Eight Super 25-ranked boys teams, including six teams in the top 10, will compete in the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals. All four girls that are competing are ranked in the Super 25.
La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), the No. 2 team in the Super 25 boys basketball rankings, grabbed the top seed for the tournament, which runs March 30-April 1 at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, N.Y.
The Lakers (26-1) will face No. 15 Wasatch Academy (Mouth Pleasant, Utah) in the first round.
The other first-round boys games: No. 4-ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) will play No. 19 Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.); No. 5 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) will play No. 8 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.); and No. 7 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) will take on No. 10 Shadow Mountain (Phoenix).
While the No. 1 team, Nathan Hale (Seattle) opted not to play in the event, the champion of the event could end up as the No. 1 team. Only two of the teams are newcomers: IMG and Shadow Mountain. One of the reasons Nathan Hale cited for not playing was that Michael Porter, Jr., wouldn’t be able to practice with his team the week before because he was playing in the McDonald’s All-America Game.
Shadow Mountain is the lone public school in the field. Hale also is a public school; Memphis East, also a public school, had hoped to be in the field but was not granted a waiver by the Tennessee state association.
Shadow Mountain likely will be without Jaelen House, who was ejected from state championship game. State rules say players are suspended for the next game following an ejection. He is the team’s best defensive guard and average 20 points per game
Four of the teams in the event will have McDonald’s All-Americans, including La Lumiere, which has two: Brian Bowen and Jaren Jackson. Lakers Shane Heirman said that’s something he has to plan for. The other McDonald’s All-Americans are P.J. Washington from Findlay Prep, Trevon Duval from IMG and Billy Preston from Oak Hill.
“We’re going to prepare this next week before we lose those guys,” Heirman said. “We’ll have a game plan as to how we’ll guard our first opponent. You have to hope that come game time, regardless of the travel and the distractions (for the McDonald’s players), that they show up and play like All-Americans.”
This will be the fifth time the Lakers have played in the event. Last year, was the first time they won a game as they fell to Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in the championship.
“Not competing for a state championship, playing in this event is a valuation of the work you put in,” he said. “It’s a year in the making of trying to get back to New York. To be invited to it is incredibly hard and prestigious. I think last year created a hunger.”
Oak Hill has played in every NHSI or DICK’S Nationals except for one but last year was the Warriors’ first title. Montverde Academy won the two prior DICK’S events. Findlay Prep won the first two tournament titles, when the event was known as the National High School Invitational. Wasatch Academy played in the event for the first time last year and is back.
The other eligible team not included in the eight-team field is No. 24 Tift County (Tifton, Ga.). The team won its state title but was not invited because it had the lowest ranking of the eligible teams and one of its two defeats was a 77-45 loss to Montverde Academy.
The top seed for the girls event is Miami Country Day (Miami), which is ranked No. 4. The Spartans would play No. 15 Seton Catholic (Phoenix) in the semifinals with the other semifinal pitting No. 8 Hamilton Heights Christian (Chattanooga, Tenn.) against No. 11 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore).