By MARCUS HELTON
HYATTSVILLE, MD - Some of the DMV’s top talent assembled Saturday for the Metro Challenge at DeMatha High School.
“Its cool to get in the gym with other top players in the DMV,” Severn School (Md.) 2018 guard LJ Owens said. “It’s a lot of competition, and everybody’s good so you’ve just got to play hard.”
Here’s a look at some of Saturday’s standouts:
MYLES DREAD, GONZAGA (DC) 2018 WING
Dread (pictured, right) racked up the hardware this season as Gonzaga won the WCAC, DCSAA and Alhambra championships, and he’s eager to carry that success into another campaign with Team Takeover.
“I’m trying to win,” he said. “I told my team that winning championships feels real, real good, and in Peach Jam we lost in the Final Four last year to All Ohio Red and that still stings. So I’m going down to Peach Jam this year and I want to win.”
The 6-foot-5 205-pound Dread displayed his offensive versatility on Saturday, leading the event in scoring at 22 points per game and hitting an event-best eight 3-pointers. He said he’s working to develop consistency on his shot and improve his strength and ball handling.
Dread was in a different position from many of the players in attendance Friday, having already ended his recruitment after committing to Penn State as a sophomore.
“It takes a little bit of stress off; that’s kind of one of the reasons why I did commit early,” he said. “It feels good to have that weight off your shoulders now and just be able to play and win and help my teammates reach their goals and help them get to college.”
JALEN SMITH, MOUNT ST. JOSEPH (MD) 2018 FORWARD
Already one of the area’s most highly-touted prospects, Smith enoyed his breakout high school season, taking home Gatorade Maryland Player of The Year and Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year honors.
“A lot of people didn’t think that I would win Player of The Year,” he said. “So that kind of gave me a boost that they kept me out [of the conversation], so I just kept working hard and pushing everyday in practice and in the weight room.”
That work has paid off. Though still slight, Smith is noticeably bigger than he was at this point last year, and he led all players with 10.5 rebounds per game Saturday.
“I’m starting to become more mobile now - I’m starting to have a lot more flexibility - and my outside my game is coming along,” he said. “I still need to work on that and be able to take people off the dribble.”
Smith’s current list of offers includes Arizona, Florida, Marquette, Maryland, Providence, Southern California, Stanford, Syracuse, Villanova and Virginia. He said he hopes to begin cutting down his list of potential homes later this summer.
LAQUILL HARDNETT, PERRY HALL (MD) 2018 FORWARD
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Hardnett (right) boosted his stock with strong play during Perry Hall’s state title season; and showed a knack for making plays in crunch time and a desire to have the ball in his hands in key moments.
He’s hoping to build on that momentum following a move to Team Melo.
“I just want to go out here on the EYBL and make a name for myself,” Hardnett said. “I’m not that known yet, so that’s my main goal - just to make a name for myself.”
Hardnett’s combination of size and skill make him a very intriguing prospect. At 6-8 he handles the ball well - he ran some point for Perry Hall - sees the floor and has some touch from outside, which he illustrated by hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in Saturday’s opener.
It turns out there’s a reason for that versatility.
“In 8th grade I was 6-2 and I played point guard,” Hardnett said. “And then when I got into ninth grade I was 6-5, so I just grew and [the guard skills] stuck with me. It’s very important, because, like, right now - right here - I’m the 5 on my team, so matchup-wise the big man usually can’t stay in front of me.”
Hardnett said he’s heard from Kansas State, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech most recently. He added that one of his main goals for the offseason is increasing his shooting range.
“If I can get a consistent jumpshot, then I don’t think there’s anything that can stop me after that,” he said. “Right now its OK, but it’s not as consistent as I want it to be. Like my teammates Noah [Locke] and Brendan [Adams,] they can really let it go, so I’ve got to step my game up.”
ANTHONY HIGGS, PERRY HALL (MD) 2018 FORWARD
Higgs showed his versatility with several eyebrow-raising displays, including on sequence where he knocked down a 3-pointer and followed it on the ensuing possession by dribbling through two defenders and throwing down a two-hand dunk.
Like his high school teammate Hardnett, the 6-foot-8 Higgs has also joined Team Melo, and is seeking to increase his recruitment with a strong circuit. He averaged 12.5 points per game on Saturday, and showed no hesitation in going right at some of the event’s big-name players.
“[I bring] A great scorer, I can strap down when you tell me too, and I’m going to push the ball,” he said when asked what he considered his strengths. “I’m not scared of anything; I take my challenges head on.”
CURTIS HOLLAND, SOUTHERN (MD) 2018 GUARD
Holland picked up his first Division I offer from High Point recently, and was eager to gauge himself against some other top players on Saturday.
“I feel really good, just knowing that I put in all the hard work that I needed throughout the season and now I’ve just got to take it up a notch to compete with the best talent in the area,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’m getting better playing against all of this competition and it’s a great experience.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder averaged a team-high 14 points per game for Southern last season, using his athleticism and strength to blow by and overpower opposing guards. UMass-Lowell and UMBC have expressed interest, and he’s hoping that playing with The District Basketball Club this summer will help his recruitment continue to grow.
“One part of my game I need to improve is definitely my 3-point shooting,” he said. “After this and for probably the rest of the week, I’ll get back in the gym and start working on that some more.”
LJ OWENS, SEVERN SCHOOL (MD) 2018 GUARD
Owens started out slow but found his stride in his second game, posting 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
The Severn School standout will play with DC Blue Devils this summer, and is eager to test himself on the Under Armour Association Circuit.
“We’ve got a lot of talent, and I think it’ll put me on a national stage if I just play hard and play my game,” he said. “ I think it’ll help out a lot.”
