Rosen: This Year’s Montverde Eagles Are Special

In today’s game, “Super Teams” aren’t just being formed at the collegiate and professional levels. We’ve become accustomed to star players teaming up during free agency and high level recruits becoming package deals, but High School super teams have become just as common. It’s not unusual for recruits with NBA aspirations to attend a prep school where they’ll face better competition in games and practices, and get pushed harder on the basketball court and weight room. But, this past summer we saw a team gather multiple five-star prospects to add to the elite talent they already had on their roster. In my opinion, this team has the chance to go down as one of the best high school teams to ever suit up together. You’re probably expecting me to talk about BJ Boston and Bronny James, but no, the real high school super team resides in Montverde, FL. Led by Kevin Boyle, Montverde has produced Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, RJ Barrett, Joel Embiid and a plethora of D1 players. They’ve won four national championships in the past seven years, and have been a national powerhouse for the entire decade. Last year, it appeared that the Eagles were on their way to another national championship, before IMG Academy pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in Geico Nationals history. While they graduate some of their key players, they bring back Cade Cunningham, Moses Moody and a trio of talented rising sophomores to go along with their new additions. This team is loaded with talent, and they all compliment each other. Here’s a preview of every player that I expect to be in their rotation:

(Worth noting: I’ve probably watched more Cade Cunningham than everyone else on this team combined, so bear with me if I get carried away with his write up)

Cade Cunningham

Since the calendar flipped to 2019, Cunningham has dominated every court he’s stepped foot on. After putting up historically efficient and effective numbers in the EYBL, along with his campaign at Montverde, he immediately became the nation’s consensus top recruit. While standing at 6’7” he is a legit primary initiator with unreal vision and the ability to make every pass in the book. He’s already shown the ability to pass off the live dribble with either hand, deceive the defense with his eyes and gravity and throw accurate lobs/outlet passes. That passing arsenal is impressive for any prospect, let alone someone at his size. Cunningham also possesses elite strength for a lead guard, similar to RJ Barrett at this age, he can just barrel through smaller or even like-sized defenders en route to the rim. But, Cade’s decision making and touch make him a much better prospect than Barrett. You rarely see him force up a bad attempt in the lane, and other than FIBA U19’s which was just a cold spell, he was very effective on floaters with either hand. Despite lacking top notch athleticism, his rare combination of size, strength and touch make him an elite finisher around the rim. And I won’t sell him too short, he’s had his fair share of posterizing dunks. It’s very common to see prospects with his level of usage slack off on defense, but that’s far from the case with Cunningham. Because he is three steps ahead of everyone else on the court at all times, he has great anticipation on defense which leads to a ton of jumped passing lanes, deflections and strips. Because of his strength, he is very effective as a team defender while digging in help and walling up. He has also had some impressive weak side rotation and chase down blocks. Cunningham is also a very good POA (Point of attack) defender as well. His frame allows him to guard anyone on the wing, and even some smaller forwards in the post. Cade has quick feet and hands which result in forced turnovers and run-out dunks. Shooting is by far his biggest weakness at this stage. It’s a little confusing because he has good touch,  his form is mechanically correct and he seems relatively confident but the numbers just aren’t there. I still believe he’s in the elite tier with Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson as prospects, but until he figures out the three ball, those two still have a comfortable lead on Cade. 

Scottie Barnes

Barnes is one of my favorite players in the country because his impact is truly beyond the stat sheet. You won’t understand the Scottie Barnes hype by looking at his numbers, but I can guarantee you’ll understand it within five minutes of watching him on the court. Barnes brings a competitive edge that is absolutely unparalleled in the high school game, it’s never a question if he left everything on the floor. His true position is probably the four, but again, we could be looking at another point forward. Barnes’ best skill is his passing, his size allows him to see over the defense, and at 6’8” he’s comfortable distributing from the post and perimeter. We even saw him play some point guard in the EYBL, and while I don’t think that’s his long term role, it was very intriguing to see him handle the ball with such poise. Barnes is also a very effective slasher and can finish at or above the rim, the opponent’s defensive presence doesn’t matter once Barnes gets going towards the rim. However, Barnes’ lack of shooting is his biggest hole, and it’s probably a bigger hit to his game than it is with Cade. During U19’s his lack of confidence was evident, defenses would sag as he refused to shoot open threes and sometimes even pull ups. At the free throw line, Barnes sported a unique routine, which had him dribbling the ball behind his back with a wide base, he shot 65% on just about three attempts per game. If Barnes could iron out that part of his game, he would be nearly unstoppable. I think it’s safe to say he’s the most versatile defender in his class, as he can lock down 1-4 with ease. His 7’1” wingspan is extremely functional on the court, I expect Barnes’ stock (steal + block) numbers to be through the roof this year. Barnes is unique in both his build and approach to the game, I’m a huge fan of everything he brings to the table and it should be very fun watching him alongside Cade. 

