St. Frances (MD) 2022 forward Cortez Johnson. (DMVelite 80 Photo)
HYATTSVILLE, MD – The National High School Hoops Festival was back in full effect on the DeMatha Catholic High School campus following a year off due to Covid-19. Since its inception, the event has drawn some of the best talent across the country to play against the DMV’s best, and this year was no exception. Below you will find a complete recap of the standout players from the area’s programs who participated.
Up by three in the middle of the second quarter against DeMatha on Sunday night, Coach Nick Myles reacted to a questionable call against his team by getting in a defensive stance, clapping it up and yelling “yeeeaaeahh!” His reaction triggered a rise of “yeeeaaahhhs” from the St. Frances faithful in the stands behind him.
Cue the chill bumps.
They say a team takes on the personality of its coach, and everyone in the gym caught a glimpse of one reason this team is so gritty and tough. To run the risk of sounding cliché in today’s media age, this team is full of dogs.
They were undoubtedly the team of the weekend, defeating nationally-ranked Huntington Prep on Saturday and even higher ranked host DeMatha on Sunday. Their success was driven by playing four skilled guards around a bouncy forward, attacking off the dribble, locking down defensively, and making plays when they mattered most.
Here’s a look at several of them, who each stood out in different ways:
CORTEZ JOHNSON, 6’7” FORWARD, CLASS OF 2022
Johnson averaged 10.5 points and 13 rebounds over the weekend. After struggling somewhat against Huntington Prep on Saturday, he bounced back with a monster 16-point, 20-rebound performance, keying his team to the victory over DeMatha Sunday evening. While his motor and tenacity were on full display, Johnson also showed off an improved offensive skill set by stepping out and knocking down a 3, sinking a 17-footer, and finishing at the rim off the dribble drive.
Defensively, he showed the ability to guard effectively in the post and on the perimeter. With wiry strength, good length and anticipatory skills, and an explosive vertical leap, he owned the boards all night. He has a pogo stick second jump, often coming down with the board and bouncing back up for the putback before the defense is able to contest. George Mason, LaSalle, Wagner, and Rider are among the schools that have offered Johnson, with UNC-Greensboro and Siena reportedly extending an offer following the game on Sunday.
Check out a breakdown of Johnson’s game here: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Cortez Johnson
DAQUAN DAVIS, 6’0” GUARD, CLASS OF 2024
If Davis was unknown coming into the weekend, he put himself on the map in a big way by averaging 17 points, 3 assists, and 1.5 steals in SFA’s two wins, including a huge 26-point, 4-assist effort against Huntington Prep on Saturday. The young guard showed tremendous confidence and poise on the big stage by knocking down multiple big shots to finish off Huntington Prep down the stretch. There’s a real maturity to his game. He valued possessions, handled ball pressure, and converted contested lay-ups in the open court that other young, small guards would typically miss.
On the other end, he displayed excellent foot speed and quickness via ball pressure. St. Frances played excellent team defense and Davis was right on time with his rotations. His execution was evidence that he obviously understood the overall defensive game plan. It was Davis who stole the ball off of Rodney Rice on the last possession of the DeMatha game, then confidently sank both free throws to seal the deal. Davis has reportedly received offers from Siena, South Alabama, and Howard.
CARLTON CARRINGTON, 6’4” GUARD, CLASS OF 2023
Carrington came into the weekend with his stock trending upward. He did nothing but support that trend with his play, producing a balanced 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest. Although he didn’t shoot it well from the field, he showed a knack for making timely plays to go along with a smooth floor game and a versatile skillset.
Throughout his team’s two games, the nearly 6’5” guard took on various offensive roles of scorer, facilitator, and some occasional primary ball handling duties. He shoots it well from 3 and has a potent midrange pull-up going right. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game was how he competed defensively against Xavier-bound DeMatha wing Tyrell Ward. College coaches love nothing more than a talented offensive player who gets down and defends with consistent fundamentals and desire. With Carrington, the dozens of coaches in attendance caught a good glimpse of those qualities. He holds offers from the likes of VCU, DePaul, George Washington, Pittsburgh, George Mason, Rutgers, and Loyola.
BRYCE LINDSAY, 6’3” COMBO GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Lindsay entered the weekend as one of the top unsigned guards in the class of 2022. Traditionally playing in the combo guard spot alongside smaller guards, Lindsay has assumed the point guard role for St. Frances as he prepares for the next level.
