilton, UCLA
-Bryce Alford, UCLA

Freshman Of The Year:

Jaylen Brown, F, Cal: 17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg / Dejounte Murray, G, UW: 16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.9 apg

Just like the player of the year race, this race is too close to call. Jaylen Brown was expected to star at Cal and so far he has performed admirably despite defenders playing significantly off his outside shot. He is the most unstoppable player in the country on a fast break and is still managing to shoot 50% from the floor in conference play. Meanwhile, in Seattle, expectations were high for the local star in Murray, but so far he has easily exceeded any and all of them. Murray leads the conference in steals and is also one of the top rebounding guards and assist men. He put on some added strength after high school and the added muscle shows when he attacks the basket. He takes tough shots at times lowering his shooting percentage, but has been one of the many bright spots so far for the Huskies.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2016 McD's All-American Predictions

The 2016 McDonald's All-American roster will be announced tonight on ESPNU. 24 of the top high school seniors will be selected to participate in the most prestigious high school All-Star game which will be held at the United Center in Chicago on March 30, 2016.


Point Guard (4):

  • De’Aron Fox - 6'4", Cypress Lakes HS (TX) -- Kentucky
  • Lonzo Ball - 6'5", Chino Hills (CA) -- UCLA
  • Frank Jackson - 6'3", Lone Peak (UT) -- Duke
  • Kobi Simmons - 6'4", St. Francis (GA) -- Arizona

Shooting Guard (3):
  • Malik Monk, 6'4", Bentonville (AR) -- Kentucky
  • Markelle Fultz, 6'4", DeMatha (MD) -- Washington
  • Josh Langford, 6'5", Madison Academy (AL), Michigan State

Small Forward (4):
  • Jayson Tatum - 6'7", Chaminade (MO) -- Duke
  • Josh Jackson - 6'7", Prolific Prep (CA) -- Undecided
  • Miles Bridges - 6'7", Huntington Prep (WV) -- Michigan State
  • Terrance Ferguson - 6'7", API (TX) -- Alabama

Power Forward (2):
  • Edrice Adebayo - 6'9", High Point Christian Academy (NC) -- Kentucky
  • TJ Leaf - 6'9", Foothills Christian (CA) -- UCLA

Center (2):
  • Marques Bolden - 6'11", DeSoto (TX) -- Undecided
  • Jarrett Allen - 6'10", St. Stephen's Episcopal Academy (TX) -- Undecided

  • Tyus Battle - SF, Syracuse
  • VJ King - SF, Louisville
  • Mustapha Heron - SF, Auburn
  • Sacha Killeya-Jones - PF, Kentucky
  • Andrew Jones - SG, Texas
  • Tony Bradley - C, UNC
  • Alterique Gilbert, PG, UConn
  • Javin DeLaurier, PF, Duke
  • Kyle Guy, SG, Virginia


The McDonald's All-American game will be loaded at the point guard and small forward position while both the East and West teams will be hurting for quality big men. The talent of this game will be hurt by injuries as two of the top players in the country will not be able to participate. Harry Giles and Dennis Smith both tore their ACL's and are headed to Duke and N.C. State, respectively. Also, numerous five-star players such as Rawle Alkins, Thon Maker, and Wenyen Gabriel were not eligible for participation in the game.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Three-Point Play

Each week the "Three-Point Play" will touch on three topics from the college basketball world. This first version includes the following:
  • The improvement of junior forward Isaiah Hicks for UNC
  • A look at Washington's 3-0 start in the PAC-12
  • USC's improvement from 3-15 last year to 3-1 this year in conference play 

The Isaiah Hicks Improvement

UNC power forward Isaiah Hicks was a McDonald’s All-American and a five-star recruit in the class of 2013, but was the forgotten man coming into this college season after an unremarkable first two years in Chapel Hill. As a freshman Hicks had to watch his lower ranked classmate in Kennedy Meeks (No. 68) outplay and outshine him as Meeks averaged 16.3 minutes compared to just 7.3 minutes for Hicks. Playing mostly on the perimeter, Hicks showed small glimpses of his raw talent, but he scored over five points in just one game. As a sophomore, the minutes doubled for Hicks and he averaged 6.6 points per game, but his performance was still a far cry from the expectations placed on him from the time he committed to Carolina.

