CRC Wait 24 Hours Away

WHEELING — For Ohio Valley basketball junkies, the wait is down to just 24 hours.

The 10th annual Cancer Research Classic officially tips off its 11-game slate Friday afternoon at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Alma Grace McDonough Center.

The event, which is directed by Dr. Gregory Merrick, has developed into one of the nation’s premier prep roundball events.

“From top to bottom, this is our best lineup in terms of the teams,” Merrick said. “We have very, very well-coached and highly skilled teams.”

That’s high praise for an event that’s already featured 24 players, who have gone on to be selected in the NBA Draft.

Friday’s card features four games with Findlay Prep meeting First Love Christian in the opener at 1:30 p.m. The second game is the nation’s number-one ranked team, La Lumiere, taking on defending Ohio Division III state runnerup Cleveland VASJ at 3:10 p.m.

“Neither Findlay, nor La Lumiere wanted a top-20 team on Friday,” Merrick said. “VASJ has most of its guys back from last year and First Love, which is based in Washington, Pa., has eight mid to low Division I players.”

The premier game of the day is at 5:30 p.m. when IMG, which is located in Bradenton, Fla., takes on Westlake, which is located in Atlana. That game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN-U.

“IMG has three future NBA players,” Merrick said. “This game will be a track meet.”

IMG features five-star guard Trevon Duvall (Class of 2017). He holds offers from Arizona, Baylor, Duke and Kansas just to name a few. Isaiah Stokes (Class of 2017) is a 6-9 forward, who has committed to Florida.

Emmitt Williams is a player who Merrick raved about, calling him one of his “favorite high school players.” The 6-8 forward, who is a class of 2018 member, owns offers from the likes of Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, TCU, USC and numerous others.

Five-star forward Silvio DeSousa (6-8, 2018) is another who Merrick is especially high on. He currently has offers from Florida, LSU, Maryland and Louisville.

“IMG has some real depth,” Merrick said.

Westlake was ranked in the top 20 in pre-season polls and features 6-8 forward Chuma Okeke (Class of 2017), who is signed to attend Auburn.

“Westlake is playing much better than I thought they would be,” Merrick confessed. “They’re very fast and they like to get up and down. They’re not very disciplined, however.”

Friday’s nightcap features Roselle Catholic from New Jersey taking on Greenforest, which is located in Decatur, Ga. at 7:30 p.m.

“Roselle is a Jersey powerhouse that plays excellent defense and contests everything,” Merrick said. “They’re all over the ball.”

Merrick pointed toward Class of 2019 guard Kahlil Whitney as a player to watch for Roselle. He already boasts four collegiate offers.

Greenforest features 7-footer Ikey Obiagu, who is headed to Florida State. Merrick expects him to contend for the CRC blocked-shot record.

“Greenforest is playing with a chip on its shoulder this season,” Merrick said. “It was ranked in the top 10 last year, lost two games and Dick’s (National Tournament) didn’t take it for the tournament. The Atlanta area is freakish this year (with talent).”

Saturday’s slate tips off at 10 a.m. with Wheeling Central taking on North Allegheny. The first national game is at 11:40 a.m. and features Wheeler, which is located in Marietta, Ga., against Philadelphia power Neumann-Goretti.

“Wheeler has the most athletic starting five in the country,” Merrick said. “They’ve already played five, top-15 teams. They’re just loaded.”

Wheeler features Louisville signee Darius Perry, USC signee Jordan Usher, uncommitted senior Jordan Tucker, who has offers from Duke, Villanova and Indiana along with Class of 2018 Auburn commit E.J. Montgomery, who played in the CRC for Montverde last season.

Neumann-Goretti, meanwhile, features Kentucky signee Quade Green at point guard. He’s missed a handful of games, but returned from an ankle injury last week and is expected to play this weekend.

“That’s going to be a very interesting game,” Merrick said.

IMG and Greenforest meet at at 1:20 p.m., which sets the stage for a meeting of the nation’s top-ranked teams, according to Max Preps. La Lumiere and Findlay Prep will tip off at 3 p.m.

La Lumiere, which is 14-0, features Michigan State signee Jaren Jackson, Michigan signee Jordan Pool, unsigned senior Brian Bowen, who has offers from Arizona, Creighton, Michigan State, Texas and UCLA amongst others, and junior point guard Tyger Campbell, who has a laundry list of offers, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue and Virginia Tech.

“La Lumiere is better than I thought they would be,” Merrick said. “They get up and down and they play with finesse. Campbell is one of the last few true point guards in this country. He sees the floor and moves the ball.”

Findlay Prep features Kentucky signee P.J. Washington.

At 4:40 p.m., Washington D.C. power DeMatha will take on Roselle Catholic. DeMatha boasts Notre Dame signee D.J. Harvey and UConn signee Joshua Carlton in the frontcourt. Merrick also spoke highly of freshman center Hunter Dickinson. He already has a Notre Dame offer.

The 6:20 p.m. contest features Washington D.C. Gonzaga against Westlake.

“Gonzaga plays with four guards and a rebounder,” Merrick said. “They play really good defense.”

Merrick is high on Class of 2018 guard Prentiss Hubb, who has a list of offers that includes the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Pitt, Florida and California.

It also features Miami of Florida signee Chris Lykes, who is a 5-8, at point guard.

The event wraps up with Wheeling Park taking on Pine-Richland at 7:45 p.m.

CRC NOTES

∫ While the event showcases some of the nation’s top basketball, it also serves as a vehicle to promote men’s health. Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center will have information tables set up throughout the McDonough Center lobby on both days.

∫ The CRC will once again utilize a 30-second shot clock for each game.

“This is the fourth year we’ve used the shot clock,” Merrick said. “I think we’ve only had three or four shot-clock violations, but when it gets down to about 10 seconds, you can see the crowd lean forward in its seats, so it’s been a great addition.”

∫ The Atomosphere at the games will once again be enhanced with the presence of several area bands during the course of the event. Slated to take part are Shadyside, Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Steubenville and Wheeling Park High School bands. The Barnesville Community Alumni Band will also take part.

∫ THE first team to arrive in Wheeling was La Lumiere. It worked out at the Howard Long Wellness Center Wednesday evening.

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