NEWARK, N.J. − Dan Hurley says having his St. Benedict's players compete on national TV will prepare them for college in more ways than one.
In addition to the competition the Gray Bees will get in Monday's game against Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., Hurley says he feels there's an added benefit, too.
"It's good exposure for the kids," said Hurley, whose undefeated team is ranked No. 4 in the RivalsHigh 100. "They're going from playing normal high school games, which could end in an hour 10 or an hour and 20 minutes, to having to do TV timeouts on the floor. It's more similar to what they'll experience in college."
Hurley knows a thing or two about sending kids to college. He currently has former players competing on six of the Big East's 16 teams. His current team features two players − 6-8 junior forward Tristan Thompson and 6-2 sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo − committed to Texas, and a third − senior guard Tamir Jackson − who signed with Rice.
ESPNU will televise an unprecedented four games from the event at the Naismith Hall of Fame on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony, which is No. 26 in the RivalsHigh 100 and is coached by the legendary Bob Hurley, Dan's father, meets Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City High at 10 a.m. That game will feature a matchup of star wings in Villanova-bound guard Dominic Cheek of St. Anthony and Memphis commit Xavier Henry of Putnam City.
"Henry is the [No. 3-ranked] player in the country and Cheek at 6-6 is pretty [darn] good," said Rashid Ghazi of Paragon Marketing, who helped put the event together. "It's Henry's first game against a big-time national opponent. He's been injured."
HOOPHALL CLASSIC MATCH-UPS
No. 62 Mt. Vernon vs No. 75 Montverde Acad.
The weekend officially gets started on Friday, but Saturday's 3pm matchup of Mt. Vernon (NY) and Montverde Academy (FL) will get the real show going.
No. 3 Oak Hill Acad. vs No. 9 South Atlanta
Two top tier big men will go head-to-head in the showcase game on Saturday evening. Oak Hill's (VA) 6-8 Keith Gallon will battle South Atlanta's (GA) 6-9 Derrick Favors.
No. 13 DeMatha vs No. 32 Neumann-Goretti
The No. 1 team in Maryland will take on the No. 1 team in Pennsylvania in the 4pm Sunday game. Lead by Naji Hibbert DeMatha looks to have the edge heading into the battle. This game could be a tune-up for a prep school battle between Brewster Acad (NH) and Hargrave (VA) which immediately follows.
No. 4 St. Benedict's vs No. 46 Wheeler
Wheeler (GA) looks to get their season back on track in the noon game on Monday against St. Benedict's (NJ). Lead by two forwards, Richard Howell and Ari Stewart, Wheeler will lean on experience against the younger, but equally talented, St. Benedict's squad.
No. 8 LeFlore vs No. 20 Abraham Lincoln
The No. 2 player in the country, DeMarcus Cousins, will lead LeFlore (AL) against one of the best teams in New York City, Abraham Lincoln, Monday at 2pm.
No. 2 Mater Dei vs No. 81 Whitney Young
The Wear brothers are taking their act east as Mater Dei (CA) will go toe-to-toe with Chicago's Whitney Young. Young will lean on good guard play to counter the bigs of Mater Dei.
Henry missed his team's earlier ESPN appearance because he was in a car accident and suffered a fractured cheekbone.
After the St. Benedict's-Wheeler game at noon, Lance Stephenson and No. 20 Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln face DeMarcus Cousins and No. 8 Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore at 2 p.m. The last game pits No. 2 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei against No. 81 Chicago Whitney Young, which features Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan's son.
More than 40 teams − representing 16 states and the District of Columbia − will compete this year, including five of the top 10 schools in the current RivalsHigh 100. Aside from Mater Dei, St. Benedict's and LeFlore, No. 3 Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and No. 9 South Atlanta are also playing. South Atlanta is led by big man Derrick Favors, who committed to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Also in attendance will be American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.), Hillhouse (New Haven, Conn.), Hotchkiss School (Conn.), Montverde (Fla.) Academy, Mount Vernon (N.Y.), Patterson (N.C.) School, St. Andrew's (Barrington, R.I.), St. John-Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) and Tilton (N.H.) School.
The 2009 event will feature numerous Rivals150 players, including No. 2 Cousins; No. 3 Henry; No. 4 Favors; No. 7 Kenny Boynton (American Heritage); and No. 9 Stephenson. Thompson of St. Benedict's is ranked No. 5 in the Rivals150 for 2010. Among the recent first-round NBA draft picks to compete in the event are O.J. Mayo, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Jerryd Bayless and Donte Green.
This year's event will be especially unique for three St. Anthony players.
Junior forwards Derrick Williams, Devon Collier and Ashton Pankey will be making their season debuts for Bob Hurley's defending national championship team on national TV after sitting out the New Jersey-mandated 30 days in the wake of transferring.
"We're really excited," Williams said. "For me, it's like even if I think about the game I get nervous. That first tip-off, I'll be ready."