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Talented Notre Dame Prep Gets After It

September 17, 2010 Columns No Comments

FITCHBURG, Mass. – Ryan Hurd has a team that fits him. That should be the case for any coach, but his team at Notre Dame Prep put forth the best workout we’ve seen thus far with a lot of solid efforts. There is plenty of talent, but if the Crusaders play like they did on Thursday every time out, there might not be many teams who could beat them even if they have more talent. Hurd likes to play a lot of guys, and this team has plenty for him to go with.

The frontcourt won’t have much in numbers but will be a source of strength, starting with Khem Birch (6’9″ Jr. PF, Pierrefonds (Que.)), who was arguably the best player on the floor on Thursday. The long and athletic big man did things he often does, but at a higher level as he dominated in stretches. He blocked a lot of shots from the help side and didn’t bite on pump fakes, at times making it look easy. His skills are better, including with the ball as he made a couple of good passes and also took a rebound coast to coast for a dunk, and he continues to be more aggressive on offense and finish with dunks. The highlight of the day was when he leaped right over a teammate and dunked home a miss.

Joining Birch up front will be UNLV commit Grandy Glaze (6’6″ Sr. PF, Brampton (Ont.)), a well-built forward who showed a great motor. He was in the gym early and competed every second he was on the floor, as he battled for loose balls and to score inside. He has a mature body and was aggressive, and simply put, he wants it on the floor.

Much-hyped Angel Nunez (6’8″ Sr. SF-PF, Harlem (NY)) and Luka Radovic (6’7″ Sr. PF, Montenegro) will also be in the mix. Nunez hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far, and he didn’t do a whole lot here to dispel that. He has a good frame, while his body isn’t there yet, and he didn’t get much done on the court. Radovic’s body has a ways to go, but he showed some range on his jumper and got a stickback along the way.

The player who has an argument for the best player on the floor on Thursday is Todd Mayo (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Memphis (TN)), who had the hot hand shooting the ball for much of the day. The younger brother of O.J. Mayo is athletic with a good body that can get better, and as the day went on the shots he was making had an increasing degree of difficulty. One highlight was a play where he took a jab step, then stepped back and hit a three once he created space.

Another who shot the ball well is Myles Davis (6’1″ Sr. SG, Jersey City (NJ)), who has a reputation for that. He was hitting for much of the day, and while he handled the ball from time to time he’s still very much a shooting guard. At times, he battled with Sam Cassell, Jr. (6’3″ Sr. PG-SG, Baltimore (MD)), son of the former NBA guard. Cassell has a slight frame and is still a baby physically, and after struggling to shoot early on started to make shots later.

Matt Porter (6’3″ Sr. SG, Brunswick (NJ)) was another star of the day, in part for his defense as he really got after it on the defensive end. The highlight came when Nunez went up for a dunk and Porter came in to block it. He was a factor in transition and showed a little touch shooting the ball, though that doesn’t seem to be his forte.

Another player who had a coming-out party of sorts was Zarko Valjeravic (6’4″ Sr. SG, Serbia), who made a number of shots from deep and is a plus athlete. There was a stretch where he might have been the best player on the floor.

Shaquille Jones (6’5″ Jr. SG-SF, Providence (RI)) recently started playing again after missing time due to an appendectomy, and showed few ill effects although he has played better. He has a good frame and isn’t there yet physically, and on Thursday showed that he’s a heady player who plays well within the team concept.

Tyler Strange (5’10” Sr. PG, Leominster (MA)) returns for his second season and had a nice day of solid basketball, making a few shots and running the show. Charles Swain (5’10” Sr. PG, Austin (TX)) and R.J. Dempsey (6’0″ Sr. PG, Anchorage (AK)) will also figure into the mix. Swain’s body isn’t there yet, while Dempsey is more mature physically.

Notre Dame Prep has good talent and a lot of options, and it was there for anyone present to see on Thursday. If they play like this consistently, they will reflect the coach well, and they’ll be very tough to beat.

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