With tryouts completed and schedules finalized, it’s safe to say that the 2018-19 high school basketball season has officially arrived. Before games start taking place in the upcoming days/weeks, I had the opportunity to make a stop at The Steward School for a morning three-team scrimmage between the hosted Spartans, Monacan High School, and Lee-Davis High School. Getting a first look at all three teams in live action, I gained a solid feel for who and what has the potential to benefit throughout this winter.
- A high amount of new experience on the Monacan squad will most likely result in them working to build their chemistry early on. Regardless, the talent remains clear within Coach RJ Spelsberg’s group; something I noticed last month during my ‘open gym tour.’ They didn’t shoot the ball too great from the outside but went on good spurts of pitching the ball ahead in transition for quick baskets. Getting to the FT line can become the team’s best trait, as they continued to excel at this early in their play. Turnovers will need to see a significant decrease… they typically occur from casual dribbling or trying to force passes. After putting in more work to clean up some things, I expect the Chiefs to start rolling in Class 4.
- Steward caught my attention quickly by how sound and smartly they played their game at all times. Head coach Curt Kassab has already done a great job in holding all of his guys accountable to know each of their roles, even this early into the season. I saw zero acts of selfishness, as the Spartans all seemed to pride themselves on making the extra pass and running sets properly to gain the best offensive look. How well everybody rebounded the ball and found each other for efficient transition buckets both stood out to me the most. On defense, they rarely allowed second-chance points and rotated in the help side to take away easy baseline drives. In all, I feel the team’s overall knowledge and disciplined approach of playing the game the right way will suit them best moving forward. That notion can always prove key for success.
- Lee-Davis had one of the best days in protecting the rim; they don’t have a ton of height but placed lineups on the floor with guys who can rise and swat away layup attempts. Their effort on this side of the ball led to a majority of their scoring in transition. I feel they can also do some damage as a full-court press due to their gritty, athletic players. When in the half-court, the Confederates did well in a drive-kick style of play to find others, while also using skip passes frequently. Similar to Steward, they didn’t rush and settle for average shots. One thing I noticed about the team involved how they showed a tendency to go pretty cold in stretches on the offensive end. Minutes would pass by without them putting up points on the board. However, this didn’t result from poor shot selection, so that shouldn’t be alarming. Lee-Davis’ chemistry and liveliness, ignited by head coach Chad Bishop, will make them an exciting team to watch in Mechanicsville, VA.
Standouts of the Morning
Efton Reid ’21 – Steward: The Spartans’ young forward dominated all morning long in his ability to control the game on both ends of the floor. Standing at 6’11,” Reid used his height and solid strength at great advantage to rebound EVERYTHING that came off of the rim. He makes his presence known on the block with his assertiveness in calling for the ball, showing both hands, and patiently looking to make a move. I assume Reid’s teammates love playing with him due to how he makes their job easy in collecting assists off of the pick-and-roll; this led to plenty of two-hand flushes. Looking at how maturely he performs on the court only as a sophomore, I expect Reid to soon emerge as a highly-ranked national prospect. Virginia Tech, Florida, Old Dominion, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Drake, and Canisius are among the schools that have already offered.
Joe Bamisile ’20 – Monacan HS: Making his debut for the Chiefs, Bamisile put on an absolute highlight display. He had to have at least 7-8 total dunks. Talent-wise, I see the 6’3” scoring guard emerging into a league of his own in the region. He makes everything look easy on the court and can pretty much do whatever he wants with the ball. However, this sometimes gets the best of him in how he toys too much and ends up turning the ball over to the opposing team. Turnovers need to diminish more than anything else, along with trying to force the issue. Bamisile’s ability to cause others to foul separated him from everybody else on the court. Definitely a new face in Class 4 to keep an eye on.
James Wallace III ’20 – Lee-Davis HS: Playing as a 6’2” combo guard, Wallace III was one of the more exciting guys to watch throughout the morning with his never-ending confidence as a playmaker. He prided himself on both ends of the floor and set the tone for Lee-Davis’ offense right from the jump. His balanced play makes him a guy who can either wait to set up others or simply just get to the paint area for finishes. He doesn’t shoot the long ball at an excellent rate yet; looked more comfortable in taking shots off of the bounce around the mid-range area. Like Bamisile, I see him making a living at drawing fouls and knocking down free throws. Rarely did he miss any free throws on Saturday. His enthusiasm will give the Confederates a spark all season long.
Jonathan Mondrey ’19 – Monacan HS: The lone senior for the Chiefs showed how he’ll play a big role as a veteran presence who brings versatility all over the floor. Monacan doesn’t have any true big men but Mondrey’s toughness led to him having a noticeable impact on the glass and keeping other opponents from scoring around the rim. Every time one of his teammates took a shot, I saw Mondrey either in the air around the rim or fighting for position. He’s more of a wing who can play both inside and out; his strength especially helps in this aspect. In transition, he acted as a one-man fast break at times. If he can keep defenders more honest by looking for his jump shot, or creating his own off of the bounce, I see his offensive production taking a big leap.
Avery Fusco ’19 – Lee-Davis HS: Along with Wallace III, Fusco stepped on the court as another one who fueled Lee-Davis’ energy with his high motor. I see him playing as the ideal ‘stretch 4-man’ after noticing how well he can spot up to shoot the ball from both mid-range and three-point territory. He stood out even more on his rebounding efforts every time he was on the floor. I think the 6’4” forward has a chance to lead his squad in rebounding this season and become one of their most dangerous spot-up shooters. With his exceptional strength, Fusco could also give other wings/forwards trouble in powering his way to the basket. On defense, he has some versatility that should make him able to guard different positions at times. Audiences in Mechanicsville should see a big senior season from the fervent leader.
Zach Rosenthal ’21 – Steward: The lefty sophomore stood out as another piece of the Spartans’ young group of talent. Watching how advanced he played the game, I honestly never would’ve guessed Rosenthal has only begun his second high school season. I liked how hard-nosed he played in pushing the ball off the break to get downhill, which frequently led into him picking up fouls and knocking down the free attempts. He has a three-level game that makes him a scoring threat at will; I noticed how he kept opponents on their heels at all times in guessing which next move he would make. I’m sure Steward will rely on his scoring prowess but Rosenthal also caught my eye in how he can really find others on the perimeter once he gets a piece of the paint. His overall feel for the game goes much beyond that of his age. Developing a reliable off-hand and getting stronger will be the next two steps in his development.
I enjoyed watching these three teams in some game action for the first time! Only the beginning…