Dick’s Nationals Preview: Sagemont
We take an in-depth look at all eight teams competing at the 2014 Dick’s Nationals in New York and continue our series with The Sagemont School, which has a tall task against top seed Montverde Academy in an all-Florida quarterfinal matchup.
Related: Dick’s Nationals Team & Individual Records | No. 1 Seed Montverde Academy | No. 2 Seed Rainier Beach | No. 3 Seed Northside Christian Academy | No. 4 Seed Huntington-St. Joseph Prep | No. 5 Seed La Lumiere | No. 6 Seed Oak Hill Academy | No. 7 Seed Findlay Prep | Dick’s Nationals Field Set
Team: No. 8 seed Sagemont (Weston, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 33-0, No. 7 (No. 3 Southeast)
Head Coach: Adam Ross (148-35)
Key Players: Prince Ali (6-4, Jr., G/Connecticut), Lance Crawford (5-11, Sr., G/UMass-Lowell), Gyorgy Goloman (6-10, Sr., C/UCLA), Joe Kirby (6-0, Sr., G/Richmond)
Dick’s Nationals History: First appearance. The Florida High School Athletic Association grants its state champions permission to participate in the event if selected. The first FHSAA school that participated was Austin Rivers led Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) in 2010, which advanced to the semifinals before losing to FHSAA independent Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).
Road To Dick’s Nationals: The Lions showed glimpses of what they could do early with a 58-46 victory over a solid Norland (Miami) team. Sagemont then captured the Hawk Kreul Classic Power96 Elite Challenge with a 52-39 victory over De La Salle (Chicago). At the Neosho Holiday Classic in Missouri, the Lions defeated a good Bentonville (Bentonville, Ark.) team en route to the tournament title. They slowly climbed up the FAB 50 ladder and then turned heads with a 78-59 rout of No. 16 Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the FHSAA Class 3A semifinals. In the finals, Tampa Prep was no match as coach Adam Ross’ club rolled to a 79-48 victory to capture the program’s second state title. Although Sagemont is the first Broward County team to finish unbeaten through the state tournament, the Lions were not a lock for Dicks’ Nationals. They were basically the final team selected. “We didn’t think we were getting in,” Ross said. “We thought for sure one Florida team would be in (Montverde) and just because we won a FHSAA title it’s not mandatory they take a champion. We thought we were on the outside looking in.”
Inside Scoop: Sagemont just didn’t come out of nowhere; around Christmas time Ross and his staff knew it would have an excellent team. It is a balanced team, probably the most balanced team in Ross’ nine years as a head coach. “It’s been a real team effort,” Ross said. “Seven different kids have led us in scoring this season. We’ve had a couple of unsung heroes. Jordan Cooper, our starting four man, does the dirty work and can also put up big numbers. He was exceptional in the state quarterfinals (against Florida Air Academy) and we wouldn’t have won that game without him. A.J. Jurko and Joe Kirby don’t get the credit they deserve.” The team is balanced, but does have a budding star in UConn commit Prince Ali. The junior guard averaged 17.5 ppg and puts tremendous pressure on defenses with his ability to drive the lane or nail the outside shot. Even if he doesn’t score big against Montverde Academy, he’s going to have to be a threat and facilitator in order for Sagemont to pull off the upset against the nation’s top-ranked team. Hungarian post Gyorgy Goloman is the space-eater in the middle and Sagemont will need quality minutes from him, although playing with a shot clock will likely cause the Lions to substitute a bit more than usual.
Versus Montverde Academy: Make no mistake about it, despite its unbeaten record Sagemont drew an extremely tough opener against the most talented and battle-tested team in the country. On the flip side, Ross and his players are as familiar with Montverde Academy’s personnel and coaching as any team in the bracket. “First and foremost, it’s a tremendous honor to be selected,” Ross said. “We’re a small college preparatory program and it’s a bit surreal going to a national tournament. With that being said, the players are real confident. Our kids don’t feel like we’re the eighth seed and they’re going to use that as a bit of motivation.” Against Providence in the state semifinals, the Lions did a tremendous defensive job on McDonald’s All-American Grayson Allen. That performance will need to be repeated in order to slow down fellow All-American D’Angelo Russell. Ben Simmons of Montverde is a Mr. Basketball USA candidate as a junior and if both Russell and Simmons go off, Sagemont will be in trouble. The Lions have to slow down one of them, especially Simmons with his ability to rebound, run the court and finish. Ali stepped up his game at the FHSAA Final Four and in order to give his team a chance he’ll likely have to hit near 20 points plus. Kirby had 22 against Providence, so if Sagemont’s role players can match Montverde’s “role” players (which are actually D1 recruits), it will have a chance to keep it close. If it’s close near the end, that could cause Montverde to press a bit. “We have a few kids that played AAU ball with some of their guys and some common opponents, so if we execute our game plan, we like our chances but it won’t be an easy task,” Ross said. “This is a big opportunity to represent our county, city and school. It’s really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”