The Freeds-St. Clair Invitational is an annual trip for the North Pole Hoops team. We’re bound to discover new talent and lock in on a region that is untapped.
The St. Michael’s College School Blue Raiders are coming off of their sixth straight tournament championship at the Freeds Invitational in Windsor, Ontario last night, after defeating Jordan Henry’s Pine Ridge Pumas 59-49. Six straight, yet captains Danilo Djuricic and Jahmal Abbey-Wright have not quenched their thirst.
Djuricic and Abbey-Wright share a similar mindset to that of former teammate and current St. Bonaventure PG, Nelson Kaputo.
After every tournament championship last year Kaputo would tell his team “stay focused on the end of the season, OFSAA gold is what we’re after.”
Tournament MVP this year, Djuricic echoed the same message to his teammates, as this is something the young guys really need to hear. Some of the guys on the team this year were not part of last year’s undefeated season, hence are unfamiliar with what the standard is for the Blue Raiders.
Pine Ridge came out on the attack early and finished a lot in the interior. Junior National Team member and current Puma, Jordan Henry averaged 26 points in this tournament mainly off of his breakdown game and penetration.
Moving forward Henry will need another guard to step up, welcome and accept ball handling responsibilities in order to relieve pressure.
Darius Thorne and Yannick Hannibal did a solid job of attacking the heart of SMC’s defense and cleaning up rebounds.
There was five lead changes before halftime until SMC had two straight possessions before the second quarter buzzer to walk into the third ahead 25-21.
As most teams do, Pine Ridge struggled to find an answer for Djuricic, who displayed a full skill set throughout the tournament and in this championship game. No defender was strong enough to defend him when he took them into the post and finished with both hands, and no one can get out quick enough to contest his three.
Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Coach John Beilein has expressed interest in the hybrid forward and will have him on campus today for an unofficial visit.
Fellow team captain Abbey-Wright, pitched in with 14 points, 3 assists and a handful of rebounds. While Djuricic is the top producer, Abbey-Wright is the X-Factor and he’s aware.
“I have to be able to lead this team vocally with Danilo and continue to grab as many boards as I can. Our team needs us to do it and we will.”
On a sidenote, sophomore combo guard Kobey Ketavong is merging into the lead guard for this team. He has been impactful even as a freshman and his confidence now is at an all time high, a good sign for SMC.
Of all the prospects evaluated this weekend, Jamal Mayali of Stanstead (Quebec) has got to be the biggest sleeper in a sense that University level coaches are unaware of who this kid is and what he’s capable of.
Mayali has a complete skill set as PG, tied in with great vision and understanding of the game. He averaged 25 points and 5 or more assists per game.
Originally from Ontario at Bill Crothers, Jamal has taken the opportunity to have full reigns and is making the most of it. He has a supporting cast of Callum Baker and Aaron Nungent who are reputable names in their own right; but Mayali is playing on a different level.
Home Team Hopefuls
Catholic Central is not the same Comets team of the past. They are in the midst of finding their identity. The Mychal Mulder, Shavon Gayle, Marquis Calloo and Eriq Jenkins days are of the past.
They have just enrolled an International student, Jonathan Nicola who is fresh off the plane from Sudan and showed signs of being a high level guy.
Najee Brown is their go-to scorer right now along with Manny Agong.
Scoring is not the issue for this team, instead their lack of interest and intensity on the defensive end is what has them underachieving early in the season.
CCH has a seasoned, capable coaching staff and the resources around them to build into an OFSAA contender yet again, but it comes down to the will of the players.
Some may see this as calling out these young players, and in a sense it is.
Tournament MVP: Danilo Djuricic (St. Mike’s)
1st Team Tournament All-Stars: Jamal Abbey-Wright (St.Mike’s), Jordan Henry (Pine Ridge),
Najee Brown-Henderson (Catholic Central Windsor), Chris Hankins (Holy Trinity Oakville), Ryan Kiss (St. Annes)
2nd Team Tournament All-Stars: Keith Larrea (West Humber), Taiq Eisa (Holy Trinity Oakville),
Manny Agong (Catholic Central Windsor), Darius Thorne (Pine Ridge), Jamal Mayali (Stanstead Quebec)
Off the court, this tournament pushes a strong message on mental health with a campaign called Stigma Enigma that is in place to bring awareness to the number two killer of youth in our country which is suicide.
This year’s speaker at the banquet was Eddie Murray, an NFL Champion with the Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVIII) and the NFL’s 17th highest scorer on the all-time list.
There was an immediate respect level from everyone in attendance and they locked into his story. Before receiving a scholarship to Tulane and before the NFL, Murray went through hardships, such as; loosing both parents before the age of 19 along with a list of other life altering situations.
He mentioned that in today’s world, asides from tough days we go through in our personal lives, there is even more pressure due to what we see in the media and how we react to it. For young athletes that pressure to perform takes a further toll.
It is as much, if not, more important to stay mentally healthy as it is physically says Hillelson-Whipple Clinic. Man or woman, child or adult, its vital to seek help in times of stress, notice when someone is having a bad day and appreciate one another’s worth.