Five-star forward Isaiah Todd talks recruitment by UNC, NC State
While the official start of the high school basketball season is still a couple of months away, it’s never too soon to create a buzz in the Hoop State.
Every year, prep basketball fans across the country set their sights on Raleigh, Broughton High School and the John Wall Holiday Invitational. Each December the tournament plays host to some of the best high school teams around the country. This year’s teams were announced Monday night and the 2019 tournament should be a treat.
Nationally ranked players and programs will play in front of capacity crowds Dec. 26-28 and 30th, with future college and NBA players on nearly every single roster.
Here’s a look at the 2019 John Wall Holiday Invitational teams:
Located in Lincolnton, Combine Academy is coached by former North Carolina guard and NBA veteran Jeff McInnes. On its website, the school is billed as a ‘top International Boarding School and Professional Sports Performance Center.’
One of the top players on the roster is 2022 shooting guard Jalen Hood-Schifino.
The Pride is no stranger to the John Wall Holiday Invitational. Coach Russ Frazier always brings a good team to compete, but this year he comes in with a pair of highly touted recruits. Leesville will be led by 2021 point guard Carter Whitt, who is ranked the No. 2 player in North Carolina in his class. Whitt will be joined by 2021 small forward Jalen McDonald.
The Jaguars have been one of the best 2A teams in the state recently, and will be put to the test against the John Wall field. Farmville Central went 32-0 last season, winning the 2A title. The Jaguars are led by N.C. State commit Terquavion Smith, a 6-3 shooting guard.
Like Leesville, the Huskies are not rookies when it comes to playing in Broughton’s Holliday Gymnasium. Heritage last played in the John Wall Holiday Invitational in 2017, going 1-2 in the tournament. The Huskies are led by 6-5 small forward Redford Dunton, a junior with offers from East Carolina and Appalachian State.
No strangers to the event, the Trojans return after winning their bracket two years ago. It’s the first trip to the even since the retirement of veteran coach Eddie Gray.
Word of God
It’s pretty amazing Word of God isn’t in the Holiday Invitational every year since the event is named after John Wall, its most famous graduate. The Holy Rams return with another big name prospect. Isaiah Todd, the top-ranked player in the state and No. 2 power forward in the nation, transferred to Word of God this summer and has offers from North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis and Michigan.
The Wildcats went 27-2 last year and were one game away from the 4A state championship game. They might be even better in 2019-20. Coach Chris Davis returns a lineup that has three players 6-8 or taller in the front line and 6-5 point guard Nolan Dorsey, who holds multiple college offers. Sam Hood, a 6-8 forward, is the No. 25 player in the state.
The Cavaliers went 28-4 last season, falling in the NCISAA semifinals. The John Wall Invitational will be new to Durham Academy, but the team won’t be without some firepower. Class of 2022 small forward MJ Rice averaged 16 points a game last season and already has offers from N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Boston College and others.
Broughton is the host of the John Wall, and will break in a new coach this season after veteran Jeff Ferrell retired in the spring. Clarence Coleman, an assistant under Ferrell, will take over as the new coach for the Capitals. The Caps finished 19-10 last season and 9-3 in conference play.
The Patriots will make their first trip to the John Wall this year. Last season, Apex Friendship went 22-7 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. The Patriots are led by senior forward Nick Farrar, who committed to N.C. State on Aug. 7.
The Knights last played in the John Wall two years ago, when the team was led by current Chicago Bulls rookie guard Coby White. That year White put on a show, breaking the three-game scoring record, The Knights return this year led by another future ACC guard. Djimon Bailey, a 6-5 shooting guard, committed to Wake Forest in May.
Last year, the Golden Knights had their best season in the short history of the school, so they won’t sneak up on anyone at the John Wall. Holly Springs went 20-5 last season and made it to the third round of the NCHSAA playoffs. This year, the team will be led by 6-7 forward Caleb Scott, who has offers from ECU, Elon, Appalachian State and others.
Located in Hickory, Moravian will bring a ton of talent to Raleigh, including a pair of N.C. State targets. Four-star forward Josh Hall and three-star guard Shakeel Moore should pack the house whenever the Lions play. Hall (6-9, 190) is the No. 3 player in North Carolina in the class of 2020. Moore (6-1, 185) is ranked No. 7 in the state. Both hold multiple offers, including from Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack.
Traditionally one of the best basketball programs in the state, the Vikings make a return trip to the John Wall. Like always, Kinston has a Division I recruit leading the way. This time it’s junior forward Dontrez Styles, a 6-6 four-star recruit, ranked the No. 3 player in the state in the class of 2021.
The Bruins fell in the championship of the TJ Warren bracket in 2017, the last time they played in the John Wall Holiday Invitational. One of the best players on the team that year, forward Kyree Walker, was just a sophomore and returns for one last show at the John Wall. Walker (6-5, 200) is a four-star guard and the No. 3 player in Arizona.
Callaway will enter Raleigh as an unknown to the locals, but could quickly become a fan favorite behind point guard Daeshun Ruffin. The four-star guard is the No. 1 player in Mississippi in the class of 2021 and No. 3 at his position. Ruffin (5-9, 160) has offers from several SEC schools.
St. Patrick (New Jersey)
The Celtics will visit the John Wall led by five-star Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 1 player in the class of 2021. Kuminga (6-8, 205) holds offers from Duke, Kentucky and St. John’s, among others. He’ll be joined by teammate Noah Farrakhan, a junior combo guard who has history at the John Wall, previously playing for IMG Academy.
Grace Christian School
Jaylon Gibson, a Wake Forest commit with lead the private school to the John Wall for the first time. Gibson (6-11) is the No. 16 player in the state in the class of 2020.
The Burlington School
Another prep school making its first appearance in the John Wall Holiday Invitational, the Spartans went 24-7 last season, NCISAA quarterfinals.
This will be a homecoming for Day’Ron Sharpe, the former South Central (Winterville) Center who led the Falcons to a 4A state title as a junior. Over the summer Sharpe, who committed to UNC, transferred to Montverde. Sharpe, a five-star prospect, won’t be alone. At Montverde he’ll team up with Cade Cunningham, a five-star player, who is the No. 1 player from Texas and the No. 1 combo guard in the nation.