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Under-the-Radar HS Primed For A Run At The 2020 National Championship

Since 2009, only nine high schools have made it to the national finals. Looking at the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes, we try to identify some schools with the most talent around the nation that could have great seasons and end winning the GEICO Nationals.

SLAM Summer Classic 2019 Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Just a few days ago I talked about the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes. I did so focusing on historic and yearly national contenders. The high schools heavily mentioned there (a total of nine) are those that have made the GEICO Nationals finals at least once since the tournament established itself in 2009. To just have nine different schools making it that far in all of ten years is a little sad.

There are thousands of basketball players around the nation playing at this level, so to condense all of it in just a handful of schools is something I don’t like at all, and I’m probably not alone.

I believe at such early ages it is difficult to talk about “developing” players. Once these kids reach the collegiate ranks the have (at the very least) one year to really develop and improve their game in many advanced facilities, with coaches of the highest of levels handling them, and with vast resources put in place for the university to get the most out of the players they recruit. In high school, though, most gyms are average at best, there is not an army of trainers tasked with just improving any player’s skill-set, and talents pop without notice here and there.

That is how Zion Williamson came out of Spartanburg Day (SC), or even LeBron James from St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH). They just happened to be there. Their schools had (mostly) nothing to do with them.

But top-notch high schools and prep schools have been able to poach talent from other places. It is normal. Back in the day kids didn’t care about moving to other places if they were not guaranteed an improvement in their development. Today, playing for Chino Hills links kids to the heritage the Ball family left there (whether that’s good or not is up to you to judge) and gives them an exposure unthinkable just a few years ago. It’s about those Instagram videos today, like it or not.

I don’t want to turn this into a heavy critic of the recruiting system, though, and I’m not here for that today. What I’m going to do is to hand you three names of three schools around the nation that could very well contend this year for the national championship. They have incredible talents in place and everything could go their way during the upcoming months.

Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, AZ)

2020 Top-120 Prospects:

  • No. 31 Dalen Terry (SF)
  • No. 34 Kyree Walker (SF)
  • No. 46 Puff Johnson (SF)

Outlook: Not that long ago, in 2017, Hillcrest had one of the greatest big men to make it to the NBA as of late on roster: Deandre Ayton. Entering this season, the basketball program will feature a three-headed monster of forwards in Terry, Walker, and Johnson. To have three of the Top-50 players of the current class is staggering, and Hillcrest could clearly make its first final appearance this season in the GEICO Nationals.

Dalen Terry is the only one of the three recruits that have already picked a college (Arizona), while the other two are still uncommitted and waiting to make their decisions. Walker was close to reclassifying to enter the collegiate ranks this very season, but he ultimately passed on it and it looks like Kansas is on the lead to get him for the 2021 season. In Johnson’s case, Arizona is almost a lock to get the fourth-best recruit of the state per 247 Sports.

This is a trio that will look to maximize its potential in its final season of high school, that can cover positions one-through-five, and that will bring fireworks to Phoenix this season.

DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD)

2020 Top-120 Prospects:

  • No. 27 Earl Timberlake (SF)
  • No. 33 Hunter Dickinson (C)

2021 Top-120 Prospects:

  • No. 93 Jordan Hawkins (SG)

Outlook: DeMatha is not a newcomer to high school leaderboards. They have quite a history in “producing” or at least “exporting” some of the best talents around the nation yearly. They have hosted Markelle Fultz, Jerami Grant, Victor and Oladipo among others.

Entering this season, they will put Timberlake and Dickinson in their lineups next to 2021 prospect Jordan Hawkins. Earl Timberlake is the best-ranked prospect (other than 2016 No. 5 Fultz and 2007 No. 9 Austin Freeman) to play for the school. He, same as Dickinson, have not yet made their college decisions.

Looking a little further—but most probably helping the team already this season—we find Jordan Hawkins. The guard is ranked as the 18th-best SG nation-wide and neither has he committed to a college yet. With two guys already on their senior years and among the Top-35 players of the nation and up-and-coming shooting star in Hawkins, DeMatha could be putting a potential NBA talent on the court this year.

Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, MN)

2020 Top-120 Prospects:

  • No. 9 Jalen Suggs (CG)

2021 Top-120 Prospects:

  • No. 6 Chet Holmgren (C)

Outlook: I wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of Minnehaha Academy. Don’t be afraid to confess, it is nothing out of the norm. Since 247Sports started tracking recruiting data in 2003, only one player from the school made the rankings at all and it was Javonni Bickham in 2018. He ranked 387th in the nation, nothing mindblowing.

Fast-forward a couple of years and you find two elite-level prospects on the Minneapolis school. Chet Holmgren is the 6th-best national prospect of the 2021 class, has yet to commit to any NCAA college (logical, given his junior status entering this season) and is currently deemed the best big man among his peers and the best prospects coming out of the state of Minnesota. Add 2020 class-and-ready combo guard Jalen Suggs to the equation and you get a tandem of small/big bodies on the team primed for greatness.

It looks like Gonzaga is as close as possible to get Suggs to commit and play for the team in 2021. For Holmgren, everything points to Minnesota at this point, which will make him remain in-state. No matter what, one thing is clear: no other school have a Top-10 talent from 2020 and another from 2021 entering this season, and only Montverde Academy has two Top-10 players from the 2020 class. So yes, you’d be right expecting great things going Minnehaha’s way.