After its most dominating year ever Montverde Academy’s model of consistency as a high school boys basketball powerhouse will once again be tested this season.
Don’t bet against Kevin Boyle’s ability to re-stock the shelves with enough talent to churn out another national championship.
The Eagles lost three of last season’s top 12 rated high school seniors according to ESPN, with 6-foot-7 point guard Cade Cunningham signing with Oklahoma State; Scottie Barnes, also 6-7, matriculating to FSU; and 6-10 Day’Ron Sharpe selecting North Carolina.
But Boyle didn’t blink when NBA all-star Ben Simmons departed for LSU on his way to the Philadelphia 76ers. Nor did he sweat seeing another national player of the year, R.J. Barrett, reclassify to leave the high school game a year early on his own one-and-done path to Duke and then the New York Knicks.
The Montverde staff, including Boyle’s longtime right-hand man, Rae Miller, simply makes reloading look simple. Boyle has recorded a stunning 242-17 record in nine years against mostly top-tier competition after migrating from his native New Jersey to Montverde’s pristine campus in Lake County. On Wednesday he was presented with his third Naismith High School Coach of the Year award as a tribute to his team’s 25-0 season of 2019-20.
The Eagles captured their fifth national title since 2013 and have plans to make it six in nine years. The are preseason No. 1 in the USA Today and BallisLife national rankings.
Montverde’s top returners are Caleb Houstan (6-8, Sr.), who signed with Michigan last week, and Dariq Whitehead (6-6, Jr.), who is No. 8 on ESPN’s list of top Class of 2022 prospects. Newcomer Jalen Duran (6-9, Jr.), who transferred to Montverde from Philadelphia Roman Catholic in April, is No. 2 on that juniors list.
Baylor recruit Langston Love (6-5, Sr.) is another holdover.
Fresh faces include Dayton recruit DaRon Holmes (6-9, Sr.), who was named Arizona player of the year last season; and Malik Reneau (6-8, Jr.), who previously played for Mater Academy of Hialeah Gardens.
Montverde, which plays home preseason games Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m., won last year by an average of nearly 40 points per game. Its only wins by less than 20 were two matchups against another Florida boarding school juggernaut, IMG Academy of Bradenton, and even those victories were decisive.
IMG Academy, like Montverde, is an FHSAA member school that attracts talent from multiple states and nations and does not participate in the state playoff system. The Ascenders are No. 2 in the preseason MaxPreps rankings.
No. 3 is Sunrise Academy of Kansas is scheduled to play at Montverde on Jan. 30.
Montverde preseason nights include this weekend include Dr. Phillips and North Florida Educational Institute of Jacksonville.
The Eagles open their regular season with home games on Tuesday, Nov. 24 against Bishop McLaughlin Catholic of Spring Hill; and Friday, Nov. 27, vs. Westminster Academy of Fort Lauderdale.
SIAA showdown: Central Florida has two other independent powerhouses, West Oaks Academy of Orlando and Central Pointe Christian Academy of Kissimmee. They met Tuesday night in a rematch of the White Tigers’ victory against the Flame in last season’s Sunshine Independent Athletic Association championship game.
CPCA (4-0) again pulled off a somewhat surprising victory, 101-97, in overtime at West Oaks (2-1).
New Central Pointe senior point guard Kedrick Green Jr. had 23 points and 6 assists. Jeremy Fouemena, a 6-10 junior, delivered 21 points and 9 rebounds and stellar 6-foot-5 senior prospect Ramses Melendez had 17 points in limited playing time due to fouls.
West Oaks returned 6-1 senior guard A.J. Neal from a nationally-ranked team and has added a plethora of talent with offseason additions. Twin sophomores Matt and Ryan Bewley, both 6-9, are coveted college prospects already. And 6-foot-6 seniors Wesley Cardet and Jahsean Corbett are pumping in points.
Cardet and Ryan Bewley both scored 22 points in a season-opening 89-50 win against DME Academy of Daytona Beach. Corbett scored 27 points and Matt Bewley delivered 21 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in a 98-51 romp past American Collegiate of Clearwater.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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