Posted On: 09/14/18 11:34 AM
Jimmy Carr, University School
One year after serving as the assistant to the since-departed Adrian Sosa, Carr inherits one of the most talented teams on this side of Oak Hill. The U-School features a pair of well-established All-American candidates in Vernon Carey and Scottie Barnes, each of whom are being heavily courted by the nation’s elite.
While they no longer have one of the nation’s more underrated point guards in Drue Drinnon (now at New Mexico), they’ve filled the void with highly-lauded incoming transfers such as heady 6-foot point guard David Perez and Jace Howard.
Perez is a smooth and shifty guard who can really get to the rim and create for his teammates. His shot is still a work in progress. While working under Carr, a player development presence who coached in the Big East, conventional wisdom indicates Perez will shore up this aspect of his game.
Sneaky bounce is one of the finer points of the Class of 2020 prospect’s trade, as the 6-foot guard has an explosive burst to him. The addition of Jace Howard should also provide an immediate impact, as the high-motored 6-foot-6 wing can score it all three levels. He’s added polish to his game, rapidly evolving into a mid major prospect following a commendable season at Gulliver last year.
In today’s hothouse prep environment, championship-or-bust expectations may not seem to far fetched in this particular situation. With Sosa out and Carr running the program his way and having more freedom to install his system and culture.
Fiery, volatile and preaching accountability with an iron fist, Carr mirrors the approach of an old school Big East style coach.
With a star power-heavy lineup of this magnitude, a national championship is precisely where the bar is set for the seasoned head coach. After buckling and crumbling under Montverde’s massive second half 3-point barrage in last year’s GEICO national championship, Carr and U-School appear hell-bent on getting back to such a monumental stage.
Ehren Wallhoff, Westminster Academy
The seasoned coach has installed a winning culture and formula at a small school which has scored some very big victories these last few years. As a reigning state champion, Wallhoff will look to three-peat in 4A. It certainly won’t be cakewalk.
Several pivotal questions are enveloping Wallhoff as the program’s second all time second leading scorer prepares to solidify his legacy at his alma mater. The key question is how well he will win without uber-clutch 6-foot-4 guard Zach Scott (now at FGCU), who went off for 35 points in the state title game and became the program’s all-time leading scorer as a senior. Scott was routinely the answer in the fourth quarter, hitting a barrage of clutch shots and game-winners throughout his career.
Wallhoff, who enters this season with 300+ career wins, must replicate that steely resolve in hot-shooting senior guards Purdue University-Fort Wayne commit Chase Johnston and UT-Arlington commit Sam Griffin.
Johnston is arguably the best shooter in the state, a guaranteed zone-buster with a blur-quick release. Griffin, who saw backup minutes last season, enhanced his stock by becoming a legitimate scoring threat for Team Auto Nation this summer. Both players are mid-major prospects who bring a veteran savvy.
Wallhoff will need to increase the offensive production from his bigs this season. He’s got three guys who are 6-foot-8 and above, albeit all are very raw. Just how effectively he’s able to maximize their potential behind the backcourt tandem of Johnston and Griffin will gauge their overall product. While the team loses 6-foot-6 high major prospect Dudley Blackwell, a furiously athletic finisher with underrated passing ability, the void should be filled by committee.
Steve Smith, Oak Hill
One of the founding fathers of prep basketball, Smith’s success has stood the test of time. He’s mastered the trade of turning high level high school players into ready-made Division-I players and preparing them for the rigors of the NCAA experience.
With the arrival of Cole Anthony, an electrifying point guard out of New York City, the pressure is on the legendary coach to win a national championship. Several sources have indicated this may ultimately be Smith’s last season. A national title, especially with U-School and rival Montverde ramping up its personnel during the off-season, would be the ideal memorable sendoff and a pulsating end to Smith’s illustrious career.
He also tapped into the New York market by picking up highly-touted Kofi Cockburn, a bullish 6-foot-10 power player with the build of a Greek God. He’s tactical, he’s got footwork, and he’s an absolute warhorse in the post.
Now boasting one of the most talented teams in America and in recent memory, how Smith fares at the prestigious GEICO national championship will play a role in his storied legacy at the traditional powerhouse.