At nearly 6’4”, he would possess ideal size, and showed this weekend that he is capable of running the show against some of the nation’s best. Despite struggling from the field, Lindsay was still able to put up 11.5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. His shooting ability has been well documented – his range is limitless – but Lindsay has set out to exhibit a more complete skillset as he runs the point for St. Frances. His range, quick release, and shooting ability have a way of keeping defenders overanxious, which he then uses against them via dribble drives, utilizing a steady handle and good ball control to get into the paint. His biggest moment of the weekend came in the closing seconds of a tie game against DeMatha. After grabbing the rebound with 13 seconds left, he took it coast-to-coast to finish with his left hand at the rim, giving his team the lead in a game where no buckets were given for free.
Lindsay declared a list of his top six schools over the summer, consisting of Oklahoma State, Xavier, Virginia Tech, Marquette, Georgetown, and Texas A&M. However, his recruitment remains wide open and, per a recent story by 247 Sports, more schools are getting involved, such as DePaul, Louisville, and Pittsburgh.
Read everything you need to know about Lindsay’s game in this in-depth evaluation: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Bryce Lindsay
As Paul VI pushed their lead to 10 early in the second quarter Sunday against Archbishop Spalding, a veteran evaluator for Max Preps leaned over to tell me how Coach Glenn Farello was “out-scheming” Spalding. It was true; Farello came out in a 3-2 zone - rare for Paul VI - in an effort to neutralize Spalding’s dynamic Villanova commit, Cam Whitmore. Whitmore went scoreless in the first quarter, and the quickness of the zone also stifled the outside shooting of Spalding.
As usual, Farello had his team playing with high energy and intensity in both of their wins. First, they took down New Jersey powerhouse The Patrick School, then followed up with a victory over a strong Spalding bunch.
They did it with a balanced offensive attack and high pressure defense; a mixture of experience and youth; quickness and strength.
Let’s take a look at their main contributors:
DESHAWN HARRIS-SMITH, 6’5” WING, CLASS OF 2023
There weren’t many players who were more impressive than Harris-Smith. He averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals over both games.
Harris-Smith’s twitter handle is @thatdogdeshawn, which perfectly captures who he is on the court: a dogged defender who is up in your face playing a physical brand of ball on both ends. A Swiss army knife type of player, his fingerprints were all over both games, impacting them with his aggression, versatile skillset, and imposing his will on the opposition.
I’ve never seen his jumper look better. He shot it with fluidity and confidence, and used his success from outside to keep the defense honest enough to do what he does best: attack the basket with ferociousness. While the lefty continues to grow in strength, he looked extremely comfortable handling the ball out front; and is always a threat to board and push it up himself to get into the paint and finish or find his teammates for open looks.
Harris-Smith currently has offers from schools such as Georgetown, Penn State, LSU, Rutgers, George Mason, VCU, and St. John’s.
Read more about Harris-Smith’s game here: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of DeShawn Harris-Smith
DARREN HARRIS, 6’5” SHOOTING GUARD, CLASS OF 2024
Like his teammate, Harris had one of the more impressive showings given the stage and his age. The sharpshooter was well-known for his marksmanship around the DMV coming into the weekend, but watching him go 8-for-12 from deep on this stage was still a sight to see.
Harris averaged 18 points and 3 rebounds, played solid defense, and flashed glimpses of his growing game outside of being a catch and shooter. He has quickly learned the importance of incorporating the one and two dribble pull-up or drive to the rim into his game, now that teams are attempting to run him off the line more often. But running him off the line has proven to be difficult. He moves so well off the ball by cutting with purpose, reading the screen, then catching, squaring, and releasing in a near-flawless sequence. And he can do it from 25 feet.
Harris also defended with effectiveness. He maintains good positioning and has improved his on-ball play, while becoming more comfortable with his rotations. His strength allows him to guard multiple positions and, at 6’5”, he possesses good size at the shooting guard position.
Currently, he has offers from Georgetown, George Mason, and Virginia Tech. I don’t expect the list to stay this short for long.
DUG MCDANIEL, 5’10” POINT GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
The Michigan signee put up 10.5 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals per game, even if he was a bit rusty after coming off of his first and only high school football season that saw him win First Team all-conference honors.