Owens currently holds an offer from Kansas State, and said several schools - including Davidson, Towson, Virginia Tech and William & Mary - have shown interest.
“‘I’m looking to just keep improving on my game and play with other talented players,” he said. “Just keep trying to work hard and get offers.”
MALIK KENNEDY, NATIONAL CHRISTIAN (MD) 2018 GUARD
Few players closed the high school season hotter than Kennedy (right), who went off in his final two games to lead No. 4-seed National Christian to their second straight Capital Beltway Athletic Association title.
After scoring 11 points - right about his season average - in a first-round win against Middleburg, he dropped 33 to eliminate No. 2 Riverdale Baptist, and then had 27 in the title game against top-seeded Rock Creek Christian.
“Coach simply said when it came to playoffs, “It’s one and done,’” Kennedy recalled. “‘If this is how you guys want to end the season, go ahead and do that,’” but we brought our energy level up and took the championship.”
A native of Canada, Kennedy moved to the area two years ago to attend NCA, but his transition on the court was slow.
“Basketball-wise it was much more difficult,” he said. “It’s like, there’s only a handful of rising stars in my age group in the area when I was back home, and here, everybody can compete and everybody can play. So coming down here was just an adjustment to the competition level and bringing yourself up with everybody else and then finding out how to seperate yourself.”
It appears Kennedy is beginning to do that. The 6-foot-5, 175-pounder averaged 11.5 points per games on Saturday, showing a nice ability to attack and finish from different angles in transition. After going back to Canada last summer, he’ll stay in the DMV this year to run with DC Premier.
“I’m definitely working to improve my offhand and going to my left side; right now I’m doing a lot of that,” he said. “Also, attacking the rim a little bit more even though that’s obviously one of my strengths.”
VADO MORSE, BULLIS (MD) 2018 GUARD
Morse was named IAC Player of the Year after guiding Bullis to the league title, establishing himself as one of the most dangerous scoring guards in the area at 22.2 points per game.
“Number 1, the confidence coach had in me, that played a huge part,” Vorse said when asked what keyed his breakout season. “And the confidence that I had in myself and the team trusting me with the ball in clutch situations, knowing that I could get the job done. That probably really was the key factor this year.”
The 5-foot-11 Morse picked up an offer from Mount St. Mary’s on Friday to go with one from James Madison, and hopes to add a few more while playing with New World on the Adidas Gauntlet Circuit.
NOAH LOCKE, MCDONOGH (MD) 2018 GUARD
Locke (right) only played in one game, but he made his presence felt, dropping 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting - 3-of-5 from deep - and grabbing 9 rebounds in 19 minutes.
“Everything’s looking really good” Locke said. “A lot of coaches have been on me, and I’m just trying to show up and show who I am.”
Anyone who doesn’t know who Locke is by now simply hasn’t been paying attention. The 6-foot-2 guard currently holds offers from East Carolina, Florida, George Mason, George Washington, La Salle, North Carolina-Greensboro, Old Dominion, Penn, Providence, St. Joseph’s, Rice, Southern California, Tulsa and Xavier. He said he’s heard from Butler and Marquette recently, and plans to start cutting his list of potential homes at the end of the summer.
“I’m just looking for an overall fit, honestly,” he said. “It’s more of like a family atmosphere and the guys accept me being in the program and the coaches push me every day and make sure - even though I;m going to stay on my P’s and Q’s - make sure they’re on me. Having good academic, good facilities that I can work out in - basically everything.”
NATE ROBERTS, BREWSTER ACADEMY (NH) 2018 FORWARD
Roberts transferred from John Carroll to Brewster during the season, and said he’s enjoyed the move.
“It was a great transition,” he said. “Me and my family thought it was a great move. It’s really quiet - there’s really not much to do up there besides play basketball and go to school - so it’s been a great adjustment.”
The move didn’t affect the momentum of his recruitment, as Roberts holds offers from Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Indiana, James Madison, Kansas State, Massachusetts, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Towson. He hopes to make decision before next season.
It’s easy to see why Roberts has so many suitors. He’s got a great frame at 6-foot-11 and 212 pounds, runs the floor well and plays with intelligence. He believes his greatest strength is his versatility.
“I can play in and out,” he said. “A coach can put me at many different positions and I can guard many different positions, so not being one-dimensional gives the coach a lot of help.”
MARVIN PRICE, PATTERSON (MD) 2019 GUARD
Price (right) closed his sophomore season by Patterson to the Maryland 2A state championship, and picked up where he left off on Saturday, averaging 17 points per game. He posted 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in an opening loss.
“[I want to] Just get better and play better than I did during high school,” he said. “I want to work on my body a little more and making my jumpshot consistently.”
Much of Price’s momentum began building at this time last year, as he put together an impressive stint on the Under Armour Association circuit with DC Blue Devils. He said he’ll be back with the squad this year.*
“I feel as though it gave me a lot of confidence, and I really found myself,” he said of last summer.
The 6-foot-5, 203-pound Price holds offers from Kansas State and Virginia Tech, and said he’s heard from Central Florida, Cincinnati, Maryland and Texas.
*[EDITOR'S NOTE: PRICE DECIDED TO PLAY WITH TEAM BBC AFTER THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED]
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Rock Creek Christian (Md.) 2018 forward Jermaine Harris lists offers from Penn State, Providence, Rhode Island, Rutgers Seton Hall and Virginia Tech. … Wilson (DC) 2018 guard Ayinde Hikim said he’s heard from American, Canisius and Robert Morris. He’ll play with DC Premier. ... Rock Creek Christian (Md.) 2020 guard Earl Timberlake averaged 19.5 points points per game and made plays on both ends of the floor. He already lists offers from Kansas State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. ... St. John's (DC) 2018 guard Tre Wood dished out an event-best 7.0 assists per game.