On a midweek day in early January, it was a low of -22 in the Six, the hoops capital of the Great White North. Gathered under a Crestwood Preparatory gym roof were our nation’s elite prep school basketball talent, playing the last of a four-day session.
The National Preparatory Association, a league designed to insulate Canadian high school hoops talent from migrating South, is in its second year. Organized by the founders at North Pole Hoops, our prep schools could soon rival the likes of Montverde and Oak Hill Academy.
Though the league is still in its infancy, a culture of excellence has already been fostered, both at the team and individual levels.
Embodying the gold standard of prep basketball was the Central Tech Blues. Not only were they undefeated last week, their bench boss, Kevin Jeffers, rotated his players like a hockey squad – a testament to the depth of the Blues’ roster.
In their Day 1 game against Montreal’s Saint Laurent Express, the Blues’ marquee players cheered exceptionally loudly while they sat on the sidelines. They were applauding every hustle and play made by their bench players. The ability of these young men to focus on the aggregate, rather than their own selves, is the reason why the Blues’ remain undefeated in Season 2.
Central Tech’s Deiondre Reid
In the Blues’ last game of the session, they faced another undefeated team – Ottawa’s Canada Topflight Academy (C.T.A.). With standouts Raheim Sullivan and Matthew Daves out, Jeffers had to rely on the team to rise to the occasion. Undersized guards, Isaiah Adeboboye and Tariq Hamad (5’9’’ and 5’10’’ respectively) were utterly fearless. Khalid Ismail was a dangerous offensive threat, having found a myriad of creative ways to put the ball through the hoop. Nas Roberts connected on many triples and had a ferocious dunk.
In the 3rd quarter, Central Tech made some undisciplined errors and lost their lead in the beginning of the 4th. C.T.A.’s inside presence, led by the dominance of David Muila, seemed insurmountable, but spearheaded by the relentless effort of the Blues’ Deiondre Reid, Central Tech got to the charity stripe through sheer tenacity. The Blues climbed back, widened their lead by 5 points with less than 40 seconds on the clock following a beautiful reverse layup by Adeboboye, which was preceded by a clutch trey before.
Central Tech won it 77-75 in a spectacular finish to remain the only undefeated NPA team at 8-0. CTA still remains a team to beat at the nationals, sitting at 7-1.
David Muila of Canada Topflight Academy
In the last game of session two, GTA Prep played against London Basketball Academy (LBA). The day ended with the crowd witnessing the matchup of the coldest player in the gym (and Canada’s number 1 ranked player per NPH), AJ Lawson, against Okay Djamgouz of LBA. Lawson has already had an unofficial visit to the University of Kentucky and has drawn the attention of NBA scouts. He took command of the G.T.A. Prep offence, pushing and controlling the tempo, and also demonstrated a domineering defensive presence, intercepting London’s passing lanes with his long arms.
Djamgouz is still very young, belonging to the Class of 2020. Though his three point shooting can be inconsistent at times, he was unstoppable when he caught fire from beyond the arc.
GTA Prep won the game to improve to 8-2 while LBA falls to 5-5 on the season
AJ Lawson of GTA Prep
The basketball talent in the Crestwood Prep gym for session two was incredible. In such a short period of time, a culture of excellence has been built. The heights of N.B.A. stardom and Division 1 scholarships are fast becoming the expectation and not merely a dream.
Playing in the North is no longer a hindrance to hardwood success and NPA teams across Canada will reconvene in Toronto on February 28th to compete for the 2nd national championship.
Written by Teru Ikeda
Photos by Calvin Chevannes (@CThatArt)