All week long, ESPNHS.com counts down the stories, events and trends that shaped the 2011 year in high school sports. Monday, we look at stories 21 through 25.
This past summer, Catholic school boys' basketball power Rice (New York) shut down, leaving a big void in the New York high school basketball scene. The alma mater of 2011 NCAA Most Outstanding Player Kemba Walker and 1994 Mr. Basketball USA Felipe Lopez, Rice finished ranked No. 2 in the country in 1998-99. Rice is the latest parochial school unable to withstand the country's troubling economy and the numerous lawsuits around the country involving priest scandals that are being paid out by the Catholic church.
Imagine scoring the game-winning goal in a state championship game. Now imagine doing that in triple overtime in the most competitive high school hockey state in the U.S.
For Eden Prairie (Minn.) senior Kyle Rau, that was the reality when he lifted the Eagles to a 3-2 victory over Duluth East (Duluth, Minn.) in the Class 2A state championship in the longest game played in Minnesota state tournament history.
But it was how Rau scored the goal that drew national attention. Rau's twin brother, Curt, rocketed a shot from the point that slid under the Duluth East goalie but away from the crease. Then, out of nowhere, Kyle dove headfirst and slid the puck into the back of the net, setting off a wild celebration.
Damon Harge Jr. moved from Modesto, Calif., to North Carolina to start his high school hoops career at Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmoor, N.C.). Sounds ordinary, right? Oh, there is one detail we left out -- Harge Jr. is beginning his varsity career as a sixth grader. He's also learning from NBA star John Wall.
We've heard of seventh graders playing on varsity -- such as former McDonald's All-Americans Demond "Tweedy" Carter, who went on to play at Baylor, and 2007 ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies -- but not a sixth grader. Although some state associations allow middle schoolers to play varsity, Harge Jr.'s move raises questions about the media's responsibility in hyping young stars and whether it's healthy to rank junior high school-aged players.
Clowney, a Class of 2011 recruit, had a boatload of pressure placed upon him starting with his junior year of high school, when people began calling him the best high school football recruit in a decade. Somehow the South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) star defensive end backed it up, recording a ridiculous 162 tackles and 29.5 sacks as a senior. Every major college coach would have loved to get him to sign a letter of intent, so it's fitting Clowney signed with South Carolina on Valentine's Day, which also happened to be his 18th birthday.
After he graduated, Clowney passed the torch to Robert Nkemdiche, an immensely talented Class of 2013 defensive lineman at Grayson (Loganville, Ga.). The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has the same freakish athleticism as Clowney and the burden of living up to immense expectations. But like Clowney, he hasn't let it bother him. This year, Nkemdiche led Grayson to its first state title and tallied 18 sacks despite facing double- and triple-teams every game.
Collier was on a recruiting trip at Washington on the morning of Sept. 24 when she sensed something was wrong. It didn't take long for the senior at Seattle Christian School (SeaTac, Wash.) to learn what it was. She was soon diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and wound up in a hospital bed.
Throughout her chemotherapy, Collier remained upbeat and resolved to win the battle. Just more than a month later, the No. 21 recruit in the 2012 class signed with Washington. And earlier this month, the 6-foot-3 forward returned to the court for Seattle Christian.