Even Mekhi Hendricks' free throws splash through the net with a perfect ripple.
The Highland School junior shooting guard continued his prolific scoring Thursday with 24 points and four 3-pointers in a 83-64 victory over long-time rival Seton School.
A transfer from Strasburg High, Hendricks describes himself as shy -- a label that may surprise some considering his brazen shotmaking.
But it's true, Hendricks embodies a modest demeanor and low profile. On a well-balanced team he takes shots within the offense. Despite a three-game stretch where he averaged 31 points a game, he's the same Mekhi.
'It was an easy decision to come here,' he said. 'The students have been so nice. When they found out I was new, they took the time to talk to me. I've always been the shy one. It's a great place.'
On Jan. 21, Hendricks' 3-pointer with 14 seconds left beat Wakefield 70-69. On Jan. 24, he hit seven 3-pointers and scored a school-record 40 points as the Hawks (18-3) edged Fredericksburg Academy 73-72.
Thursday against Seton, he was at it again. He didn't score at all in the first quarter, missing a few, but not getting frustrated.
'They were not falling so I tried to get to the rim,' said Hendricks, who complements his dagger-like shooting with a hesitation move that buys him time and space. 'I learned that when I was young,' he said.
Hendricks hit his first 3-pointer in the second quarter and finished with seven points in the quarter. He had nine more in the third and closed the quarter with long three in front of his own bench. On that shot, Hendricks held his follow-through as the ball swished through the net with the buzzer sounding a second later.
Highland had problems stopping Seton guard Christian Nguyen, a 5-foot-7 transfer from John Paul the Great who scored 26 points. Despite his size, Nguyen was a terror with his lightning quick release and vertical leap.
Highland coach Brian Hooker ordered his team to trap Nguyen whenever he had the ball in the halfcourt, and that helped lead the Hawks to a very solid win.
Seton (10-6) struggled for other offensive sources, and were eventually ran out of the gym by Highland's dynamic balance.
'The big thing for us is when we play solid defense we're a much better team,' said Hooker. 'The last couple of games we've played up to our potential.'
Highland led 17-10 after the first, and took a 37-29 halftime lead thanks to Luke Rodgers' 3-pointer from the left wing.
The Hawks poured it on in the third quarter. It started with a 12-0 run and just kept going as Highland outscored Seton 31-13 in the quarter for a 68-42 lead after three.
The Hawks moved to 18-3 with everyone playing well. Star sophomore point guard Darret Justice took care of the ball flawlessly and scored 14 points, including 12 on layups that saw him glide gracefully to the hoop. Backup shooting guard and co-captain Kenny Clark-Suggs made two 3-pointers and scored 13.
Center Anthony Martinez scored nine, and slashing starting guard Luke Rodgers had eight.
All this great work lately has put Highland in line for a berth in the VISAA Division II state tournament, which eluded them last year.
Highland's smart players are well-educated in how tough it is to make the 12-team state tourney bracket, which is filled with some of the most talented private school powers in the state. They were No. 10 early in the year, dropped out, but have worked hard to get back in, which happened this week.
'We're No. 10 now in the rankings, if we can sustain it we can jump to No. 9,' said Hendricks.
'Division 2 from top to bottom is as good as Division I,' said coach Hooker, who was an assistant coach last year and watched Highland win both the Delaney Athletic Conference regular season and tournament, but miss the state tournament.
Hooker said a key to the season is that everyone is contributing. The Hawks have three standouts in Justice, Hendricks and Martinez. But the contributions don't end there as a string of role players have stepped up, including Rodgers, Clark-Suggs, Nate Decker and Timmy Stephan. Starter Ben Babcox is hurt right now.
'We have some overlooked players and guys that accept their role,' Hooker said. 'Kids have bought in."
The game was marred briefly when Martinez cut his eyebrow after taking a shot from Seton player on an intentional foul. Blood was cleaned from the court as Martinez left immediately. He was seen later with a bandage holding his eyebrow together.
Hooker said the play was just part of basketball. 'Seton plays hard, we respect them, there's no ill will,' he said.
The 23.9 points and 9.5 rebounds he averaged as a junior for Kansas in 1986-87 weren't enough to convince Danny Manning he was ready for the NBA. He knew all along he would return to play his senior season for coach Larry Brown, and his father, Ed Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks. So when the NBA draft was conducted in June of 1987, the San Antonio Spurs were left to cash their first pick in on a center from Navy named David Robinson. 'At the end of the day I wasn't ready, physic... [read more]
The 23.9 points and 9.5 rebounds he averaged as a junior for Kansas in 1986-87 weren't enough to convince Danny Manning he was ready for the NBA.
He knew all along he would return to play his senior season for coach Larry Brown, and his father, Ed Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks. So when the NBA draft was conducted in June of 1987, the San Antonio Spurs were left to cash their first pick in on a center from Navy named David Robinson.