Moses Moody

Moody is the second most important returner from last year’s squad. When you have two players with extremely high basketball IQ and passing ability, but both have shooting woes, which archetype is necessary to have alongside of them? You guessed it, a floor spacer. Standing at 6’5”, Moody has good size for a two guard and can get his shot up against anybody. He was a reliable sniper for Montverde last year and carried that into his AAU season with Brad Beal Elite. He shot 37% on nearly 7.5 attempts from three throughout the EYBL. It’s worth noting that “lower percentages” are normal for good shooters on high volume at this stage. Obviously that’s to an extent, but with the degree of difficulty on some of his threes, 37% is a more than respectable number. Moody’s mechanics are gorgeous and he does a great job of getting balanced with different types of momentum. He’s not the flashiest player but his outside shooting will be crucial to Montverde’s success this year.

Langston Love

Coming off a breakout season with Houston Hoops, Love is a do-it-all combo guard that impacts the game in multiple ways. Averaging 22 points per game in the EYBL is no easy task, it becomes even more impressive when you note how efficient he was. Love only attempted 15 shots per game and got to the free throw line over five times per game. He shot it at 55% overall and 59% from two, which are wildly impressive numbers for a guard on the circuit. Despite this high usage, he still managed to average less than one turnover per game throughout his 12 regular season games. Although most of his buckets come from inside the arc, he still flashed his three ball while shooting 38% on just over three attempts per game. Love should see his stock continue to rise throughout his junior season as I expect him to start and be an integral part of their success. 

Day’Ron Sharpe

When Roy Williams received a pledge from Sharpe over a year ago, he was just ranked in the mid seventies. After making consistent strides to his game, Sharpe now finds himself in the top 20 with five stars to his name. Obviously rankings aren’t everything, but that’s a testament to Sharpe’s work ethic, development and production, which seem to be top notch. He is a freak athlete who is strong and mobile. Sharpe will be lethal diving to the rim off pick and rolls with Cunningham, Barnes, Nembhard and maybe even Love. His rim running ability will be showcased as Barnes and Cunningham are both excellent outlet passers and in transition. This team needed a rim runner and protector, and they have a great one in Day’Ron Sharpe.

Zeb Jackson

Jackson might end up coming off the bench for Kevin Boyle, but that’s no slight to his game because he is an absolute hooper. Back in 2017, La Lumiere was loaded with talent, similar to this Montverde team. Former Michigan Wolverine and first round pick Jordan Poole, was asked to come off the bench. Not because he wasn’t good enough to start, but because the Coach knew he would better suit the team by providing a spark off the bench. Coincidentally, Jackson is also a Michigan signee and I think he would be an elite spark plug for Montverde. He is a lethal shooter with deep range off the catch and dribble, despite having point guard size, his shooting will allow him to play on and off the ball next year. The silky smooth lefty is also very effective when using shot fakes and changing speeds. Jackson makes up for his size disadvantage by keeping the defense honest with floaters and reverse finishes. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, just know Zeb Jackson is going to make an impact.

Caleb Houstan

The best long term prospect of the three rising sophomores is Caleb Houstan. Despite the fact that he was ranked in the top five of his class, he had a really limited role last year so I wasn’t able to get a good evaluation of him. However, he caught my eye during the FIBA U16 Championships as he was the best player in attendance. He averaged 23 points per game on 44% shooting for Team Canada and led them to a silver medal. This wasn’t a case where he dominated lower level teams and didn’t show up against the top dogs, he poured in 25 points in the gold medal game against a loaded Team USA. In the end, the overall talent and depth of Team USA was too much for Canada, but that shouldn’t be held against Houstan in any way. I expect him to play good minutes in an increased role for the Eagles this year.

Ryan Nembhard

That last name probably looks familiar to most readers, and since it’s not a very common last name I’m sure you can connect the dots. To those who didn’t, it is Andrew Nembhard’s (former Montverde and current Florida Gators point guard) little brother. Of the three rising sophomores, Nembhard played the most minutes last year (In the games I saw). He played in many big games, whether it was at Hoopfest DC or Geico Nationals, Coach Boyle always trusted Nembhard with the rock, and I don’t blame him. Nembhard has incredible poise for someone his age, and what he might lack in size, he makes up with his brain. He averaged a staggering nine assists per game while representing Canada alongside Houstan at the U16 championships and played mind games with defenses the entire tournament. I expect him to be a positive game manager for the Eagles this year, continue his development and take the keys to the team for his junior year once Cunningham is gone. I know it’s still very early, but I’m a huge fan of Nembhard’s game.

Dariq Whitehead

Last but not least, is the top ten rising sophomore Sophomore Dariq Whitehead. Since he also had a pretty limited role on last year’s Montverde team but didn’t play at the U16 Championships I don’t have a great read on him yet. However, I do know that he is a big strong wing who is pretty athletic for his age. He has been very productive in AAU so far, as you don’t gain his type of pedigree for no reason. It seems like his skills might still be a little raw but he has plenty of time to tighten those up, and I’ll be interested to see what he looks like with increased minutes this year.

This Montverde team is stacked from top to bottom, but unlike most high school “Super Teams” they all blend together. It won’t be an easy task to get them to all play together, but it certainly helps when your two best players are basketball savants and your Coach is Kevin Boyle. I’ll be tuned in to every single Montverde game that I can get access to, that’s for sure. Thanks for checking out my first article for Stock Risers, I look forward to providing more content in the future.

Jake Rosen

Website: Jakeinthepaint.com

Email: Jakeinthepaint@gmail.com

Twitter: @JakeInThePaint

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