DeMatha guard Tyrell Ward goes to the basket against Baltimore Panthers. [MURPHY DESIGNS]
SPRINGFIELD, VA - From January 8-18, The St. James Sports, Wellness & Entertainment Complex held the year’s first major high school basketball showcase, welcoming some of the nation’s top teams to the DMV.
The National Interscholastic Basketball Classic (NIBC) Invitational hosted several teams ranked nationally by MaxPreps.com: No. 1 Montverde (FL), No. 2 Sunrise Christian (KS), No. 3 IMG (FL), No. 5 Oak Hill (Va.), No. 8 Wasatch Academy (UT) and No. 19 La Lumiere (IN).
Also featured in the field were a quartet of local teams: No. 4 DeMatha, No. 20 Paul VI, Baltimore Panthers (St. Frances) and Bishop Walsh.
Here’s a look at some of the area standouts:
TYRELL WARD, DEMATHA 2022 GUARD
The 6-foot-7, 170-pound Ward continued his early season breakout, posting 18 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two blocks per game in a pair of DeMatha victories.
His versatility was on full display in a 76-59 win over Blue Magic on January 16, posting 14 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Ward earned a scholarship offer from Virginia Tech the following day.
“I feel like this year I have to take on more of a leadership role,” Ward said, “because we lost a lot of seniors last year that were really important to our team. And our team’s really young this year, so I try to take all the young guys under my wing and get them with the same intensity that we had last year, because that was really working for us - we won, like, 30 games last year. So we’re just trying to keep that same intensity, and at the end of the day, we got the ‘W.’”
On January 18 against Baltimore Panthers, Ward posted 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting - including 3-of-5 from 3-point range - with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in a 74-63 win over Baltimore Panthers.
The outings were the latest in a strong line of performances for Ward, who earned high praise from Stags coach Mike Jones.
“He’s a - I don’t like speaking in hyperbole, but he’s the guy,” Jones said after the Blue Magic win. “He had 14 points and 12 rebounds and didn’t play necessarily well. But we’ve had two scrimmages and we’ve had two games, and in those contests he’s averaging over 20 points and over 11 rebounds, and then if you combine assists, blocks and steals, he’s averaging double figures in all three of those categories combined. He truly is really proving that he is an elite-level basketball player. I know the guys are all into the rankings and stuff like that - I’m not, but he did jump 50 spots in one of the last national rankings. He went from 98 to 48, and I truly believe that’s still too low for him.”
Jones continued: “One of the things that we told him when he first decided to come to DeMatha was that we would put him around other really good players and he would be able to learn for a couple of years, and then he’d be able to step into that role, and that’s exactly what’s happening. And I think he’s ready for it.”
Ward agreed, adding that waiting his turn for the spotlight has been beneficial.
“At first it wasn’t nothing like I’ve ever had experience with before,” he said of going to DeMatha, “but I’m glad I did it, because a lot of guys, they’ll go to a public school or something to be the man on their team and not be ready for college. But I feel like I’ve got a chance to play with guys who are going to go to other high level Division I schools, so I’m going to be ready when I go to college.”
Georgetown, George Mason, Georgia, Iona, Louisiana State, Providence, Seton Hall, St. Johns and Wake Forest are among the schools who have offered Ward, who is confident he can contribute at a high level for a college program.
“I feel likeI can do everything on the court really well, to be honest,” he said. “I can rebound really well, I facilitate really well and I can get to the basket really well.”
JORDAN HAWKINS, DEMATHA 2021 GUARD
The University of Connecticut-bound Hawkins was a matchup nightmare, putting up 15.5 points per game while grabbing five rebounds.
After committing to Connecticut in August, has been able to focus his attention on putting together a winning senior season with the Stags.
“This has been really different with all this corona stuff,” Hawkins said, “but I’m just blessed to be here and blessed to play with these guys and Coach Jones. I got a chance to play a little bit of AAU. Going through the whole recruiting process during the summer was really different - a lot of Zoom calls, I couldn’t really visit schools. It was different for everybody, but I’m glad I made an adjustment and found the right school for me and my family.”
Since bursting on the scene as a freshman at Gaithersburg (Md.), Hawkins has improved steadily, and is ready for his new role as elder statesman with the Stags.
“It’s been great learning from guys like Earl [Timberlake], Hunter [Dickinson], Don [Miller], Ant [Perry],” he said. “I’ve learned from great guys, so I think I’m ready for this role - I know I’m ready for this role - and to take off with it.”
ELIJAH HAWKINS, DEMATHA 2021 GUARD
The most undervalued guard in the local 2021 class, Hawkins does nothing but make winning plays on a consistent basis.
College recruiters have been scared off by the 5-foot-9 Hawkins’ size - Howard extended his first Division I offer in December - but he showed in DeMatha’s two wins that he’s an impact player on both ends of the floor.
Hawkins posted 10 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals against Blue Magic, and added 12 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and a pair of steals against Baltimore Panthers.
Coaches: don’t overthink this.
