Photo courtesy of Visions By Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong
By David Cordova
Whenever there’s a nationally-ranked program that’s high atop the high school polls, they become everyone’s big game. They are always the team to beat. But for the team in question, it’s just another game on the court for them to rise to the occasion.
That can be said about the Eagles of Montverde Academy, a team which is rated the No. 1 team in the USA Today high school poll. The school, which is located in Montverde, Florida, a town that is 33 minutes away from Orlando, has been known for its big-time basketball program.
“Our mission is really, we want to be like the Duke of high school basketball, where we excel in the way we conduct ourselves, that we’re excellent academically and athletically, and that we’re competing for national championships.” said Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle.
Boyle has been successful in his 30-plus years as a high school coach, first in his native New Jersey, where he coached at the now-defunct St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, where he coached NBA players such as Al Harrington, Samuel Dalembert, Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Hornets). In his time in the Garden State, he amassed over 400 wins, won numerous coaching honors such as ESPN National Coach of the Year, Naismith National Coach of the Year and USA Today National High School Coach of the Year. He also won five New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles in 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007 & 2009.
Boyle then moved on to Montverde Academy in the spring of 2011, where he has amassed a record of 197-15 in seven seasons at the helm of the Eagles. In that span, he has had one undefeated season and has won three national championships from 2013-2015 and has produced several NBA players in Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Luc Mbah a Moute (Houston Rockets) and Dakari Johnson (Oklahoma City Thunder).
As far as the graduation rate of players, it is 100%, as every year, the student-athletes go on to college, no matter what level.
When asked what makes Montverde unique as a basketball program, Coach Boyle replied, “Well, I think it’s unique because you have a lot of academies that are more athletic-based, we’re a school that has strong, strong athletics, but they’re never going to compromise the educational component or the acting the right way component.”
This season, the Eagles have been the most dangerous team in the nation, as they have gone 36-0 in this season’s schedule, which has included trips to events places like Charlotte, Atlanta, Hawaii, South Carolina, New Jersey, West Virginia, Springfield and internationally, in China.
Being that Montverde is not a part of the Florida State High School Athletic Association, they can play in any event they wish to, as part of an independent schedule, one that will prepare them for the rigors of the next level, college basketball.
When asked about being the No. 1 team in the nation, Coach Boyle jokingly replied, “It’s a relief, because if we’re not, I’d probably wouldn’t be coaching.”
In a lineup of players, everything starts with senior R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, who is bound for Duke next year. “6-6 Afro-American from Canada, a really good leader, very diverse player, can guard, can rebound, has improved his shot greatly, handles the ball, he’s today’s type of player, he’s the type of player that’s got multiple positions he can play and he’s got a real good chance to be a star-level player in the NBA if he stays humble and keeps working hard.”
In addition to Barrett, there are three other senior guards that either help with scoring or facilitating in 6-foot-4 Michael Devoe (Georgia Tech commit), 6-foot-4 Andrew Nembhard (Florida commit) and 5-foot-11 Trevin Wade (uncommitted).
Also, when most high schools have maybe one or two players with size that can help them in the front court, Montverde has four. The quartet of players are 6-foot-9 twin brothers Makhi and Mahkel Mitchell, both of whom are juniors and are verbally committed to the University of Maryland. And then there is also 6-foot-10 senior Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga commit), and lastly, 7-foot-2 junior Balsa Koprivica, a recent transfer into the program.
When asked if having four big men is an asset, Coach Boyle replied, “Well, it’s an asset, but sometimes, it’s difficult with the playing time, because at this level, there’s a lot of bigs. You see Balsa, he’ll be a star-level player, but he’s new to us. So it really helps them in practice, it gives them a realistic thinking of the world, that if you don’t compete and get better, then you’ll end up realizing what level you’re at.”
In addition to the high school team, there is the post grad called CBD, which stands for Center for Basketball Development, which is coached by Kevin Boyle, Jr., the eldest son of Coach Boyle. They have some good players on their team, such as 6-foot-8 senior Morris Udeze (Wichita State commit), 6-foot-4 senior guard Jermaine Cousinard (South Carolina commit) and 6-foot-8 senior forward Kevin Zhang (uncommitted).
“We have an academy called Center for Basketball Development. We have kids from 21 countries, 85 players, six teams from seventh grade through post-grad.”
Right now, the goal is simple. To get back to the GEICO Nationals, which will taking place in New York City during the week of March 29-31st and win. “We want to be there and hopefully get selected and win it,” says Coach Boyle.
With the assortment of talent that Montverde has this year, it’s pretty certain that a perfect season could be a huge possibility.