The Spalding HoopHall Classic is an annual event that features some of the top high school talent in the country. While it doesn’t have the drawing power of the McDonald’s All-American Classic, this showcase is chock-full of elite prospects looking to test their skills against one another.
A number of the top recruits across the country will be in attendance, including the three highest rated players on 247Sports’ composite rankings for the Class of 2014. If you haven’t heard of these emerging stars yet, keep reading to find out more and what to expect from them at this event.
Before getting to that, let’s take a quick look at where and when you can catch the each of the 2014 Spalding HoopHall Classic games.
When: Thursday, Jan. 16 through Monday, Jan. 20.
Where: Blake Arena, Springfield College, Springfield, Mass.
Watch: The Basketball Channel, ESPN U
Game Schedule (via ESPN)
All times Eastern. *-Televised via The Basketball Channel, **-Televised via ESPN U
Thursday, January 16, 2014
4 p.m. - Sabis vs. Granby - GIRLS
5:30 p.m. - Granby vs. Greenfield
7 p.m. - Sabis vs. West Springfield
8:30 p.m. - Springfield Central High School vs. Springfield Putnam
Friday, January 17, 2014
4:30 p.m. - Springfield Central vs. West Springfield - GIRLS
6 p.m. - Archbishop Williams vs. Mater Dei (Calif.) - GIRLS
7:30 p.m. - Braintree vs. Christ The King (N.Y.) - GIRLS
9 p.m. - Springfield Cathedral vs. Holyoke
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Noon - Springfield Putnam vs. Woodstock Academy (Conn.)
1:30 p.m. - Springfield Central vs. Albany Academy (N.Y.)
3 p.m. - Bishop O'Connell (Va.) Rainier Beach (Wash.)
*4:30 p.m. - Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) vs. Houston Yates (Texas)
*6 p.m. - St. Frances Academy (Md.) vs. St. John Bosco (Calif.)
*8 p.m. - *Huntington Prep (W. Va.) vs. Prime Prep Academy (Texas)
Sunday, January 19, 2014
11 a.m. - Kimball Union (N.H.) vs. Northfield Mount Hermon School
12:30 p.m. - Cushing Academy vs. Worcester Academy
2 p.m. - St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) vs. Arlington Country Day (Fla.)
*3:30 p.m. - Our Savior New American (N.Y.) vs. La Lumiere (Ind.)
*5 p.m. - DeMatha Catholic (Md.) vs. St. Joseph (N.J.)
*6:30 p.m. - Wilbraham & Monson Academy vs. Brewster Academy (N.H.)
*8 p.m. - Skills Challenge
Monday, January 20, 2014
9:45 a.m. - St. Anthony (N.J.) vs. Paul VI (Va.)
**11:30 a.m. - Wesleyan Christian (N.C.) vs. Findlay Prep (Nev.)
**1:30 p.m. - Oak Hill Academy (Va.) vs. Whitney Young (Ill.)
**3:30 p.m. - Curie (Ill.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.)
**5:30 p.m. - Neumann-Goretti (Penn.) vs. Mater Dei (Calif.)
Players to Watch
Jahlil Okafor, C, Whitney Young High School (Chicago, Ill.)
At 6’10”, 265 pounds, there is certainly no shortage of raw physical ability for this young man to work with. He possesses the prototypical size, strength, agility and mobility required for someone his age to develop into the next great center.
The big man isn’t afraid to bang down low and uses his soft, but massive hands to catch any entry pass. Once he has the rock, Okafor is able to use smart, graceful footwork to create an opening to finish.
If he’s not working underneath the glass, this kid has a consistent mid-range shot that will keep defenders honest and pull them away from the lane. It’s not something that coaches are always going to want to see, but knowing he has that range can open things up for an offense.
A rare knock on Okafor’s game is that he’s yet to develop a signature move that he can unconsciously rely on near the basket. If he’s able to figure out a deadly go-to move—such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook—the competition had better look out.
The 5-star prospect will be taking his talents to Duke this coming fall, trusting head coach Mike Krzyzewski to help him develop one and add plenty more to his already-impressive repertoire of skills.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Prime Prep Academy (Dallas, Tex.)
Mudiay is a massive prospect that can play both the point guard and shooting guard positions. The 6’5”, 190-pound senior undoubtedly has the size to excel up through the professional level, but it may be an advantage he relies on too much to dominate lesser high school competition.
Regardless, Mudiay is an elite talent that Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Larry Brown is undoubtedly thrilled about bringing on for the 2014-15 campaign.
The basketball lifer had this to say about the crown jewel of his Class of 2014 haul, as per Bill Nichols of The Dallas Morning News:
“There are so many good qualities. He makes people better, he loves to play, (and) you don’t have to beg him to play hard. Point guards are hard to find, but he can play anywhere. I just like the total package. A high-character kid, who’s a great athlete and respects the game. He’s coming from a great program.”
Mudiay is a natural floor general with great vision, creativity when passing and solid penetration abilities. He’s a top-notch defender on the other end of the court and can completely lock down his man with ease.
If he can get more comfortable handling the ball and beating double-teams on a consistent basis, the sky will be the limit for this young man.
Matchup to Watch
Curie (Ill.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.) – Monday, Jan. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
This is a must-see matchup that will feature two of the nation’s best teams and a handful of premier talents going up against one another.
The undefeated Montverde Academy Eagles are led by 5-star junior Ben Simmons, who is considered one of the better players in the Class of 2015—as evident by his No. 7 ranking by 247Sports.
The Eagles are currently 15-0-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today ahead of this marquee clash with Curie. They destroyed Oak Ridge (Orlando) in their last game, 93-57, behind Simmons’ 22 points and look poised to put up a strong effort in this one.
The Condors haven’t been too shabby either in 2013-14, fighting their way to the No. 7 spot in the USA Today rankings with a 13-1-0 record. Cliff Alexander, the elite power forward that 247Sports has as the No. 3 overall player in the Class of 2014, has been the catalyst for this success.
Which team will win?
Alexander dropped 29 points and 17 rebounds in his last outing, a 75-59 shellacking of North Chicago. He’s been absolutely terrifying for defenders to try and stop, something that has rarely happened this season.
Expect a back-and-forth game that could come right down to the wire when these two elite programs meet on the hardwood. Don’t be surprised if it comes down to a head-to-head battle between Simmons and Alexander to determine the victor.