'At the end of the day I wasn't ready, physically and mentally for that level,'' Manning recalled last week. 'But I had the mentors that had those experiences in Coach Brown and my father.
'I remember talking to my dad and it was 'You're not ready.' And it wasn't skill-wise in basketball. It was lifestyle. It was living. It was 'You've got to have more weight behind you. You've got to get stronger.'
'It was all those things that factored into it.''
Almost thirty years later, Manning is the head coach at Wake Forest, where he coaches a player contemplating a leap to the NBA after his sophomore season. John Collins (208-F-97), a first-team All-ACC center, said on Wednesday that he will declare for the NBA draft.
He was one of two ACC stars to make such an announcement last week. But unlike freshman Jayson Tatum, who has made it clear he has played his last game at Duke, Collins will test the waters without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility he will return to Wake Forest for next season.
'I want to make an informed decision about what is best for my future, whether that is turning pro at this time or returning to Wake Forest for my junior season,'' Collins explained.
The rules of entering the draft have relaxed, one concession after another, since Spencer Haywood's successful lawsuit of 1971 resulted in players being eligible for the NBA before the graduation of their senior class of college. But thanks to a ruling the NCAA enacted in January of 2016, the right to test the NBA waters without losing college eligibility has never been easier.
The rules are so relaxed that the question is no longer why a good player should consider leaving college early.
The question of today is, why not?
Today, a player can declare for the NBA, work out for teams and gather information and evaluations as to where they might expect to be drafted. And as long as they don't hire an agent, they still have until 10 days after the NBA combine to withdraw from the draft without losing their college eligibility.
The combine is scheduled this year for May 9-14 in Chicago.
Last year, before the first draft under the new rules, 57 players declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, only to withdraw before the deadline and return to college. Seven played this past season in the ACC: Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks of North Carolina, Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya of N.C. State, Jaron Blossingame of Clemson, V.J. Beachem of Notre Dame, and Andrew White of Syracuse.
'You look at the rules and guys have a chance to go test it,'' Manning said. 'A lot of people want to go test it. I think a lot of it just depends on the individual, the person that the individual is listening to when talking with.
'I just hope everybody does all their homework.''
Part of that homework is knowing the three-year salary scale for a player drafted in the first round. In the 2016 draft, the scale for the first player chosen (Ben Simmons) ranged from $4.9 million the first season to $5.5 million the third season. For the 30th and final pick of the first round (Damian Jones), it ranged from $976,000 as a rookie to $1.1 million for the third season.
The scale of Juan Hermangomez, a Spaniard chosen by the Denver Nuggets with the 15th pick, ranged from $1.6 million as a rookie to $1.8 million the third season.
A survey of mock drafts reveals that opinions on where Collins might be drafted vary dramatically. One site, Tankathon.com, has him going as early as No. 12 to the Portland Blazers. And yet Sports Illustrated conducted an early mock draft (current as of Jan. 26) that didn't have Collins picked in the first round.
ACC players SI did project being drafted in the first round were Jonathan Isaac of Florida State (No. 3 to Phoenix), Jayson Tatum of Duke (No. 4 to Miami), Dennis Smith of N.C. State (No. 7 to Orlando), Harry Giles of Duke (No. 15 to Denver), Jaron Blossomgame of Clemson (No. 20 to Denver), Donovan Mitchell of Louisville (No. 23 to Brooklyn), Tyler Lyden of Syracuse (No. 24 to Toronto), Justin Jackson of North Carolina (No. 25 to Utah), and Dwayne Bacon of Florida State (No. 27 to Portland).
Which raises the question of what Collins can expect from an NBA career if Andrew Sharp, who compiled SI's mock draft, is sharp enough to successfully project what will happen at the draft on June 17. What if Collins isn't one of the first 30 picks of the draft?
A website, the-cauldron.com, used information from Basketball Reference to compile a chart of the fate of players drafted in the second round from 2003 through 2013. Only 16.7 percent of second-round picks had a NBA career lasting at least three seasons. Conversely, 26.1 percent never made an NBA roster, and 47.9 percent played in the league for less than three seasons.
The history of players leaving college early is not a good one for Wake Forest. Two sophomores, James Johnson and Jeff Teague, left after the 2008-09 season. Another, Al-Farouq Aminu, left after the next season.
The severe drain in talent was only one reason for the decline of the program, and the six seasons the Deacons spent watching the NCAA Tournament from home before finally making it back to the field of 68 this season. But it was a big reason.
Schools such as Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina have proven they can overcome such losses through recruiting the best freshmen in the nation. Wake Forest, to date, has not.
These are all questions facing not only John Collins, but Danny Manning as he prepares his team for the 2017-18 season. But the question Manning said he has long since answered was whether he made the right decision by returning to college for his senior season.