After struggling mightily against The Patrick School, he bounced back nicely in his team’s victory over Archbishop Spalding with 14 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. His quickness and ball handing were as superior as ever, and his leadership invaluable. He will unquestionably return to form as the season goes on, which is pretty scary given how well Paul VI played over the weekend.
Dive into McDaniel’s complete game by reading this thorough breakdown: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Dug McDaniel
CHRISTIAN GURDAK, 6’9” CENTER, CLASS OF 2025
I must’ve heard the question 3-4 times throughout the weekend: “Is he really a freshman?” Simply put, Gurdak is massive. But there is much more to him than just his size. The first thing that jumped out at me about the big man was his hands. They were soft enough to catch passes from his guards, while strong enough to haul down contested rebounds in traffic.
Gurdak showed good judgment on the flight of the ball and a soft touch around the basket. He really is a handful underneath already. The Patrick School had a lot of difficulty handling him in the paint, evidenced by his twelve trips to the line. He also showed what he is capable of in the post when he caught it on the left block, felt the defender’s weight, and quickly spun baseline and laid it off the glass.
He averaged 12 points on 10-of-11 shooting in two games, while also pulling in 6.5 rebounds, including 10 against The Patrick School. The combination of his length and strength are very intriguing, and bode well for the future.
Despite suffering a loss to close the event on Sunday evening, DeMatha proved itself to be worthy of the #18 national ranking it received the following Monday morning. They dispatched Dereck Lively’s Westtown School on Saturday, and the barnburner against St. Frances was unquestionably the weekend’s best game.
Here’s a rundown of their top performers:
JAEDEN MUSTAF, 6’4”- 6’5” GUARD, CLASS OF 2024
Mustaf averaged 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in two games. The big, young guard turned heads with his versatility and advanced basketball IQ. He showed a real knack for getting to the rim, drawing contact and getting to the line, or finishing through that contact.
He has excellent positional size and strength, which aids him in his persistence to the rim. What’s more is that he is fearless in route, shown most of all when challenging 7’1” Duke-bound Dereck Lively at the rim multiple times to draw the foul. Mustaf also displayed the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, knocking down a timely threes and midrange jumpers within the natural flow of the offense.
In addition to his scoring abilities, he is an unselfish player with sound passing abilities and fundamentals, greatly adding to DeMatha’s offensive efficacy as a drive and kicker. Those fundamentals transfer over to the defensive end where he showed the ability to guard multiple positions and contribute on the boards.
Mustaf currently has offers from Virginia Tech, George Mason, Rutgers, and Howard.
AJ SWINTON, 6’6” WING, CLASS OF 2024
Swinton is another sophomore who grabbed the attention of many, exploding for a big game against Westtown, putting up 19 points on 7-13 shooting (including 4 threes and a couple of powerful breakaway dunks) 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. He is an impressive athlete with terrific size on the wing at 6’6” and a reported 7’1” wingspan.
Averaging 12.5 points and 7 rebounds, Swinton oozes with potential and promises of a high ceiling down the road. Similar to his teammate Mustaf, he plays with a good mix of aggression and willingness to allow the game to come to him.
Physical in nature, he has no issues mixing it up and providing toughness on the defensive end, where he stalks passing lanes, guards multiple positions, and guards with desire and sound technique. Swinton possesses qualities you just can’t teach, such as his high motor and outstanding anticipation.
He currently holds offers from Virginia Tech, Georgetown, George Mason, and Howard.
TYRELL WARD, 6’7” WING, CLASS OF 2022
Ward averaged 17 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over the course of the weekend. Against a Westtown team that had the #1 prospect in the 2022 class, the Xavier-signee was the best player on the floor, dropping 24 points and 6 rebounds.
I love the chip on his shoulder that he plays with. It comes out most on the biggest stage when he is playing against highly rated players. He has the internal motivation needed to be great. His length and athleticism is combined with a skillset that has grown rapidly over the last two years, making for an absolute handful on the wing.
Despite the rough night he experienced against St. Frances, he continues to improve his shot making and has added to his range both on the catch and off the dribble, which is an important development for him as he preps for the next level.
See an in-depth breakdown of Ward’s game here: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Tyrell Ward
RODNEY RICE, 6’3” COMBO GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Rice averaged 11 points on 27% shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Obviously, the Virginia Tech commit’s low shooting percentage was unusual being that he is a proven knock-down shooter and shot maker.
