KINGSTON, R.I. -- Mother Nature tried her best, but nothing could stop the 13th annual National Prep School Invitational from taking place at the University of Rhode Island's Keaney Gymnasium. With virtually all of New England blanketed with the latest winter storm on Wednesday, the NPSI still kicked off first thing Thursday morning and wrapped up just prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
Michael Carter-Williams (Hamilton, Mass./St. Andrew's)
2011, SG, 6-foot-5, 175 pounds
Carter-Williams has a unique ability to raise the level of his game when the lights are on the brightest and that's exactly what he did this weekend to claim his second consecutive NPSI MVP award. His composure in the clutch comes from tremendous poise as he plays virtually the entire game without changing his facial expression. His performance began on Thursday when, despite not having a great shooting performance, he still found a way to score 26 points by going to the offensive glass and making plays on the defensive end that led to run-outs. Then with just four seconds left and the score tied, Carter-Williams came off a high ball screen and drilled a 20-foot pull-up to win the game. Sunday's performance was even better as he went for 39 points and 15 rebounds, while showcasing his complete offensive repertoire, burying long 3s, creating space with his dribble for pull-ups, making slippery drives to the rim, and even taking smaller guards to the low block.
Alex Murphy (South Kingstown, R.I./St. Mark's)
2012, SF, 6-8, 215 pounds
After a disappointing performance at the Hoophall Classic a few weeks ago, the Super 60 junior appeared determined to make an impact this weekend. He was aggressive with his dribble early in the game, seeking out contact en route to the rim and earning easy points from the free throw line as a result. He was at his best in the second half when a faster tempo allowed him to showcase his athleticism and playmaking ability in the open floor. He found his teammates for easy baskets, making great use of the bounce pass, and showed good ability to play the pick-and-roll both turning the corner and finding the roll man.
Charli Klein (Canary Islands/Canarias Basketball Academy)
2011, PG, 6-3, 185 pounds
Klein has a definite hole in his game in terms of his ability to run the team and make decisions against full-court pressure, but when it comes to making plays with the ball in his hands there wasn't another guard that was able to create with nearly as much ease. A point guard with good size, Klein has blinding speed and quickness, as well as tremendous acceleration with the ball in the open floor. He shoots it well enough to keep defenders honest, has the strong body to absorb contact en route to the rim, and all the tools to blossom into an excellent on-ball defender.
Andre Drummond vs. Khem Birch
The two big-time centers played to a draw last spring when they last squared off as the top-two players in the Class of 2012. With Birch now reclassified to 2011 and signed with Pitt, all that was at stake was bragging rights, but Drummond, from St. Thomas More, nonetheless came away as the clear winner. He established his jump hook as a weapon on the game's very first possession and continued to go to it until Birch took away his left shoulder at which point he showed a quick spin to the baseline. Drummond was also more of a defensive presence inside the paint blocking shots, rebounding and utilizing his size and mobility to contain the pick-and-roll. For Birch, the lone bright spot on the day might have been the continued development of his midrange skill set as he faced up for short jumpers from the mid-post and even made shots from the short corner off pick-and-pop action.
Andre Drummond vs. Nerlens Noel
Two days after winning his duel with Birch, Drummond returned to take on the top ranked center in the Class of 2013. While both players were even in the scoring category, Noel's impact was far greater as he dominated both backboards and controlled the game defensively, blocking three shots, changing countless others, and demonstrating unrivaled instincts on that end of the floor. Drummond made his customary three or four big-time plays but lacked consistency and focus, never effectively utilizing his size and strength advantage inside the paint. As for Noel's offense, while the vast majority of his points still come by bouncy finishes at the rim, his high-post game continues to expand with soft touch on his short jumpers and a series of impressive high-low passes.
Nemenja Djurisic (South Kent, Conn./ South Kent)
2011, PF, 6-8, 220 pounds
Djurisic solidified himself as one of the best post players left on the market with a pair of big performances this weekend. While not an explosive athlete, Djurisic has a versatile skill set and excellent feel for the game that make him a perfect fit for a program that likes to run offense. He stretched the floor to the 3-point line and also showed a crafty low-post game making good use of a Vlade Divac flip move. He was rugged and physical inside the paint and consequently able to rebound in traffic on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he was solid in the post, maintaining constant position between the ball and the basket and timely rotations to help on dribble penetration.
Player to watch
Darrick Wood (Newark, N.J./Nia Prep)
2012, SG, 6-2, 165 pounds
Nia Prep's latest addition has star written all over him because the game just comes so easy for him. He has a versatile offensive attack complete with the ability to create his own shot with his dribble or stroke open looks from the perimeter. He plays the game with great poise and does a great job of picking his spots to be aggressive. Quick and athletic, Wood must add experience and upper-body strength to his slight frame, but has all the characteristics of a high-level prospect.
• Todd Mayo (Germantown, Tenn./Notre Dame Prep) put on a good show for his growing line of suitors, showing an ability to play both guard positions and flat-out score the basketball. He can make shots from long range and is also capable of creating his own shot with his dribble, especially in the open floor.
• Elijah Carter (Paterson, N.J./ Brewster Academy) is another top guard still uncommitted in the Class of 2011 and he was no less impressive, scoring in a multitude of ways while also making sound decisions with the ball in his hands.
• Damion Lee (Owings Mill, Md./St. Thomas More) is an athletic slasher who proved himself capable of knocking down open 3-pointers this weekend. Equally impressive, was his ability to storm the paint and come up with tough rebounds in traffic.
• Olivier Hanlan (Gatineau, Can./New Hampton) stood out as one of the purest point guards in the field. The pass-first floor general always has his head up and flat-out finds people, but enough individual offense to make defenders pay when they play him for the pass.
• Fresh off his recent transfer, Ricardo Ledo (Providence, R.I./Notre Dame Prep) saw limited minutes in a reserve role and struggled to get into any type of rhythm or establish a true niche on his new team.
• Kaleb Tarczewski (Claremont, N.H./St. Mark's) was very solid for his squad on Friday. He's at his best when he posts deep and he was intent on doing that by running to the rim in transition or rolling off a ball-screen to bury his defender in the post.
• Future Oregon Duck Bruce Barron (Carbondale, Ill./Brehm Prep) was one of the top scoring guards in the field, but left some doubt as to whether or not he was capable of playing the point at the next level as he hunted shots at times and had turnovers exceeding his assists.
Adam Finkelstein has been a coach or scout at the high school, college and pro levels. He was an assistant coach in Division I by the age of 24 and also worked as a scout for Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting.