When Northside Christian and Ardrey Kell walked to center court to start their fifth-place game at the Hoodie’s Classic Saturday afternoon, the difference in size was startling.
Northside Christian’s freshman point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, a sure-fire Power 5 player, is 6-foot-4. He was taller than any Knights player, and Ardrey Kell kind of looks like five guys you might see at the Y on a weekday afternoon.
“We don’t pass the eye test, for sure,” Knights coach Mike Craft said after his team whipped Northside 78-65 with a disciplined performance. “But these guys are resilient and they run our system. We had to adjust (to Northside’s changing defenses) but we got where we were supposed to be, and Luke was sensational.”
Luke Stankavage a junior, is the Knights’ best player. He’s a 6-foot-1 combo guard who is one of the region’s best shooters. Against Northside, Stankavage made 6-of-12 3-point shots and had 27 points, and this week, he’s been one of the biggest stars in one of the Carolinas’ best holiday events.
In three games at the Hoodie’s, against elite competition, Stankavage averaged 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. With Stankavage playing like this -- he averages 17 points, five assists for the season -- the Knights have won four of their last five games and are 10-2 overall.
“Ever since last May,” Stankavage said, “we said we wanted to be special this year, and we have worked hard since then. We’re smaller, but we make it work. When we play, our tallest guy is 6-3, but we just go out and play hard, play together and let the results take care of themselves. And I just love being a part of this team. If I have to score, I score. If I have to rebound, I rebound. I just care about winning.”
Stankavage began his career at Providence Day, playing solid minutes as a freshman on a nationally ranked team. But in early 2017, at a tournament at national power Montverde (Fla.) Academy, Stankavage severely injured his left knee during warmups. Suddenly, a promising career was taking a detour: surgery to repair a damaged ACL and many months away from the game he loves so much.
Stankavage said his family decided to transfer to Ardrey Kell after the injury, in part because the school was right across the street from the family’s home, which made making post-surgery basketball workouts easier to get to.
But it didn’t make them easier to get through.
“It was terrible,” Stankavage said. “I missed the playoffs (with Providence Day) that year. That sucked. I missed all of AAU. That sucked. Every day was tough.”
The worst part, Stankavage said, was the rehab. He couldn’t really walk for awhile, and when he could, the doctors asked him to do knee bends and squats that didn’t exactly feel good.
But that was nothing compared to the first time he tried to use a leg extension machine.
“It hurt so bad,” Stankavage said. “The machine did something to my (quadriceps) and I started bawling so bad. I mean, I knew I was going to come back because I wasn’t going to let that stop me. But I won’t lie. That was tough.”
Stankavage was back on the court ahead of schedule. He played in 25 of Ardrey Kell’s 29 games last season as sophomore. He averaged 12 points, three rebounds and two assists on a 23-win team.
And with the star of the 2017-18 team, David Kasanganay, graduated and now at Navy, Ardrey Kell is Luke’s team now.
He’s doing a really good job with it, too. He’s confident handling the basketball. He can shoot it as well as anyone around and -- like N.C. recruiting analyst Rick Lewis of Phenom Hoop Report kept saying while watching him go for 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists against New York’s Scanlan High Friday -- Stankavage is “tough as nails.”
“Luke does all the little things well,” Lewis said sitting beside me on press row, “and he doesn’t get rattled.”
What’s interesting, though, is that Stankavage doesn’t have any college offers yet. He has all As on his report card, except a B in AP U.S. history. He said he’s talking to coaches from Elon, Furman, Princeton, Wofford and Yale.
“We talk to a lot of people about him,” Craft said, “and once one (school) pulls the trigger, they all will. He’s a gem. The kid is in the gym at 5:30 every day, not during the season, but he works so hard. I am just really, really blessed to have him, and the best thing?
“He’s got another year left.”
Saturday’s Top Performers
Seth Bennett, Charlotte Christian: 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists in the 54-39 win over Long Island (NY) Lutheran in the final. Bennett was 10-of-10 from the free throw line and was 5-of-9 from the field.
Koby Brea, Monsignor (NY) Scanlan: 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in an 81-58 win over South Atlanta (GA) in the seventh place game. Brea made 7-of-11 field goal attempts and 5-of-9 3-point attempts.
Jalen Hood-Schifino, Northside Christian: 6-4 freshman had 28 points, making 9-of-10 field goals and all four 3-point attempts, in a 78-65 loss to Ardrey Kell in the fifth place game.