Now, Hicks is still not a starter for the talented Tar Heels, but he is one of the most improved and least talked about players in the country. His scoring average has increased to 10.2 points per game in just 18.6 minutes and he currently is ranked No. 4 in the country in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings sporting an impressive 140.0 rating. With added strength to go with his fluidity, Hicks has become a more aggressive offensive player and just played a large part in helping UNC pull out a close win over Syracuse last Saturday. He’s converting 82.4% of his shots at the rim per Hoop-Math and has also increased his time at the foul line. Last year, Hicks’ took 2.3 free throws per game which has jumped up to almost four per game this year. A 58% free throw shooter as a freshman, Hicks is now hitting a remarkable 80.6% as a junior. Over the years, UNC has lost numerous games due to its porous free throw shooting, but this year Hicks is a primary reason that UNC is No. 21 in free throw percentage. While Hicks is still not mentioned on any mock draft sites, if he continues his upward trajectory in terms of improvement it will be only a matter of time until the five-star recruit begins to receive NBA attention.

Is Washington Back?

Conference play is only two weeks old for the PAC-12, but so far only one team remains unscathed. After a road overtime victory on Saturday, the Washington Huskies stand 3-0 in the conference and 11-4 overall. After being the class of the PAC-12 for many years, the Huskies have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, despite winning the conference regular season in 2012. Now, Lorenzo Romar and crew have gotten back to their up-tempo ways. After regularly playing an up and down style that had them In KenPom’s Top 30 tempo rankings year after year, the Huskies finished No. 183, No. 71, and No. 133 in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Now, Washington is ranked No. 5 and averaging 78.1 possessions per game (which has been helped by two recent overtime games). Along with the increased tempo, Washington currently has the early leader in the PAC-12 player of the year and freshman of the year. Andrew Andrews is averaging 29.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists while also shooting 48% from three. Also, freshman Dejounte Murray is averaging 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. The road certainly gets tougher for the Huskies with a trip to Arizona coming up this week, but for now Washington is relying on its guard play while getting back to its winning ways.

USC’s Turn Around

Staying in the PAC-12, most pre-season predictions had the USC Trojans finishing anywhere from 8th to 10th in the conference standings. After going just 3-15 last year, it was expected that Andy Enfield’s team would be improved, but not nearly enough to challenge the top echelon of teams. Now, three months into the season, USC is rated No. 25 by KenPom and sports a 3-1 conference record which could easily be 4-0 given the 22 point lead they relinquished to Washington (granted, they could also be 1-3 after giving up substantial leads to Washington, ASU, and Arizona). After their four overtime victory at home against Arizona, the LA market is starting to notice USC for its basketball team. Both the offense and defense have made remarkable leaps this year. The offense jumped from No. 244 in adjusted offensive efficiency to No. 36 and the defense has improved from No. 83 to No. 37. As a team, USC is currently shooting 41% from the three-point line including a 10-23 performance against Arizona. Freshman power forward Bennie Boatwright spaces the floor for the Trojans and has been one of the top freshmen in the conference. Julian Jacobs and Jordan McGlaughlin put the pressure on opposing defense’s and Elijah Stewart provides a strong scoring spark off the bench now that Enfield made the decision to start Katin Reinhardt. On defense, the Trojans have employed a soft pac line defense at times and have made a conscious effort to stop the opposing guards off pick and roll plays. With a young and talented team, the Trojans are looking to establish themselves in the PAC-12. Through two weeks they are off to a start that wasn’t anticipated, but now they enter a three game road stretch playing at UCLA before travelling to Oregon. A 2-1 mark for USC would be a dream come true, but even a 1-2 finish would be respectable. It’s not easy to change a culture and establish an identity, but in year three, Andy Enfield is in the midst of doing just that.