I wrote something last week contending that the annual Duke - U.Md's women's basketball matchup at Comcast was the best area value for a sporting event.
That assessment probably fails to appreciate how rich the sports offerings are in the DC metro area.
I finally got around to going to a DeMatha high school basketball game tonight, despite the fact that the school's home stadium is only a few miles down the road on US1. We could not make the DeMatha - Gonzaga showdown on Sunday, but DeMatha - St. John's was still well worth seeing.
And all it took was $5.
I went to the game looking forward to seeing future Hoya Mikael Hopkins play on senior night and to see sophomore big man phenom BeeJay Anya. And both were well worth the trip, but I was not suitably prepared for the ridiculous talent that DeMatha boasts.
At the end of the first quarter, I was most impressed by DeMatha's junior point guard, James Robinson. At 6'3", Robinson is a big player at the point, solid defensively, and a good passer. He had a bad turnover in the third quarter, but other than that performed very well directing the Stags attack. I read a bit about him after the game and I think this ESPN profile description is particularly apt. He definitely can run a team, he seems like a very mature basketball player for his age, and he has a surprising ability to block shots with a quick, explosive leap in defense.
While I was pointing out the things that I liked about Robinson's play, my wife keyed in on the third 6'7" plus player DeMatha had on the floor at the time along with BeeJay Anya and Mikael Hopkins -- Jerami Grant. Grant's face looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. As the third of Harvey Grant's sons to go to DeMatha, there is no reason that I should not have known his pedigree. In any event, I would generally agree with this ESPN write up. Grant's got pretty good ball handling skills, his perimeter shot seemed to be better than what the description would have indicated, and while he doesn't hold the post, he does crash the boards well.
St. John's were no pushovers either. I was very impressed with Julian DeBose and when Danish international Soren Dossing started hitting from the outside, St. John's looked like they might be able to pull off an upset.
But the stars of the show were DeMatha. The Stags host a playoff game Friday night (time to be determined) and if they advance, they'll play in the first game of the semifinals doubleheader to be played at Bender Arena on American University's campus on Sunday (4:30 pm; game 2 of the doubleheader, likely featuring Gonzaga, at 6:15).
One last thing: I've read a bit about the reservations that some Hoyas fans have developed regarding Mikael Hopkins. From what I saw tonight, I would take those concerns with heavy grains of salt. The most remarkable thing about DeMatha's team is how most (not all) of the players carry themselves. There was not a lot of individualistic celebration during the game, players did their jobs, did them (for the most part) well, and moved on. I think this approach has been interpreted, in Mikael's case, as a lack of drive. That would not seem to be a fair assessment.
Hopkins appears to be a very bright basketball player. He has good instincts on defense and in rebounding and may develop into a good shot blocker. Any comparison to Henry Sims would be inapt. I don't know what he may eventually offer on offense, but Hopkins will be a solid contributor as an underclassmen for his rotations in the post.