Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
The roster has seven new faces, but don’t expect the results to change for the Findlay Prep basketball team.
All signs point to the high school power, which has been ranked in the top 10 of virtually every poll the past three seasons, continuing its run of top-notch play.
While replacing two McDonald’s All-Americans won’t be easy, the Pilots’ new players include a highly regarded point guard with big-game experience and several top college prospects.
Findlay on Wednesday will host the Impact Academy of Las Vegas for the first of six home games over the next 10 days to open the season.
The program, which is takes players from all over the world and is housed at the Henderson International School, doesn’t compete for a Nevada state title.
Rather, they play a challenging national schedule, traveling to places such as Florida, Tennessee and New Jersey looking for the best competition.
Most games, Findlay winds up on top.
It is 97-3 over the last three years, capturing the past two ESPN National High School Invitational titles.
“All of the new players came in knowing our expectations,” said senior guard Nick Johnson, a University of Arizona commit who averaged 14.2 points per game last year and is one of three returners.
“We play at a high level, but it’s nothing they aren’t used to. They knew what we were about. That’s why they came here.”
Findlay graduated most of its top players from last year, including All-Americans Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson who are both at the University of Texas. The duo were top 25 recruits by several evaluating services.
The program won’t see much of a drop off with the replacements.
Senior point guard Myck Kabongo, a Texas commit, is widely considered one of the nation’s top 10 prospects for the class of 2011 and a five-star recruit by Rivals.com. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Canadian transferred from St. Benedict’s in New Jersey — one of the nation’s most respected programs.
Forward Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound junior who will help fill the void left by Thompson on the inside, already has scholarship offers from 13 schools. Boston College, West Virginia and Connecticut are at the top of the list.
Also, senior forward Amir Garrett, who played as a sophomore at Las Vegas’ Sierra Vista High, joins the program from Southern California and is expected to make an immediate impact. A four-star recruit by Rivals, he has scholarship offers from schools such as Kansas, Georgetown and Southern California.
The team has three who have played for their country’s national team and five who are ranked in the top 20 overall for their class by recruiting services.
Simply put, they look great on paper. Now, it’s a matter of getting that to translate onto the court.
“The key for us is having those returners that played last year,” coach Mike Peck said of Johnson, forward Winston Shepard and guard Nigel Goss. “They know what is expected. So far, it’s been a great group. They have been receptive to us. They want to go hard and compete.”
With so many new parts, Peck knows it will be easier said than done getting the players comfortable in his system. Offensively, they averaged 84 points per game last year and will still push the ball up the court.
However, it will look different with Kabongo leading the way instead of Joseph.
“We are going to be able to get up and down (the court),” Peck said. “That part of the system won’t change that much. We have some speed and athleticism.”
Ultimately, the players know they will have to bring their best effort every game. After all, the team at the top of the mountain always receives the biggest challenge.
“We have to focus every night,” Johnson said. “Every game, we are going against someone who wants to make a name for himself against us.”
New academic arrangement
Despite eliminating its high school program, the Henderson International School still offers high school classes for the 10 players on the Findlay team.
The high school closed last June, but Henderson International still operates it elementary and junior high programs. The teachers for the lower levels, several of whom taught at the high school last year, hold classes for the team.