There were still good things to take away from his performances, such as his anticipation of where the ball is coming off the rim as well as the motor to come away with it, the ability to locate and deliver to open shooters, and an improving consideration for valuing possessions.
Rice is still growing into his role at point guard, as his natural position has been more of a combo guard that occasionally assumed duties as the primary ball handler and facilitator. Much like Bryce Lindsay (see above), he is rightfully preparing for the next level. The learning process at the point will continue through the rest of the season.
Enjoy this detailed description of Rice’s game: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Rodney Rice
OTHER INDIVIDUAL STANDOUTS FROM AROUND THE DMV
CAM WHITMORE, ARCHBISHOP SPALDING (MD), 6’7” FORWARD, CLASS OF 2022
After going scoreless in the first quarter against Paul VI’s 3-2 zone, the future Villanova Wildcat did what he does and exploded in the second quarter for multiple highlights in route to 21 points (9-17 FG), 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block for the game.
Whitmore did the vast majority of his damage at the rim as he struggled shooting from the perimeter. Even with those struggles, his impact on the game was forceful. He applies a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense with or without the ball. With it, he is a triple threat to shoot, drive, or facilitate; without it, he is possibly one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. And no one wants to end up on one of his posters.
Read up on Whitmore’s game with this extensive evaluation: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Cam Whitmore
ISAIAH COLEMAN, NATIONAL CHRISTIAN (MD), 6’4”- 6’5” WING, CLASS OF 2023
Coleman continues to make waves after bursting onto the scene this past summer. Leading the only team to play 3 games over the weekend, Coleman averaged 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds across those contests, including a 24-point, 8-rebound, 2-block effort against Spire Institute and Academy early Saturday afternoon.
Ultra-aggressive on the offensive end, Coleman is a potent 3-level scorer who can fill it up in bunches using a diverse menu of shot types. He’s at his best when attacking the rim to set up his perimeter game. Additionally, he is very comfortable operating in the post, employing terrific use of his body to set up push and floater-type shots from 10-12 feet.
Coleman utilizes an advanced feel and natural instincts to score in a variety of ways, and is relentless in his pursuit of buckets. He has a nose for the basket that leads him to often be in the right place at the right time. That anticipation also aids his rebounding abilities on both ends, where he showed that he is capable of contributing in big ways, such as his 11 boards against Dream City Christian (AZ) Sunday morning.
Coleman has offers from Louisville, Maryland, Marquette, Georgetown, DePaul, George Washington, Seton Hall, and Xavier among others.
CHRISTIAN MAY, BISHOP O’CONNELL (VA), 6’6” WING, CLASS OF 2022
This was perhaps the best and most aggressive game I’ve seen the Towson signee play. May was a bright spot for an otherwise rough outing for O’Connell in their loss to Huntington Prep on Sunday. May scored from all 3 levels, showed flashes of his athleticism, and played with an overall toughness that rubbed off on his teammates late in the game.
He has prototypical size at the shooting guard/wing position, with the strength and length to go along with it. He shoots a nice ball with beautiful form, elevating nicely with a clean release. May finished the game with 22 points (8-15 FG, 3-6 3P, 3-6 FT), 8 rebounds, and 3 steals.
CHRISTIAN WATSON, ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE (DC), 6’7” WING, CLASS OF 2022
Watson got off to a slow start in his team’s first contest of the season against Archbishop Stepinac (NY), going scoreless in the first half. However, the second half was a different story that saw him finish with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. The rangy wing scored in a variety of ways, including a backdoor cut for a one-handed bang, a pretty fadeaway jumper over his right shoulder out of a post-up, and a pair of 3-pointers. Watson’s versatile skillset was obvious and his confidence continues to grow.
Check out a greater overview of what Watson brings to floor with this evaluation: Point Guard Eyes Player Evaluation of Christian Watson
JEREMIAH LITTLEJOHN, ROCK CREEK CHRISTIAN GREEN (MD), 6’4”- 6’5” GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Littlejohn is a talented, athletic guard with good size and an intriguing set of skills. He knocked down three 3-pointers in the first half of his team’s win against Coolidge, including a difficult James Harden-like step back 25-footer going right. He finished with 15 points, 4 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals in the win.
