March 9, 2011

It's No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Jersey Classic

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The latest version of high school basketball's best rivalry - Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony against Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick - has more significance this March.

Wednesday night's winner doesn't just become the favorite to earn supremacy in New Jersey, it becomes the favorite to win the national championship.

But earning the spot atop the RivalsHigh Top 100 - St. Anthony currently is No. 1; St. Patrick is No. 2 - isn't the only thing unusual about this now two-decade-long battle.

St. Anthony, which seemingly never needs to rebuild, was buoyed by the closing of another school to rise into this position.

The top two players in the Friars' rotation - senior Myles Mack and junior Kyle Anderson - came to St. Anthony after their school, nearby Paterson (N.J.) Catholic, closed last spring.

"We would not be in this conversation," legendary St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley told The Star-Ledger earlier this week.

But because of the high-scoring Mack and Anderson - as well as Jerome Frink, Jordan Quick, Lucious Jones and a host of others - St. Anthony will bring a 29-0 record into a game which will be played before a sellout crowd of 8,000 at Rutgers.

St. Anthony has won the national title twice previously. This year, however, it may not be the favorite to get into position to capture a third.

While St. Patrick has won a record 25 state titles and 10 Tournament of Champions crowns, St. Patrick has earned the right to be called Jersey's best team.

Watch the live webcast here tonight

St. Anthony won the last meeting between the two (in 2008), but St. Patrick won the four straight prior and holds a 4-3 edge this decade.

In addition, St. Patrick has won three of the past five Tournament of Champions titles - and was the favorite to win last season before it was banned from the state tournament by the state association for a rules violation. (It's a ruling the school still hasn't quite gotten over) .

And as good as Mack and Anderson are, neither will be the best player on the court. That distinction goes to St. Patrick forward, Michael Gilchrist, Rivals.com's No. 3 overall prospect who is headed to Kentucky.

Gilchrist gets help from guards Derrick Gordon, Chris Martin and Jarrel Lane and two young promising big men (6-9 sophomore Austin Colbert and 6-10 freshman Dakari Johnson). St. Patrick is 26-0.

The winner of this game will advance to the New Jersey, Non-Public B title game. The winner of that game will be one of six state champions to earn a spot in the state's Tournament of Champions.

In other words, the winner still has three more games to play. Both sides, however, know that the winner of this game will be a prohibitive favorite to win out.

St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle has been named the national Coach of the Year but he has never won a national title. Never had a perfect season, in fact.

And as proud as he is of St. Patrick's success in his 21 seasons there - and its ability to seemingly supplant St. Anthony as the state's best - he knows there always will be something special about his rival, located roughly a dozen miles away.

"Bob Hurley and St. Anthony's are the yardstick," he said earlier this week. "Not only among Catholic schools in New Jersey, but nationally."

That's never been so true as this year.

Past, present, future stars

The game will feature four top Division I recruits, including Mack (Rutgers) and Anderson (Class of 2012) of St. Anthony and Gilchrist (Kentucky) and Gordon (Western Kentucky) of St. Patrick. But a few more elite players are coming up through the programs.

Of course, that's no surprise. The schools have produced seven first-round NBA draft picks - and may have another on the way as soon as this summer.

So which program is better? At this point, it's a toss-up. We thought it would be fun to look at the top five players each school has produced, but then realized that was an impossible task since there are so many (St. Anthony alone has had more than 100 Division I players).

But just for kicks, we picked five per side, basing it largely on how the players advanced professionally. (To put that in perspective, being a first-round NBA pick was a prerequisite for making the St. Anthony lineup).

So with apologies to the many great players overlooked, here goes:

St. Anthony

  • G - Bob Hurley: The coach's son and NCAA legend at Duke. His NBA career with the Kings was cut short following a serious auto accident;
  • G- Terry Dehere: Finished his career at Seton Hall as the Big East's all-time leading scorer before being selected by the Clippers;
  • G - David Rivers: Old-school player (Class of '84) was known for his standout career at Notre Dame;
  • F - Roshown McLeod: Played collegiately at St. John's and Duke. Is now the coach at nearby Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's;
  • F - Rodrick Rhodes: One of the more celebrated high school players nationally in 1991, he played collegiately at Kentucky and Southern Cal.
  • St. Patrick

  • G - Kyrie Irving: 2010 grad was dominating at Duke until he was sidelined with an injury this winter. Figures to be a first-rounder when he declares;
  • G - Shaheen Holloway: A rare three-time first-team all-state selection, he starred at Seton Hall;
  • F - Al Harrington: Jumped straight to NBA after being the national high school Player of the Year in 1998, now is in his 13th professional season;
  • F - Michael Gilchrist: Current player is ranked No. 3 overall for his class. He's headed to Kentucky;
  • C - Samuel Dalembert: Still active in the NBA, playing for the Kings and is one of league's top shot-blockers.
  • Video extra

    You want to see some highlights?
    Here's a preview of the game with pleny of clips of the star players on both teams.

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

    And finally ...

    Basketball players and programs are built on repetition and rituals.
    Here's an inside look at how St. Anthony, the best program in the past 25 years, gets it done:

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.



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