Now that we’re halfway through the high school hoops season, certain things have become clear. Let’s take a look at what has developed over the first couple of months, and what’s ahead the next couple of months.
Biggest surprise: Chester (Chester, Pa.) came into the season ranked No. 4 in the preseason and riding a 58-game winning streak, but the Clippers dropped two games at the City of Palms Classic in December. Granted, both games were to Super 25 teams, Whitney Young (Chicago) and Lone Peak (Highland, Utah), but the Clippers failed to make the games competitive. To their credit, the Clippers have reeled off three straight wins since the loss to the Dolphins. But who knew they’d have such an early and ugly skid?
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Best one-on-one matchup: Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, the country’s No. 1 junior center, clashed with Montverde’s (Fla.) Dakari Johnson, the country’s No. 1 senior center, at the City of Palms Classic. Even though the game tipped at 11:25 p.m., tickets were sold out. In the end, Johnson’s Eagles won 68-63 in overtime. Okafor dropped 16 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson, a Kentucky commit, posted nine points and 17 rebounds.
Biggest disappointment: As odd as this may sound, this biggest disappointment of the season has nothing to do with teams or players underachieving. Not exactly. Last year there were more than 10 documented cases of players breaking the rim or shattering the backboard on ferocious dunks. This year? Not so much. So far St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) junior center Karl Towns has had a partial break and Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) senior forward Jordan Bell, an Oregon signee, broke the rim on a windmill, but neither dunk broke the backboard a la Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary at the Elite 24 in 2011. Guys, let’s get to damaging some school property already!
Best individual performance: It's got to be Ottawa (Kan.) senior wing Semi Ojeleye’s 58-point performance on Dec. 6 in a big win over Wray (Colo.). Ojeleye, a Duke signee, nearly eclipsed that on Jan. 4, dropping 57 points in a win over Paola (Kan.).
Best highlight: Anyone who doubts that Nettleton (Jonesboro, Ark.) sophomore guard Victor Dukes doesn’t have the year’s best highlight to this point simply likes to argue. In early January, in a game against Manila (Manila, Ark.), Dukes drove the lane, soared for a dunk and seemed to propel off the chin of the Manila defender as he leaped over him and stuck his elbow in the rim.
There’s getting “posterized” then there’s getting “Dukes-ed.”
Three storylines to follow for the second half of the season…
1. Will Randle return?
No program in the country got hit with the injury bug as Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) did. After star forward Mickey Mitchell, a consensus top five sophomore, tore his ACL before the season began, Julius Randle, who is ranked No. 2 in the Rivals150, fractured his foot in the second game of the season. Randle’s original timeline for a return was three months, but reports out of Texas are that the 6-foot-10 senior forward could be coming back much sooner. Stay tuned.
2. Can Montverde or Findlay run the table?
We’ll know more after the Jan. 21 matchup between Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), ranked No. 1 in the Super 25, and No. 2 Montverde, but the winner has a legitimate shot at finishing the regular season undefeated. They won’t play a game for the rest of the season as an underdog.
3. Parker vs. Wiggins will have to wait.
The matchup we’re all waiting to see between Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) wing Andrew Wiggins, the consensus top player in the 2013 class, and Simeon (Chicago) forward Jabari Parker, who is ranked No. 2 in 2013 in most recruiting rankings, won’t happen during the high school season.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t get to see the two titans clash.
Both are virtual locks for the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games in the postseason and there’s no way the McDonald’s or Jordan people will put the two on the same team.
Especially since Wiggins isn’t shy about calling out Parker, who should be back to 100 percent from a broken foot by that time.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSAToday.