WHEELING, W.Va. — Emmanuel Mudiay admitted that it sounded a little cliché, but he swears that in the locker room before he and his Prime Prep (Dallas) squad took the court to face Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, ranked No. 3 in the Super 25, the outcome was already decided.
“We knew we were gonna win,” Mudiay said. “I promise you there was never any doubt with us. We told each other. Not trying to sound cocky, but we’re a really confident team.”
MORE: Super 25 Rankings
Prime Prep lived up to its pregame proclamation, knocking off the Express, 59-46, Friday at the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W.Va.
Mudiay scored a game-high 18 points and was named MVP of the game. Elijah Thomas, a sophomore forward, added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Prime Prep.
“We feel like this win has earned us more national respect,” Thomas said. “We feel like we deserve to be in the rankings. We’ve proved it and we’re going to continue to prove it. We’ve got everything together now so we can be ranked.”
In October, the District 11-3A Executive Committee ruled that three of Prime Prep’s top players were ineligible for the 2012-13 season for improperly transferring because of athletics. That forced most national outlets, including USA TODAY, to leave Prime Prep out of their preseason rankings.
A month later, Prime Prep reinstated its players and left the University Interscholastic League, the governing board of high school athletics in Texas. Now, Prime Prep coach Ray Forsett said his team is officially certified as an independent and are in the process of joining the Texas Charter League.
“The league will be sanctioned by the NFHS on January 15,” Forsett said. “So everything’s on the up-and-up and we’re eligible to be ranked by everyone. I feel like we’ve shown a lot all year, not just tonight. We’re cool with taking our respect but once we take it we want it. That’s what we did tonight. We are working toward a national title. We want to be in the NHSI. Maybe we can meet Huntington again.”
Express coach Rob Fulford conceded that Prime Prep was “the better team tonight.” The Express shot a season-low 28 percent from the field in the loss.
“It’s a teaching moment for us,” Fulford said. “We’ve got to make shots and a lot of them were great looks. Not taking anything away from Prime, they’re a good team, but we’ve got to execute better. But we’ll bounce back. We’ll be fine.”
Eagles marking their territory
More than an hour before the Cancer Research Classic tipped, before any fans were even allowed in the gym, Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) tested out the floor at Wheeling Jesuit, getting up shots and walking around getting a feel for the gym.
The Eagles, ranked No. 2 in the Super 25, will face-off against No. 9 Simeon (Chicago) Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. Montverde coach Kevin Boyle is notoriously known to be superstitious.
No word yet on what the day-before walkthrough adds to the Eagles’ mental psyche.
Thomas’ dominance pays off with offer
Prime Prep forward Elijah Thomas said he’d been excited all week to go up against Huntington Prep’s talented frontcourt duo of Moses Kingsley, an Arkansas signee, and Dominic Woodson, a Baylor signee.
“I just love competition,” said Thomas, a sophomore. “I go up against talent every day in practice so playing against other guys is just cash money.”
That mentality certainly paid off in Friday night’s win. After his 18-point, 11-rebound performance, Thomas learned that Kentucky coach John Calipari, who sat courtside during the game, extended him an offer.
Thomas took to Twitter to spread the word about his latest offer.
“@EliCTMDThomas15: Got offered by the Unviersity of Kentucky.”
Day one results
Seton-La Salle (Pittsburgh) 63, Linsly (Wheeling, W.Va.) 44… Mercersburg Academy (Mercersburg, Pa.) 58, Wheeling Central 41… Prime Prep (Dallas) 59, Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) 46… Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pa.) 71, St. Raymond (Bronx, N.Y.) 44.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.