JASON MOORE, DEMATHA 2023 FORWARD
Moore - the younger brother of former Stags star and current Villanova guard Justin Moore - is a football standout who is on pace to have his choice of scholarship offers on the gridiron. In the meantime, he showed he’s got the skills to make an impact on the hardwood.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder averaged 8.5 points and 7 rebounds in two games, highlighted by an 11-point, 10-rebound performance against Blue Magic.
Moore has an impressive combo of strength and speed that makes him a problem for opposing big men, and showed very soft hands and good footwork.
DERIK QUEEN, BALTIMORE PANTHERS 2024 FORWARD
One of the area’s most highly-touted freshmen, Queen shined on the national stage, posting 17 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three contests.
He was particularly impressive in a 74-63 loss to DeMatha on January 18, scoring 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Panthers cut a 2-point deficit to single digits before ultimately falling short. He also added 13 rebounds, but wasn’t pleased with his overall performance.
“I don’t think it was a good game, because I had seven turnovers,” he said afterward. [My teammates] were just missing shots and I was just turning the ball over. I missed, like, my first five shots, and then in the second half I just had to get in the groove. It was the turnovers that killed us, ‘cause we cut the lead down.”
The 6-foot-8 Queen showed the ability to do a little bit of everything at the NIBC. He brought the ball up at times, worked in the high and low posts, and showed good touch from 3-point range.
“I think it's going good,” Queen said of his freshman season. “I’m fitting into the system quickly. The speed and the strength [are the biggest things to adjust to]. I’ve been working out a lot, and I’ve just been fighting in practice and my teammates are helping me get stronger.”
Arizona State, Georgetown, Louisiana State, Maryland and Virginia Tech have already offered scholarship offers to Queen, who is certainly living up to the hype early on.
JULIAN REESE, BALTIMORE PANTHERS 2021 FORWARD
The Maryland-bound Reese has taken his game to another level this season, and was absolutely dominant in wins over iSchool of Lewisville (TX) and Blue Magic before being slowed in a loss to DeMatha.
He opened with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks against iSchool, and posted 26 points and 11 boards against Blue Magic before notching just 7 and 4 against the Stags.
That last game was a rare blemish on what has been an outstanding senior campaign for Reese, who ended up averaging 20.3 points and 8.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game at the NIBC.
Reese - who opened the season with a beastly 42-point, 22-rebound, 10-block performance against Rock Creek Christian in November - spent his first two years of high school at New Town (Md.) before transferring to St. Frances last year. He was productive as a junior, but Black Panthers coach Nick Myles said the biggest difference for Reese this season has been his mentality.
“I told him at the beginning of the year that we’re not getting prepared for his high school senior year,” Myles said. “We’re getting prepared for him to go in and fight for a starting spot at Maryland. You’ve been around us long enough to know that that doesn’t happen next year - it happens from the beginning of this year to prepare. The Big 10 is arguably the best college basketball league in the country this year, so he has to be prepared not to go down there and just be on the team, but to go down there and play and hopefully be a starter. That’s been our goal every day, and from there he’s been taking the challenge of taking the next step forward.”
KHYRIE STATEN, BALTIMORE PANTHERS 2021 GUARD
The Delaware State commit is one of the players counted on to help provide leadership following the graduation of last year’s star senior class, and it's a role he’s embraced.
“For me, I enjoy it,” Staten said. “I like seeing the young guys get into the flow of things, because I know once I’m gone they’ll do big things next year and the year after that. They’re going to be really, really special, I mean, Derik might be the best ‘24 player I’ve seen. I haven’t seen too many like that.”
The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Staten contributed in a variety of ways for the Panthers at The St. James, averaging 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists with a team-high 2.3 steals.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the moment with my guys right now,” he said. “It’s my senior year, and I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy it. But when I’m at practice, I’m trying to get stronger. I think getting stronger is probably going to be the biggest challenge for me going into school next year in the summer. But I know my role when I get there - I know I’m probably going to have to score the ball because there aren’t too many scorers at Delaware State, so I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do.”
BYRON IRELAND, BALTIMORE PANTHERS 2021 GUARD
Ireland had 18 points and 7 assists in the Panthers’ near-comeback against DeMatha, and averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his three games at the NIBC.
A talented 6-foot-2 combo guard, Ireland has shown the ability to make plays for others this season. He’s a top-notch defender as well, and should see his recruitment pick up - he’s currently without an offer - very soon.
ELIJAH DAVIS, BALTIMORE PANTHERS 2021 GUARD
Davis doesn’t put up the biggest individual numbers, but he finds a way to make an impact every time he’s on the floor.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Davis is a tough lead guard with good quickness and vision. Defensively, he’s aggressive and smart, showing a great sense of knowing when to gamble.
Davis is currently being recruited by a handful of Division III schools, but a lot more of them need to be knocking on his door.
Paul VI 2022 Guard Knasir "Dug" McDaniel. (MURPHY DESIGNS)
TREVOR KEELS, PAUL VI 2021 GUARD
The 5-Star guard didn’t have his best shooting performance - going 16-of-48 from the field in a pair of losses - but carried the Panthers offensively while averaging 25 points per game.
As a team, Paul VI struggled to get a rhythm going in losses to Houston (86-72) and Sunrise Christian (73-58), shooting just 36 percent from the floor to their opponents 57 percent.