Littlejohn has the ability to assume multiple roles within the offense, including pulling duties as the primary initiator and playmaker. He is creative off the bounce, displays good court vision, and has plenty of potential to become a consistently potent scorer. His length and athleticism only add to the natural abilities he boasts on both ends.
JEREMIAH QUIGLEY, BISHOP MCNAMARA (MD), 6’1” POINT GUARD, CLASS OF 2023
McNamara looked about as good as I’ve seen them over the past few years, and the main reason was due to Quigley’s impressive play. He not only provided a ton of stability in this one, valuing the ball and instilling patience into his team. But it was his accuracy from midrange that stood out the most. The Mustang’s floor general was Chris Paul-esque, getting to his spots and rising up to drain 7-of-8 jumpers from 15-17 feet.
His basketball IQ was on full display and sought the bodies of his defenders, utilized hostage dribbles, and penetrated into the lane whenever he wanted. Quigley finished with 20 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
TYLER BOSTON, BULLIS (MD), 5’10” POINT GUARD, CLASS OF 2024
Boston is part of a loaded 2024 class in the DMV, and has largely flown under the radar in comparison to his counterparts. But it was Boston’s motor, ball skills, and basketball IQ that led his team to victory over Rock Creek Christian (White) early Saturday afternoon. The speedy floor general finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers. There wasn’t a defender on the floor capable of keeping Boston in front of him. He showed the ability to knock down the open shot from three, stick the pull-up jumper, run the pick and roll, and penetrate into the lane at will using a rhythmic change of pace and a sharp, clean ball handling ability.
ROB LAWSON, NATIONAL CHRISTIAN (MD), 6’0” POINT GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Lawson showcased his ability to run the show and produce a balanced floor game for his team, posting 11.3 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game. He looked sharp in NCA’s first 2 contests, handling the rock with confidence and skill, touching the lane often by utilizing effective north-south dribble moves, and making sound decisions as a facilitator. His play was controlled and patient for the most part. He has an unhurried way about him, and plays with pace and a solid IQ.
Lawson reportedly has received offers from St. Thomas Aquinas, Bryant, and UMBC.
RONNIE DAVIS, ROCK CREEK CHRISTIAN GREEN (MD), 6’4”- 6’5” WING, CLASS OF 2022
Davis dropped 24 points (8-15 FG, 3-7 3P, 5-5 FT), grabbed 14 rebounds, and added 3 assists and 2 steals in the win over Coolidge. He played well on the catch and didn’t need many dribbles in the half court to be effective. He really got it going in the second half, scoring 17 of his 24 points. In addition to scoring the ball well, Davis was excellent on the board, helping his team to capitalize on early offensive opportunities.
KYLE GASKINS, COOLIDGE (DC) 6’0” SHOOTING GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Gaskins was the lone quality performer for his team in their loss to Rock Creek Christian (Green). The senior guard scored 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting, pulled down 5 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists to ago along with 2 steals. He is a skilled perimeter jump shooter with sound mechanics and a calm demeanor on the court.
Gaskins has an offer from Howard.
KEVON CORLEY, ROCK CREEK CHRISTIAN WHITE (MD) 6’6”- 6’7” SMALL FORWARD, CLASS OF 2022
Corley is a big-bodied wing who showed he is capable of scoring in a variety ways from all 3 levels, hitting a couple of threes, nailing a nice one-dribble pull-up, and attacking the rim in transition. The senior played with confidence and looked comfortable operating off the dribble, snaking through the defense to draw contact and get to the line. He finished with 19 points (7-19 FG, 2-8 3P, 3-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block in a loss to Bullis.
TREY THOMAS, SPIRE INSTITUTE (OH), 6’2” GUARD, CLASS OF 2022
Thomas put up 26 points (10-21 FG, 4-7 3P, 2-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in his team’s loss to National Christian. The former Wise High School guard looked strong and confident in his return home. He hit a nice rhythm from the perimeter in the second half, knocking down a couple of midrange pullups and 3 of his 4 3-pointers. His left-handed inside out, coupled with a slight hesitation is his most effective move that sets up both his step back jumper as well as his dribble drive to the rim. Defensively, he displayed excellent hands and a hard-nosed approach.
Thomas reportedly has received offers from Bryant and IUPUI.