Seven varsity teams made the trip to Warrenton, VA to join Highland School in their hosted ‘Hoops Holiday Showcase’ this past Saturday. Six out of the seven programs ranged from different areas of Virginia; Central Catholic was the only out-of-state school (Pittsburgh, PA). I had been waiting to check this event out, as the team-matchups appeared pretty equal. With Highland playing the final game of the evening, more and more spectators began to fill the gym as the hours passed by. Saturday came with some great enjoyment and I marked down several notes about the teams and players.
Central Catholic HS – 77
Veritas Collegiate Academy – 55
Great Bridge Christian Academy – 69
Hargrave Military Academy – 61
The Potomac School – 69
Virginia Episcopal – 56
Virginia Academy – 64
Highland School – 55
Some Team Notes
- Despite Highland’s offensive struggles on Saturday night, the Hawks still stood out in several ways. First, they did a really good job of protecting the interior, going up against Virginia Academy’s height/size in the post. Highland’s big man, Cameron Timmons ’19, had about 4-5 blocks and their other perimeter players did well in stripping the ball away from VAA’s guys who drove to the short corner areas. The Hawks held VAA to only six points in the first quarter. Secondly, they showed some heart in refusing to back down at any point in the game and cut VAA’s lead to four points late in the final period. Lastly, I felt their aggressiveness in constantly drawing fouls showed how they can still create trouble for opposing teams even on a bad shooting night. The Hawks played with that same aggressiveness at the top of their defense as well; using pass perception to collect many steals.
- Central Catholic had one of the best second half performances in the showcase, as they gained great energy and sealed the game with their effort on both ends. I really liked the way they move the ball in their half-court game. The Vikings always looked for the best available shot and usually got it off before Veritas’ defenders even had a chance to attempt in contesting it. Even with their smart offense, however, they didn’t shoot that well from the outside until late in the second half. Finishing around the basket worked best for them; it became a battle in the paint between both teams for most of the game due to a lack of shooting success. One thing I’ll point out about Central Catholic is that they need to decrease their fouls. They gave Veritas more free throw attempts than necessary.
- The togetherness of Hargrave impressed me just as much as their overall talent. EVERYONE within the program showed great enthusiasm and passion. I respected head coach Ben Veshi’s care for his players and method of giving them confidence all throughout the game. The physical play of Hargrave’s guards/wings allowed them to get to the free-thow line frequently and they ended up winning the majority of hustle plays. I felt the Tigers rebounded solidly too; they undoubtedly have some size but played taller than they actually appear.
- Great Bridge Christian Academy has a handful of athletic tools when observing their guards’ speed and post players’ length/imposing size. They didn’t bring a lot of bench depth with them on Saturday but five of their eight players stood over 6’5.” With that notion, I think the Eagles can finish around the basket a little better; that’ll just emerge with working on touch and learning how to properly seal for position. The team’s offense looked a bit stagnant at times too but I honestly think this just resulted from fatigue. I couldn’t blame them too much considering they were coming off of a hard-fought win from the previous night.
- Likewise to GBCA, Virginia Academy contains all of the physical tools to create a presence entering games. The Patriots looked best in their defensive rebounding. They went after misses strongly with both hands in one of the more consistent manners of any other team. They also shot the ball pretty good from the outside and starting earning more free throw attempts in the third quarter. Their turnovers, however, hurt them the most in Game 4. WAY too many of them occurred throughout the contest, which mainly led to Highland fighting their way back into it. This will have to change above all else.
Six Standouts of the Showcase
Ben Sarson ’20 – Central Catholic: Without question, I pick Sarson as my choice for the best offensive rebounder of the day. The 6’5” junior forward played as an animal in the interior for his squad to give them many paint points and second-chance opportunities. His ability to play hard yet still under control stood out the most in my eyes. He got the ball in transition a few times and did well at slowing down to euro-step past defenders for finishes. While the Vikings’ overall energy saw a boost in the second half, Sarson’s persisted from the very first possession to the last. A very strong first showing of the day that saw him finish with a game-high 22 points. I didn’t get his final rebounding stats… but I’m confident they reached close to double-figures.
Jack Xin ’21 – Veritas: Similar to Sarson, Xin showed great production in the paint during Game 1. He has nice skills for his age; footwork, touch, and patience with the shot fake. Even with these abilities in the post, I also saw some shooting potential in the 6’6” forward. His range stretches out to the three-point line and he has a quick release without any hesitation once he sets his feet. I feel this could aid into Xin becoming a reliable ‘pick-and-pop’ 4-man. He played a lot of minutes as a starter for the Spartans and showed great upside for a guy who hasn’t even touched his potential yet. Keep an eye on him in the 2021 class. Xin finished with 13 points in Game 1.
Matthew Brown, Jr. ‘19 – Hargrave: The strong senior guard provided a big portion of the offense for his Tigers. He simply showed an above-average feel for scoring the ball and really gained momentum as the game kept going on. Brown, Jr. can shoot it from different areas of the floor and didn’t let any of GBCA’s defenders speed him up when he had the ball in his hands. He created a lot of problems for GBCA in how he kept getting into the lane for some strong finishes. His confidence in making plays off of the bounce, shooting it from spot-up positions, and finishing with either hand at the rim all gave me the impression that he has a complete offensive game. Brown, Jr. had the highest scoring performance on Saturday, with 24.
Kenari Jones ’20 – GBCA: One of the new faces for GBCA, Jones definitely gives the Eagles reliable playmaking. He has an advanced handle and got downhill past Hargrave’s guards at will. Jones shook off a mediocre first half to find a better rhythm in his offense once the third quarter took place. This resulted in the Eagles taking the lead and playing at a faster tempo. When his team needed a bucket, Jones looked the best at delivering. Distributing-wise, he found bigger teammates near the rim once he drove baseline to get a piece of the paint. I think GBCA can work even better off of the pick-and-roll due to Jones’ vision and ability to lure defenders to sleep. He posted 22 points and eight assists in the Eagles’ comeback victory.
Jamel Melvin ’20 – Potomac School: Melvin showed some of the best confidence out of the forwards I saw throughout the day. He played at his own pace and always looked calm with the ball in his hands. Since teammate Justin Law ’19 went off for an outstanding shooting performance (22 points), Melvin didn’t take too many shots but still finished with great efficiency. He drew a couple of AND-1s immediately in the first quarter and ran the floor well to finish easy points. His footwork, body control, patience, and finishing with length all looked great; I’d say he was the most skilled forward I saw in the showcase and definitely showed the makings of a next-level contributor. He scored 16 points in Game 3.
Jalen Jasper ’21 – Highland: The energetic scoring guard made several plays for the Hawks down the stretch of Game 4 during their near-comeback in seeking to take the lead. Jasper had the best shooting performance for his team and used his scrappy defensive play to initiate many fast breaks. He’s off to a solid start this season only as a sophomore, averaging close to 12 points, three rebounds, and 1.4 steals a game. Him, his brother, James ‘21, and standout scoring guard, Angelo Brizzi ’21, all combine to give Highland a talented sophomore bunch that audiences should keep in mind. Jasper chipped in 13 points in Game 4.
Another showcase in the books, looking forward to more upcoming ones!