Expect the 6-foot-4 Keels - who has trimmed his college list to Duke, Villanova and Virginia - and his teammates to bounce back strong going forward.
KNASIR MCDANIEL, PAUL VI 2022 GUARD
McDaniel also struggled from the field (11.5 ppg on 29 percent shooting), but found plenty of other ways to contribute, averaging 9 assists - tops in the event - 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals per contest while playing his typically strong perimeter defense.
Florida, Georgetown, Louisiana State, Michigan and Virginia Commonwealth are just some of the teams making strong pushes for McDaniel.
DARREN HARRIS, PAUL VI 2024 GUARD
This was my first time seeing the highly-touted freshman in a varsity setting, and he definitely impressed while averaging 8.5 points per game off the bench.
Harris - who already holds an offer from Georgetown - has great size at 6-foot-5, and displayed an impressive feel for the game. Young perimeter players can often struggle early with the speed of varsity competition, but that doesn’t look to be the case with Harris. I’m looking forward to seeing how he continues to develop offensively - he’s got all the tools to be a game changer.
DESHAWN HARRIS-SMITH, PAUL VI 2023 WING
Harris-Smith was a key contributor for PVI as a freshman last year, and he looks ready to take another step this season. The 6-foot-5 Smith impressed at the NIBC with his versatility, and was particularly strong on the boards, averaging a team-high 9.5 rebounds per game. 6-foot-4 with a good combination of athleticism and motor.
Bishop Walsh (Md.) 2021 guard Jalen Miller puts up a shot against Wasatch. [MATT MCINTOSH, DMVelite]
JALEN MILLER, BISHOP WALSH 2021 GUARD
Miller did a bit of everything for the Spartans, tying for the team lead in scoring (10.8 points per game) while grabbing 4.3 rebounds and handing out 4 assists per contest.
The Spartans won just one of their six games at The St. James, but hung tough against an opening murderer’s row of opponents: Montverde, La Lumiere, Wasatch, Oak Hill and Hamilton Heights before downing Legacy Early College 70-58 in their final on January 17.
Miller has been a starter since his freshman season, and has taken it upon himself to help his younger teammates adjust to playing on the national stage.
“I think that overall I can do better with my game,” Miller said. “I do my best to lead, but at the same time, that’s not always going to just get the job done. I’ve got to use my skill work and really lead this team by example. I think we’re going to get it together and we’re going to be able to be a really good team in the future and really surprise some people.”
Miller is committed to Rutgers, but despite having his college future secured he said he doesn’t plan to relax anytime soon.
“It takes weight off me,” he said, “but I still put a huge responsibility on myself for leading this team and leading us to wins. I understand that some people may say, ‘Oh, you’re already signed, this is just practice for you’ - that’s not how I take it. I take it as I want to win every single game, and I want to give it my all on the floor. Whether or not we win, all I know is that my team is getting better, and I’m hopefully trying to get my guys to the next level with me.”
ISHMAIL HABIB, BISHOP WALSH 2021 GUARD
An Austin Peay commit, Habib is new to the Spartans this year after transferring in from Lincoln Park High School in Chicago for his final season. He averaged 10.8 points per game to tie for the team lead.
Habib impressed with his intensity and quickness on both ends of the floor, and scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Spartans to a 70-58 win over Legacy on January 17.
MADY TRAORE, BISHOP WALSH 2022 FORWARD
The 6-foot-10 Frenchman saw his recruitment explode in the past few months, and recently announced the eight schools he’s considering: Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Southern California and Virginia Tech.
This was my first time seeing Traore in person since his short stint in the 2019 DMVelite Fall League with Veritas Collegiate (Va.), and the growth in his game was readily apparent.
While still very raw in some aspects - he struggled with fouls and turnovers - it was easy to see what appeals to college coaches. Traore moves like a guard, has impressive touch from long distance - he knocked down four of his six 3-point attempts - and has the tools to be an impact defender.
MALIK BOWMAN, BISHOP WALSH 2023 FORWARD
The 6-foot-7 Bowman often found himself matched up with bigger players in the post, but didn’t back down. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and finished as the event’s third-leading shot blocker with 2.7 per game.
Bryant, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Wichita State and Virginia Tech have all extended scholarship offers to Bowman, who is tracking to be one of the top forwards in the area class.
IKE CORNISH, LEGACY EARLY COLLEGE (SC) 2021 WING
The Maryland commit and former Dulaney (Md.) standout sat out with an ankle injury. He returned for the Lions’ 70-58 loss to Bishop Walsh, playing just nine minutes off the bench,
NOAH BATCHELOR, IMG ACADEMY (FL) 2022 WING
The former Glenelg County (Md.) star looks to be fitting in well and carving out a reserve role for the Ascenders. He averaged 4.6 points per game in three games for IMG, posting 11 points and 6 rebounds in a 93-54 win over Houston (TN) on January 15 while knocking down three 3-pointers.
Clemson, Florida, Georgetown, Georgia, Marquette, Maryland, Memphis, Nebraska, Penn State, Pitt and Virginia Tech are among the schools seeking Batchelor's services.