Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
When one thinks of the Metro Classic, one thinks of a major invitational that has earned the attention after years of providing quality teams and showcasing the best of the best. Last year, it was missed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many states to push back their high school seasons to the spring or limit them entirely.
Well its now 2022 and one of the biggest tournaments on the high school scene is back, with a huge twist. Just like two years ago, there will be two sessions of the event. One of them in a place that is very historical on the New Jersey high school basketball scene.
On Thursday, January 13th, the Metro Classic will host Session I at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, the site of the old Prime Time Shootout, which had many big games in that venue back in the 2000’s.
In the first game, which takes place at 5:30 PM, First Love Christian Academy (PA) will play against Bergen Catholic, the No. 24 team in the nation, which has two Division I commits in senior guards Julian Brown (Wagner) and Will Richardson (Fordham) and sophomore guard Elliot Cadeau, who is rated as the No. 7 player in the nation in the Class of 2024 by ESPN.
The second game, which takes place at 7 PM, will have Long Island Lutheran (NY), the No. 22 team in the nation against Roselle Catholic, the No. 15 team in the nation. On the LuHi roster is senior guards Jayden Pierre (committed to Providence) and Louis Hutchinson, junior guard Jayden Pierre and James Johns, Jr. and senior forward Finley Sheridan and Jaxon Korroll. On Roselle Catholic’s side is junior guard Simeon Wilcher (North Carolina commit), the No. 12 player in the Class of 2023, senior guard Jamarques Lawrence (Nebraska commit), junior forward Akil Watson (No. 20 player in the ESPN rankings), senior guard Braxton Jones and two talented sophomores in forward Tarik Watson and Jaidon Glover.
In the third and final game, the main event, Montverde Academy, the No. 2 team in the nation will take on one of the Garden State’s biggest powerhouses, Camden, the No. 4 team in the nation, at 8:30 PM.
On Montverde’s side, the Eagles will have a vast assortment of seniors in Newark native and guard Dariq Whitehead (Duke commit and No. 5 player in the nation), forward Vincent Iwuchukwu (USC commit and No. 11 player in the nation), forward Malik Reneau (Florida State commit and No. 23 player in the nation), forward Dillon Mitchell (Texas commit and No. 18 player in the nation), guard Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana commit and No. 24 player in the nation) and guard Skyy Clark (Kentucky commit and No. 16 player in the nation), who will be making his debut after missing the first couple of months due to injury.
And that’s not all the Eagles have. They also have underclassmen such as sophomore forward Derik Queen (No. 2 player in the Class of 2024), junior forward Kwame Evans, Jr. (the No. 3 player in the Class of 2023) and junior guard Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn, a recent transfer from Real Salt Lake Academy in Utah, who will also be making his debut on that night.
On Camden’s side, they have the No. 1 junior in the Class of 2023 in guard DJ Wagner and other talented underclassmen in junior center Aaron Bradshaw (No. 22 player in the nation), junior guard Cian Medley, junior guard Cornelius “Boog” Robinson, as well as two talented seniors in guard Elijah Perkins and forward Rasheer Fleming.
Session II will take place during the week of February 3rd-6th at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River North High School in Toms River, New Jersey. Another twist is that this session will also be an event for the new National Interscholastic Basketball Conference, which is a league for prep powerhouses such as Montverde, IMG Academy (FL), Oak Hill Academy (VA), Legacy Charter School (SC), Wasatch Academy (UT), La Lumiere School (IN), Sunrise Christian Academy (KS) and Bishop Walsh School (MD).
Among the teams from the tri-state area in the second session is Long Island Lutheran, Bergen Catholic, Gill St. Bernard, Bergen Catholic, The Patrick School, Manasquan, Newark West Side, Camden, St. Peter’s Prep, Roselle Catholic, Rumson, Newark Arts, Westfield and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Other out-of-state teams that will be in attendance are The George School (PA), St. Joseph’s Prep (PA), The Phelps School (PA), St. Thomas More (CT) and two nationally-ranked programs in AZ Compass Prep (AZ), the No. 6 team in the nation, and the undefeated Link Academy (MO), the No. 8 team in the nation and the recent winner of the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon, who is currently 21-0 on the season.
Also, the games will be televised on ESPN + and will showcase all teams playing against the squads in the NIBC. As we go on into a New Year, there is some great action about to take place. It’s great to see basketball back again and high school programs out and about taking on the best not only in their state and around the country. And like always, the Metro Classic is just the haven and atmosphere to do just that.