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Maine's prospects often overlooked

Forget for a minute that Indiana Faithfull balls in the state of Maine. If he played in one of the basketball belts, he might have garnered attention befitting a player knighted Mr. Basketball.

Faithfull -- or "Indi" to his friends and teammates -- is an undervalued pass-first point guard in a state that is rarely appreciated on the hardwood.

This past Friday, Faithfull was named the state's top player. The next day he dropped 27 points in Maine's large-school all-star game.

His accomplishment capped a brilliant three-year career, as Faithfull helped Cheverus High in Portland win its second Maine Principals Association Class A championship in three seasons.

Faithfull, however, is barely a blip on the recruiting radar. He plays for a school affiliated with the state association, where notoriety is scarce. Life is different at the state's privately run prep schools that constantly spit out prodigies.

Since Faithfull, by way of Australia, attends a traditional secondary school devoid of fifth-year students or postgraduates, his options are limited.

"I came to the United States to earn a Division I scholarship. There's still more to accomplish," said Faithfull, whose sister Rhianna took a similar basketball route before landing at Santa Clara University.

You'd figure the lanky 6-foot-4, 185-pounder might have a several mid-majors clamoring for his services. At least a few letters, a written offer or two would suffice as the April signing period approaches.

Why the dearth of college offers?

"We're Maine; there's not a lot of exposure up here," said Cheverus coach Bob Brown, who for the past 50 years has coached basketball at the high school and college levels in New England.

Faithfull had a few schools interested, including Jacksonville, Monmouth and North Dakota, but those dried up when the Sydney resident would not sign a binding letter of intent in November. Jacksonville and Maine still e-mail him, but interest is waning.

There are other options, though.

Prominent prep schools such as Lee Academy (Maine), Maine Central Institute (Pittsfield, Maine) and St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Conn.) are offering full scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year.

"Prep schools will give me more exposure and top competition," he said. "I'll probably visit them before I make a final decision either way."

Faithfull, who enrolled at Cheverus in the fall of 2007, had his senior season interrupted (albeit briefly) in January when the Maine Principals Association ruled he had exhausted the eight-semester rule.

After missing five games, Faithfull was back on the court following a temporary injunction, adding 10 points in a 49-34 playoff win over Scarborough. He followed that effort with 16 and 22 points as top-ranked Cheverus cruised to the Western Maine Class A title and a berth in the state final. Faithfull was named the region tournament's top player, claiming the Vinall Trophy.

He closed out his career with a game-high 23 points as the Stags beat Edward Little (Auburn) 55-50 for the school's ninth state crown. Faithfull averaged 13.9 points, 4.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and four steals while connecting on 78.3 percent of his free throws. This weekend he will play in the New England public school all-star game in Springfield, Mass.

With Faithfull on the floor, the Stags were 54-4 with two state titles.

"Indi gets more enjoyment out of making his teammates better than he does the personal stuff. He can score when necessary and knows when to step up to help his team. He's tall for a point [guard]. He sees the floor and plays on top of our matchup zone. He has a tremendous upside and will be a find for someone," Brown said.

Keegan Hyland of South Portland is Faithfull's summertime running mate on the MBR travel team. When the summer circuit ended in August, Hyland had 22 offers, mainly from Atlantic 10, Patriot, Ivy and America East schools.

Analysts noticed, too.

Hyland, ranked the No. 157 shooting guard by ESPNU's recruiting analysts, averaged 27.7 points as a junior. He gave Vermont a verbal commitment in October before withdrawing it a day later.

"I made a quick decision one day; I shouldn't have done it," he said.

Hyland, 6-4, was the third-ranked player from a Maine school behind prep school players Ricmonds Vilde of Lee Academy (an SMU signee) and Levan Shengelia of Maine Central Institute (a Rhode Island verbal).

But the promising senior was waylaid by a groin injury and later a fractured pelvis. Hyland missed all but three games, returning in February. He gave fans a glimpse of the past, pouring in 32 points during a 72-66 overtime loss to Westbrook in the Western A region semifinals.

"His work ethic is second to none; he's a coach's dream," South Portland coach Phil Conley said.

Hyland, consistent behind the 3-point arc and deceptively quick, has a strong overall floor game as he moves with purpose away from the ball, and is also a terrific passer. His lack of strength and only mediocre athleticism can also limit him defensively, according to his ESPNU Recruiting profile.

He will likely attend prep school in the fall, with powerhouse Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), the 2010 National and New England prep champions, the destination.

Hyland will continue physical therapy on his misaligned hip and rest the remainder of March on doctors' orders, and is hopeful that a successful late push on the spring circuit will generate a college offer. Recently LaSalle, Rhode Island, Gonzaga and Penn State have reached out.

He's willing to wait.

"It'll have to be a good fit. I'm looking for a powerhouse program in a top-level conference; that's what I've worked for," said Hyland, who is South Portland's all-time leading scorer with 1,110 points.

Globe-trotters

When the rosters for the Nike Hoops Summit were announced earlier this week, a couple of Canadians -- Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph -- completed a rare trifecta. After earning spots in the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, the Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) duo were notified they would play in an annual international game for the World Select Team.

