The Cancer Research Classic was held this weekend in Wheeling, West Virginia, showing off the skills of the best high school players in the country. Everybody knows the names Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, but those were just two of the incredible young men competing during this event. The tournament featured 18 teams with what creator Doc Merrick described as 12 future NBA stars playing. The top two have already been analyzed, and now I am here to bring you the rest of the best of the CRC.
Jahlil Okafor, C, Whitney Young Dolphins
Okafor is a well-known superstar in the realm of high school basketball now. At 6’11” and 270 lbs, he’s very hard to miss. His large hands give him a strong handle on the ball, and he can use strength to back his opponent down despite his lanky body. At the tournament, he was able to break records for field goals made with 14 -18 shooting, breaking the record set on Friday night. He also broke the record for points with 32, becoming the first player in tournament history to score 30 or more points in a game. With only four shots beyond four feet of the basket, Okafor showed his ability to make plays inside. Beyond his offensive contributions with incredible post moves, he also used his size to hold down the paint on defense. He finished with four blocks, and left many assistant coaches from major colleges saying they believe he’s the better player than cross-city rival Jabari Parker.
Paul White, SF, Whitney Young Dolphins
When talking about Okafor, you need to also bring up his 2014 classmate, Paul White. White spreads the floor, and gives the defense somebody to watch beyond Okafor on the inside. He was able to score 19 points in the game, with 2-of-4 shooting from three point land. White was a major contributor who often created a two-man game with Okafor, drawing the double-team off of the superstar in the post. White was a key contributor on the defensive end with perimeter defense making shots difficult for the stars of Neumann-Goretti. With his outside defense and Okafor manning the middle, they held their opponents to 32 percent shooting, and 13 percent shooting from three point range.
The dangerous duo of Overton and Vasturia are attending Wake Forest and Notre Dame in the fall, respectively, but together they were able to create a 70-43 victory for their team. The two complement each other perfectly, and only need a decent passer in order to open up their games. Vasturia is an off-ball shooter, perfect for the two-guard spot and using downscreens to get open for a catch-and-shoot from beyond the arc. Overton is the complete opposite, and immediately looks to dribble off the pass. He has a long-range stroke, but isn’t going to use it often when he can use ball-handling to work around opponents. Overton was slower on defense, not often bending his knees and holding his non-shooting shoulder because of pain, but was effective in holding the opponent to 33 percent shooting for the game. Both players struggled to keep their head in the game at times, losing focus when rushed and forcing a shot up.
BeeJay Anya, C, DeMatha Stags
Anya, committed to NC State, was a force inside with 18 points and 13 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting providing a difference for his team. His body has already matured and he looks to be a grown man when in the post, often having to be double- or triple-teamed. His post moves are lacking, with only one usual move of a spin toward baseline into a two-handed dunk, but were effective. Anya led the tournament in dunks with four in his game, including a behind-the-back two-handed slam that took the roof off the building. He combined with Jairus Lyles, VCU commit, and Corey Henson to break the record for team field goal percentage with 66.7%, crushing the record they set last season of 60.5.
Jaylon Tate, a former commitment to Ohio University, and Kendrick Nunn are now both going to play for the Illinois Fighting Illini with former Ohio Bobcats coach John Groce in the fall. They bring high-energy play to the Illini, but in the tournament showed their reliance on each other. Tate was able to make great plays with Nunn and Parker to work with, often making the pass to the primary-assister. However, when Nunn left with an ankle injury, he began forcing passes and causing turnovers. Tate was able to recover on defense, but it was still a dangerous blow to his team. Nunn returned and showed shooting, passing, and rebounding abilities that are great for a guard. He finished with four rebounds, and was often in the middle of the pack to recover the rebound. His ability to shoot from long distance was mostly unseen in this game, but is well documented.
Both Hill and Russell excelled for the Eagles, showing why their team is the first ranked team in the nation according to ESPN. Hill, committed to Florida, was a primary shooter for the team despite being point guard. He showed an ability to create open shots off the dribble or make superb plays on the drive-and-kick. Russell is a junior superstar, already a top-10 recruit in his graduating class, who showed prime playmaking skill himself. He finished with 14 points while Hill had 13, and each were able to accumulate five assists. Hill’s passing became a big factor in the game when he was able to change direction in the air and make a difficult pass through traffic to his big-men down by the hoop. Russell’s shooting drew the attention of the defense, and left his teammates open for great looks. Both players were good defenders, with Hill showing off his skills. He finished with six steals off of Jaylon Tate and Jabari Parker, often taking it off the dribble or intercepting the pass.
Even with the spotlight shining on the superstar guards of the Eagles, the MVP of the game was Dakari Johnson. Johnson, the first ranked center in the 2013 class, later committed during the game, following theirs to the University of Kentucky. Johnson was a powerful force against Simeon, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds, including a record-tying 8 offensive rebounds. His post play was magnificent with multiple go-to moves, and he was able to fend off multiple defenders inside. Williams, a West Virginia commit, was just as forceful inside, often facing off with Jabari Parker. His defense led to Parker committing four turnovers on the night, and he also secure d15 points in the game. His high-energy play will be highly regarded in Morgantown next fall.
Kris Jenkins, F, Gonzaga Purple Eagles
Jenkins, the 2012 tournament MVP, will be attending Villanova in the fall,he became the primary star at the CRC this weekend. He secured 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, 9-of-9 from the free throw line, to become the second player to score 30 points in a game at the CRC. His defense was lacking at times, as he appeared disinterested in defending the paint, but was solid overall. On offense he was able to create both with and without the ball, and found many opportunities to capitalize with a 13 point first quarter before the defense began double-teaming him. He was timid to drive the lane and attack the basket, but has the size to be effective inside.
With all the stars out for the CRC, not everybody can top the list as the best of the tournament. However, there we many players deserving of a mention for being some of the best in the game. Salesian Pride’s Jabari Bird, a California Golden Bears commit, scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Kris Jenkins and Gonzaga. Jairus Lyles of DeMatha scored only eight points, but also added eight assists to lead his team and the tournament. Chris Clover, sophomore, for St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks added 10 points and eight rebounds while using his size and long arms to be the premier defender for the team. Dre Wills of the Mercersburg Academy Blue Storm added 26 points and originally broke the record for field goals made with 12 and field goals attempted with 21. Corey Henson, junior for DeMatha, added 25 points and five assists to his team’s efforts with 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Emmanuel Mudiay, junior, and Elijah Thomas, sophomore, contributed 18 points each for Deion Sanders’s Prime Prep Truth and are both highly ranked prospects in their respective classes. Justin Bibbs for Montverde shot perfect from the field and took the game MVP on the ESPN televised game, contributing 13 points and two assists in just 12 minutes of action. Finally, Edward Morrow, sophomore, for Simeon added 10 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes and appears to be the next star ready to take over for Jabari Parker.
This is Part 3 of 3 in a series of stories from the CRC by Joshua Yost. For Part 1 click here, Part 2 is the first link in the introduction of this page.