The Kansas Jayhawks, dubbed Danny and the Miracles, overcame a 21-11 regular season to roll through the NCAA Tournament to the national championship. Manning was both Player of the Year in the NCAA and the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament.
Picked first by the Los Angeles Clippers that summer, Manning outlasted recurring knee injuries to play 15 seasons in the NBA.
'It worked out for me,'' Manning said. 'I can't complain.''
North Texas men's basketball head coach Grant McCasland has announced the hiring of Jareem Dowling as an assistant coaches Friday. Dowling join associate head coach Ross Hodge and assistant James Miller completing McCasland's coaching staff. 'Jareem Dowling has an uncanny ability to help student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court,' McCasland said. 'He truly cares about our players and helps them grow as men. He has had tremendous success as a head coach and his und... [read more]
North Texas men's basketball head coach Grant McCasland has announced the hiring of Jareem Dowling as an assistant coaches Friday. Dowling join associate head coach Ross Hodge and assistant James Miller completing McCasland's coaching staff.
'Jareem Dowling has an uncanny ability to help student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court,' McCasland said. 'He truly cares about our players and helps them grow as men. He has had tremendous success as a head coach and his understanding of the game of basketball is a huge asset."
Dowling brings 11 years of collegiate coaching experience to North Texas. Most recently, he spent a year as an assistant coach with McCasland at Arkansas State.
"I'm very fortunate and grateful of the opportunity to work with coach McCasland," Dowling said. "It is a new beginning and we are hoping to strive for greatness one step at a time."
Before ASU, Dowling served as the head coach of the Scotland Performance Institute, a prep school in Scotland, Pennsylvania. While with SPI, Dowling developed several players that went on to earn college scholarships, including three that signed with Division I programs.
Prior to SPI, Dowling spent three seasons at Southern Miss as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He helped the Golden Eagles post a three-year record of 65-37 (.637), while earning a pair of postseason berths. Three players during that span garnered All-Conference USA honors.
In 2013-14, Southern Miss posted a school record 29 wins, claimed a share of the C-USA regular season championship, posted a perfect 15-0 record at home and made its second straight trip to the NIT Quarterfinals. The 2012-13 campaign saw Southern Miss post a 27-10 record and capture its first postseason victories since 1988, as Southern Miss made a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Dowling moved to Southern Miss after spending one season at Morehead State. In his lone season with the Eagles, Dowling assisted with all aspects of the program, including recruiting, practice/game preparation and player development. He was also responsible for monitoring the academic progress of all student-athletes in the program.
He joined Morehead State's staff after three seasons in a similar capacity at Slippery Rock. Dowling helped the Rock to three consecutive winning seasons, including 21-win campaigns in 2008-09 and 2010-11.
Prior to Slippery Rock, Dowling was an assistant to legendary junior college coach Bill Lewit at Cecil College. Dowling's recruiting and scouting contributed to a 97-6 overall record in three seasons from 2005-08.
PAOK Thessaloniki (A1) signed 27-year old Virgin Islander international forward Ivan Aska (201-104kg-90, college: Murray State). He is a dual citizen owning also U.S. Virgin Islands passport. Aska He just played at ET Land in South Korean KBL league. In 25 games he had 14.8ppg, 6.6rpg and 1.3apg this season. Aska also played earlier that season for Ironi Ramat Gan (Winner League) in Israel where in 11 KBL games he recorded very impressive stats: 22.5ppg, 8.3rpg and 2.2apg. He has tried to... [read more]
PAOK Thessaloniki (A1) signed 27-year old Virgin Islander international forward Ivan Aska (201-104kg-90, college: Murray State). He is a dual citizen owning also U.S. Virgin Islands passport. Aska He just played at ET Land in South Korean KBL league. In 25 games he had 14.8ppg, 6.6rpg and 1.3apg this season. Aska also played earlier that season for Ironi Ramat Gan (Winner League) in Israel where in 11 KBL games he recorded very impressive stats: 22.5ppg, 8.3rpg and 2.2apg. He has tried to make it to the NBA and played in the NBA Pro Summer League in 2015. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Aska's college team won OVC Tournament in 2010 and 2012. He was also voted Latinbasket.com All-CBC Championships 1st Team in 2015. Aska represented U.S. Virgin Islands at the CBC Championships in Tortola (British Virgin Islands) two years ago. His team won Gold and his stats at that event were 6 games: 15.8ppg, 8.2rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 39.7%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 71.4%. Aska is quite experienced player. He has played in five different countries on three different continents (Europe, Latin America and of course North America). Aska has played previously professionally in Belgium (Leuven Bears), Germany (ALBA Berlin), Puerto Rico (Cangrejeros), Greece (AE Ikaros Kallitheas) and Israel (Maccabi Ashdod and Ironi Nes Ziona). He attended Murray State until 2012 and it is his fifth season as a professional player.
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