DICK'S Nationals: 5 things to watch

DICK'S Nationals: 5 things to watch

Geico High School Nationals

DICK'S Nationals: 5 things to watch

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Five things to watch at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Nationals, which begin Thursday in Middle Village, N.Y.

POLL: Who will win DICK’S Nationals?

Preview: Findlay Prep vs. Oak Hill

Preview: Montverde Academy vs. Shadow Mountain

Time off

All the teams in the field are faced with a long layoff between the end of their regular season or postseason and this week’s tournament. Montverde Academy (Fla.) hasn’t played since the Metro Classic on Feb. 11, for example. Shadow Mountain (Ariz.) last played in the Arizona state championship game on Feb. 25. Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) played against Impact Academy on Feb. 28. These gaps are not uncommon at DICK’S, but which team will be best able to get back into the flow?

Oak Hill Academy poses for a team photo after last year’s championship game (Photo: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports Images)

Defending champions

Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) broke through and won its first title last year after runner-up finishes in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015. The Warriors enter with four losses. That isn’t very many, but consider that Oak Hill lost once last season (45-1) and once in 2014-15 (37-1).

The most recent of those losses came Feb. 11 to St. Benedict’s Prep, 59-47.

Oak Hill has a number of players who were on that championship team, including Iowa State signee Lindell Wigginton, who made the all-tournament team. Wigginton had 16 points in last year’s 62-60 overtime victory in the title game against La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.).

Shadow Mountain coach and former NBA star Mike Bibby instructs (from right) Jaelen House, Jovan Blacksher and Darion Spottsville. (Photo: Tom Tingle/azcentral sports)

Shadow Mountain down

Shadow Mountain (Ariz.), the lone public school in the field, will be without sophomore guard Jaelen House in the tournament opener. House, one of the top players in the state who averaged 20 points, was ejected at the end of the third quarter of the 4A Conference state championship game against Tucson Salpointe Catholic for being part of a fight.

Per Arizona Interscholastic Association’s bylaws regarding an automatic next-game suspension after an ejection, House must sit out. If Shadow Mountain beats Montverde in the opener, House could return for the semifinals.

IMG Academy Ascenders guard Trevon Duval (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome IMG

IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), ranked No. 4 in the Super 25, will make its DICK’S Nationals debut. Similar to the academy’s football program, the basketball team has skyrocketed in the national rankings with a commitment to build a dominant program.

IMG comes in a 26-1 with the lone loss coming to Montverde Academy at the City of Palms in Fort Myers, Fla., in December. If Montverde and IMG win their opening games, the teams would meet in Friday’s 3 p.m. ET semifinal.

Trevon Duval, the nation’s No. 1 point guard who previously played at St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.), should be looking to put on a show in a return to the New York metro area. He scored 25 points and had seven assists at the Elite 24 event in Brooklyn last August.

Montverde’s Sandro Mamukelashvili dunks (Photo: Brian Fluharty, USA TODAY Sports)

Montverde’s mission

Montverde Academy won three consecutive DICK’S titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and enter as the No. 3 seed.

Maybe this season was a bit atypical by Montverde standards, but consider their four regular-season losses.

The Eagles lost twice to Memphis East – by two at the National Hoopfest in Tennessee and by three at Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. Memphis East is ranked No. 3 in the Super 25 and would be at DICK’S Nationals if it were allowed by the Tennessee state association.

Montverde lost to Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia) at the Montverde tournament, snapping the Eagles’ 55-game home winning streak. Imhotep is ranked No. 6. And it lost by a point to St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) in Maryland.

Needless to say, when it comes to success in New York at DICK’S, never count out Montverde.

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