GEICO High School Nationals: Championship Impressions

Entering our seventh great matchup over three days, we’re wrapping things up from GEICO High School Nationals at Florida SouthWestern State, and we’ve got a good one ahead of us including four McDonald’s All-Americans between Link Academy and Montverde Academy. Link is trying to become the first program to win Nationals in their first tournament appearance, while Montverde is the perennial title contender. So without further ado…

All players mentioned are from class of 2022 unless otherwise noted.


#4 Link Academy (MO) vs #3 Montverde Academy (FL) – Montverde wins 60-49.

  • Montverde’s second title in a row and sixth title since the event’s conception in 2011
  • Fourth title for Dariq Whitehead since he joined the program as an 8th grader
  • Montverde with three members on the All-Tournament team: Whitehead (tournament MVP), Dillon Mitchell, and Malik Reneau
  • Link with one member on the All-Tournament team: Jordan Walsh

Montverde big Malik Reneau (undecided) continued his great play throughout the tournament, providing Montverde with their first four points, including a nice eurostep along the baseline. Shortly after he added a nice finish in transition through contact after a behind-the-back feed from guard Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana). Reneau would finish the opening frame with eight points. He led the way for Montverde and nearly keeping pace with all of Link, 8-10.

Reneau continued to make an impact throughout the first half with a lot of post craftiness and hard-nosed efforts on the glass.

Montverde junior big Kwame Evans Jr. (undecided) tried three threes in the first quarter, hitting only the second from the left corner. Despite Link’s ramped up defense to start the second quarter, Evans hit his fourth attempt from deep early in that frame.

Montverde guard Dariq Whitehead (Duke) got off to his worst start of the tournament, simply by way of missing his three attempts in the opening frame, though he did have a nice cross-court look-ahead pass to wing Dillon Mitchell (Texas) who finished through contact for an and-one.

Link’s premiere prospect, wing Jordan Walsh (Arkansas), got off to a shaky start as well, but still made an impact, including a transition drive and dish for a corner three. ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Ted Emrich stated during this game that Walsh measures at 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 41-inch vertical, meaning Walsh has a rare combination of elite physical tools and intangible feel at such a young age.

As ESPN’s broadcast would break down later on, there’s a slight issue with the way Walsh carries his body at times, “carrying his chest ahead of his legs” that throughout the tournament led to a few falls with the ball in his hand. I don’t worry about that long-term because I trust Arkansas’s staff led by head coach Eric Musselman to fix any baseline mechanical issues.

Link forward Tarris Reed Jr. (Michigan State) worked well as a play-finisher for his squad, including a lob finish from Walsh early in the third quarter.

Link guard Julian Phillips (undecided) was the only Link player to finish in double figures, and he did so in a variety of ways, including catch-and-shoot opportunities and athletic finishes. He also made a defensive impact, totaling two stocks in his 24 minutes.

Almost as a sign of what’s to come next season when he’s the cornerstone player a season from now, Evans Jr. hit the dagger for Montverde: a three with just over 30 seconds to extend their lead to 9, all but ending the game.

Full game highlights:

Montverde:

  • D. Mitchell: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 stocks
  • D. Whithead: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • M. Reneau: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block
  • K. Evans Jr.: 11 points, 2 stocks

Link:

  • J. Phillips: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 stocks
  • J. Walsh: 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
  • T. Reed Jr.: 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 stocks

Up next:

Nike Hoop Summit takes place from Moda Center in Portland, OR on Apr. 8 at 10 p.m. ET; broadcast info has not yet been released. Rosters for the event can be found here.



Categories: College Basketball, High School Basketball, NBA Draft

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