Before heading for the Hoops Summit, they'll compete for the defending champion Findlay Prep Pilots at the National High School Invitational from April 1-3 in Baltimore.

"It's really a big deal to play in the Hoops Summit," Joseph said. "My brother played in it a few years ago and had a great experience. To play in all three games is an honor, and it'll be great sharing the experience with Tristan, my friend and teammate."

Joseph, an unsigned 6-3 point guard from Pickering, Ontario, said he has no timetable for college plans. "Following the season, I'll make a decision," he said. His primary suitors are Connecticut, Villanova, UNLV, Minnesota and Texas. Joseph's brother, Devoe, is a sophomore guard at Minnesota.

As for Thompson, a 6-10 center bound for Texas, the all-star game treble caps a brilliant high school career that started at St. Benedicts Prep (Newark, N.J.).

"The McDonald's game has history and is played for a charity, the Jordan game is at Madison Square Garden with Michael Jordan there and the Hoops Summit is about meeting players and coaches from different cultures," Thompson said. "It'll be an intriguing experience."

The World Team has 10 players from nine countries, including France, New Zealand, China, Serbia and Spain.

Additionally, Duje Dukan, a 6-8 Croatian forward who attends Deerfield (Ill.), will play for the World Team. Dukan signed with Wisconsin.

The World Team will be led for the sixth consecutive year by respected Australian national team coach Rob Beveridge, who will again be assisted by Serbia's Marin Sedlacek, making his 10th Hoop Summit appearance.

Must-see events

March Madness is in full swing this weekend, with several states concluding their seasons. There are games to see, players to cherish and state champions to be crowned. Check out these state tournaments, all chock-full of star power.

Friday, Illinois High School Association Class 4A and 3A semifinals, Carver Arena, Peoria: This might be the top state basketball tournament the nation can offer in 2010. It has it all: top players and teams rolled into two days of basketball bliss.

Catch these players while you can; next year they'll be college freshmen. Waukegan's 6-7 Jereme Richmond will seek an elusive state title before heading off to play in the McDonalds All-American Game and then at Illinois. Simeon's Brandon Spearman (Dayton) is the No. 43-ranked shooting guard. Anthony Johnson (Purdue), Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and J.R. Reynolds (Rice) form a dynamic three-guard rotation. At 6-4, Kent State-bound Eric Gaines (No. 115 shooting guard) is Hillcrest's main scoring threat.

Whitney Young's Sam Thompson, a 6-7 forward, is the top junior downstate, good enough to make the ESPNU Super 60 watch list. Nate Brooks, a 6-6 sophomore, is an elite-level athlete expected to help Young for the next two years.

Saturday, Connecticut state finals, Uncasville: Six games are on tap at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The action starts with the Class S final between Prince Tech (Hartford) and Hyde (Hamden). Prince Tech's Phil Starks, a promising 5-9 junior, put up 37 points in the semifinals against Windsor Locks. Later, it's Sheehan (Wallingford) vs. Bloomfield in the Class M final; New London vs. Stratford in the Class L final and Hillhouse (New Haven) vs. Bridgeport Central in the Class LL final.

Keep an eye on these seniors: Bridgeport's 6-3 Jerome Parkins; Hillhouse's 6-7 Tavon Allen (No. 109 small forward); Bloomfield's 6-6 Denzel Jones (No. 267 power forward), who will play football at Central Connecticut State; and Stratford's 6-5 Brandon Sherrod (No. 243 power forward). The top junior is Freddie Wilson, a 6-2 shooting guard from Hillhouse, ranked No. 29 by ESPNU Recruiting. Wilson has several schools interested, mainly Massachusetts, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Rutgers, St. John's, Providence and Texas A&M.

Tuesday, New Jersey State Tournament of Champions final, East Rutherford: For the first time in more than a decade, New Jersey's six-team bracket, featuring the six group winners, is up for grabs.

That's because traditional powers St. Patrick of Elizabeth (banned from the postseason for a rules violation), the clear-cut best team, and St. Anthony of Jersey City (eliminated in the Non-Public B final) won't be playing. Neither will St. Peters Prep (Jersey City) or Paterson Catholic, both upset victims.

Star power in the bracket includes Trenton Catholic's 6-3 Frantz Massenat (No. 60 point guard), who's headed to Drexel, 6-6 Markese Tucker (No. 203 power forward) and 5-10 Dondre Whitmore (No. 108 point guard); University's 6-6 Kazembe Abif; Camden Catholic's 6-2 Anthony D'Orazio (Lehigh recruit); and Cherokee's 6-9 Ryan McKeaney (Vermont recruit) and 6-2 Willis Nicholson, one of the state's best unsigned seniors. Nicholson had 25 points, making 13 of 14 free throws and five assists versus Shabazz (Newark) in Wednesday's TOC opener.

Junior Khalid Lewis (No. 72 shooting guard) of Trenton Catholic is the best of the bunch.


Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years.