Future Collegiate Stars on Display at High School Nationals

Was it deja vu for college recruiters? Seeing Montverde, draped in the royal colors of their yellow and purple, hoist yet another national championship may reenforce the narrative that Montverde is the best high school basketball team in the nation. Outplaying perennial contenders IMG and avoiding old foes Oak Hill, Montverde swept Link Academy aside for a second-straight tournament title.
Dariq Whitehead and Dillon Mitchell, both five-star forwards dominating the frontcourts, lead Montverde to the championship, posting double-digit point tallies with ease. College recruiters see the Florida school and see a factory for college basketball stars. Now, as the Eagles parade their trophy back to their campus to Montverde, the other seven teams will all be wondering what went wrong.
In a surprising twist, #1 seed Sunrise Christian exited the tournament earlier at the hands of California’s Prolific Prep. The game was tightly contested, and Sunrise Christian and Prolific Prep went back and forth throughout the game. It seemed that Sunrise, led by Duke commit Mark Mitchell and four-star junior forward Scotty Mitchell, would edge Prolific Prep. Yet a tight, enjoyable fourth quarter helped Prolific end the game ahead by just three points. Thanks to Jordan Pope’s 23 points and Tre White’s 17, Prolific Prep weathered a chaotic storm to move to the semifinals. 
The Oak Hill-Link Academy match was less tight. Led by elite forward Jordan Walsh, Link jumped out to an early lead, leading by as much as 13 points when the first quarter finished. Although Link’s catastrophic second quarter helped Oak Hill make the match an even one, they showed once again their sheer dominance in the second half. Julian Phillips, one of the most sought-after recruits, and Walsh both reached over 20 points, while the star-studded Oak Hill squad could not keep up in the 81-67 massacre.
On the other side of the bracket, Montverde triumphed over Compass Prep in a hard-fought matchup. Boasting four four-star prospects, Compass Prep was not a team to be taken lightly. They showed it, taking the lead at the end of the first quarter and nearly denying Montverde another title. Yet, Montverde, with a total of five five-star recruits, found a way to battle back. The whole match was intensely close, but fans could see Compass Prep’s grip on the game slowly slipping as time wore on. Steadily and consistently, Montverde edged Compass Prep 72-63 and fended off a premature exit from the tournament. Kylan Boswell and Chance Westry’s 13 points apiece could not help Compass Prep avoid defeat as Malik Reneau scored a game-high 19 points.
In a stunning display of IMG’s skill, Keyonte George helped route high school powerhouse La Lumiere with a remarkable scoring performance. Ranked #3 in 247Sports’ Composite Ranking, the Baylor commit scored a whopping 22 points as #8 high school talent and Auburn commit Jarace Walker added a further 23. IMG sped out into a 15-point lead at the end of the first quarter but let off in the second quarter. IMG entered halftime ahead by 10 points but expanded their lead to 15 points yet again in the third quarter. The Bradenton-based school kept up the pace, ending the game 25 points ahead of their Hoosier contemporaries. Ryan Mabrey’s 15 points were not enough as IMG advanced to the semifinals.
After their slim win over Compass Prep, Montverde squared up against in-state rivals IMG Academy. The Brandenton school has produced several NBA prospects, including Michael Beasley and Anfernee Simons. Keyontae George and Jarace Walker all aim to be another name in the long list of legendary players. So when tip-off started, most figured that IMG Academy had something to prove, especially facing their familiar foes. They were right. The game was very tight, as the first quarter ended with Montverde five points ahead of IMG. IMG took firm control in the second and third quarters, going up by six as the fourth quarter started. Montverde tore away from IMG in the final stretch of the match, outsourcing IMG 21-10. The match ended 62-57 in the Eagles’ favor. George’s 21 points and Walker’s 11 points were not enough to fend off elimination, as Whitehead’s 21 points helped dominate IMG.
On the other side of the bracket, Cinderella squad Prolific Prep faced title contenders Link Academy. The Missouri powerhouse, boasting Arkansas commit Jordan Walsh and top-15 recruit Julian Phillips, was highly-favored. So it was somewhat surprising that Californian school Prolific Prep jumped out to a four-point lead in the first quarter. Although they had to do without soon-to-be UCLA star Adem Bona and future Kansas forward MJ Rice, USC signee Tre White more than made up for their presence. Prolific Prep narrowly edged Link Academy as the second quarter finished, holding the lead with just one point. Yet in the third quarter, an explosive partnership with Walsh and highly-coveted recruit Trey Green helped Link jump out to a comfortable lead of around ten. They withstood an onslaught of scoring from White’s 25 and Jordan Pope’s 18, winning 60-53 off Walsh’s 17 points.