Kadin Shedrick, Holly Springs: 6-foot-11 Virginia recruit had a triple-double in a 76-59 win over Nazareth (NY) Regional: 17 points, 16 rebounds, 11 blocks along with three assists.
Luke Stankavage, Ardrey Kell: 27 points, including making 6-of-12 3-point attempts, against Northside. Stankavage had five assists and two steals.
Seth Bennett, Charlotte Christian (MVP); Efosa U-Edosomwan, Charlotte Christian; Luke Stankavage, Ardrey Kell; Andre Curbelo, Long Island (NY) Lutheran; Matt Mayers, Monsignor (NY) Scanlan
▪ Continue to be impressed with Northside Christian freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. A true big guard with a pass-first mentality and he has three years left of high school. The knock on him has always been his jump shot. He was 4-for-4 from 3 on Saturday. That sound you hear is opposing coaches going “Uh oh.”
▪ Said this before, but Ardrey Kell’s Mike Craft is one of the best coaches in North Carolina. His 2017-18 team, devoid of major size and elite talent, was 23-6 playing 4A N.C. basketball, the highest-level and most difficult in the state.
His current team, basically a collection of guards -- including promising sophomore Knoah Carver -- can hang with almost anyone, mainly because of Craft’s Xs and Os. I wonder what he could build with some of the Division I talent his peers regularly have.
▪ Just simply a statement win for Charlotte Christian Saturday over Long Island (NY) Lutheran, a previously unbeaten team that was on the verge of a USA Today national ranking. It’s the kind of win that should launch Christian into serious conversation for a state championship and a move up the national rankings itself. The Knights are currently No. 94 in MaxPreps national rankings, and have a backcourt -- Appalachian State signee J.C. Tharrington and fast-rising Seth Bennett -- that’s as good as any in the state.
▪ Pretty impressive tournament for MVP Seth Bennett of Charlotte Christian. He played all of the championship and the better part of the semifinal win with a twisted right ankle and with the toenail ripped off his left big toe.
Championship: Charlotte Christian 54, Long Island Lutheran (NY) 39
3rd Place: Holly Springs 76, Nazareth (NY) Regional 57
5th Place: Ardrey Kell 78, Northside Christian 65
7th Place: Monsignor (MY) Scanlan 81, South Atlanta (GA) 58
MONSIGNOR (NY) SCANLAN 81, SOUTH ATLANTA (GA) 58
Scanlan 18 12 24 27 -- 81
South Atlanta 12 15 18 13 -- 58
SCANLAN 81 -- Munden 9, Tracey 7, Koby Brea 22, David Dacosta 11, Moheam 9, Bailey 3, Stone 3, Green 2, Matt Mayers 15
SOUTH ATLANTA 58 -- Headspeth 4, John Lawton 19, Gary Davis 16, Florence 9, Lymon 4, Garner 5, Banks 1
ARDREY KELL 78, NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN 65
Ardrey Kell 19 18 17 24 -- 78
Northside 20 9 18 18 -- 65
ARDREY KELL 78 -- Knoah Carver 13, Luke Stankavage 27, Steven Sherrill 13, Jarrett 2, Kameron Flynn 14, Smith 2, Testa 3, Hubbard 4
NORTHSIDE 65 -- Jalen Hood-Schifino 28, Cortez Marion-Holmes 19, Hubbard 6, Bynu 8, Jubert 2, Davidson 2, Seymour 2
HOLLY SPRINGS 76, NAZARETH (NY) REGIONAL 59
Holly Springs 14 20 21 21 -- 76
Nazareth 11 8 16 24 -- 59
HOLLY SPRINGS 76 -- Elliott 4, Garrett Phillips 10, Matt Willedson 16, Kadin Shedrick 17, Kaleb Scott 14, Robinson 7, Keisenhoffer 8
NAZARETH 59 -- Dontae Prescott 12, Tyreek Morris 17, Murray 6, Brantley 6, Stevenson 2, Wells 2, Camden Blount 12, Spruill 2
CHARLOTTE CHRISTIAN 54, LONG ISLAND (NY) LUTHERAN 39
Long Island Lutheran 7 16 6 10 -- 39
Charlotte Christian 16 14 7 17 -- 54
LONG ISLAND LUTHERAN 39 -- Reid 2, Stephenson 4, Andre Curbelo 10, Mostafa 5, Bergstrom 3, Jalen Celestine 13, Key 3
CHARLOTTE CHRISTIAN 54 -- Efosa U-Edsomwan 15, Hudson 4, Tharrington 5, Seth Bennett 22, Lash 5, L. Jones 1, L. Drees 2