It was a moment of tense anticipation. After days of waiting, millions of eager eyes waited for the game to start, and all eyes were on the superteam of Montverde and whether they could retain their status as the best high school basketball program in the world. It looked like that would be the case. Led by Texas commit Dillon Mitchell and Duke signee Dariq Whitehead, Montverde jumped to an eight-point lead. With a lot of defense, Montverde retained their lead in the second quarter, although they entered halftime with just a five-point lead. It was still anyone’s game for the taking, and it was mostly the doing of Julian Phillips. Phillips would end the match with 16 points, although no other Link player would end up with double-digit points.
The match remained painfully, tantalizingly close as Montverde lengthened their lead to seven points at the end of the third quarter. Montverde neutralized the fiery Link offense, holding Walsh to four points and Michigan signee Tarris Reed Jr. to just seven. Link, never looking like the headline-grabbing or the purely dominant team we saw in the news all day, finished without ever taking the lead and tying just once. Link lost 49-60, with everyone but Julian Phillips failing to score over seven points. Montverde, who stifled and frustrated the elite Missouri school, hoisted the trophy while firmly placing themselves on top of the high school basketball hierarchy.
Dariq Whitehead - Montverde
Duke commit Dariq Whitehead logged some of the best performances in the GEICO Nationals Tournament. With 14 points in the title game against Link Academy, another 21 against IMG, and 12 against Compass Prep, Whitehead was a reliable source of offense as Montverde marched into a title championship. Not only was he clinical, but Whitehead proved himself to be a reliable playmaker who found teammates for scores several times.
Julian Phillips - Link Academy
Link Academy was the subject of several YouTube videos. Their greatness, mind-boggling scorelines, and the players dominating the rest of Missouri. Jordan Walsh and Julian Phillips were the two of the best players in the nation, and they proved it in this tournament. In the quarterfinals, Walsh put up 23 points while Phillips scored 20 points in their rout of Oak Hill. It was a similar situation against Prolific Prep, as Walsh scored 17 to Phillips’ 9. Yet the title game set them apart. Although Montverde ended up taking the trophy home, Phillips had one of the best games in the whole tournament. Phillips scored 16 and added eight rebounds and an assist to his tally, while also playing terrific defense. The performance should have even more recruiters ringing his bell in the summer as he searches for a college to play represent.
Keyontae George - IMG Academy
The Baylor commit showed what Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky, and more saw in him at the GEICO Nationals. George posted 22 points in IMG’s route over La Lumiere and added 21 in IMG’s semifinal loss against Link Academy. Consider his rebounding ability and playmaking skills while also remembering his lights-out shooting, and you can guess that George will be a threat for the Bears going into 2023.
Ryan Mabrey - La Lumiere
Unsigned and virtually unknown Ryan Mabrey was a rare bright spot in a match to forget for La Lumiere. Mabrey hit three treys from deep and added two rebounds and two assists to his stat sheet. Mabrey’s 15 total points were a rare consolation for La Lumiere as they were smashed by 25 points. Yet for Mabrey, it will be a good way to attract more schools. His standout performance in the tournament will lead to more interest in schools. He has already received offers from Bryant and Valparaiso, and this event will only lead to more.
Jordan Pope - Prolific Prep
When it mattered most, Jordan Pope delivered. Scoring 23 points in a match against Sunrise Christian, and adding three assists, five rebounds, and five three-pointers, Pope was why a star-studded Sunrise Christian was out before they could get in their groove. Just a match later, the uncommitted three-star guard dropped 18 points against Link Academy. His two assists and two rebounds were not enough to eliminate Link Academy. Yet his impressive showings will have blue-bloods inquiring about his service. 
Judah Mintz - Oak Hill
Yet another high-scoring outing for four-star Syracuse commit Judah Mintz ended in a rare defeat for Oak Hill against Link Academy. Mintz scored 21 points along with seven assists and two rebounds. Although backed by uncommitted four-star forward Devin Ree’s 17 points, Oak Hill was routed by a terrific Oak Hill in the first round.
Mark Mitchell - Sunrise Christian
Falling victim to Prolific Prep in the upset of the tournament, future Blue Devil Mark Mitchell logged a respectable performance for Sunrise Christian. Mitchell’s 15 points and eight rebounds, along with teammate Scotty Middleton’s pinpoint shooting from range, were not enough to save Sunrise Christian from an early exit. Mitchell showed why he deserves his five-star ranking with his lethal scoring and physicality in the paint.
Kylan Boswell - Compass Prep
No one shone in Compass Prep’s limited time in the GEICO Nationals. As they fell at the hands of eventual champions Montverde, Arizona commit Kylan Boswell put in one of Compass Prep’s best performances. He scored 13 points, tied first in Compass Prep’s camp. Adding three rebounds and good defense, you can pencil him in as someone who will make a tremendous impact in Tuscon. His three turnovers may worry Wildcats fans, but the five-star recruit will bring so much more to the table going into 2023.