Raleigh, North Carolina’s John Wall Holiday Invitational, held every December, has established itself over the years as one of the nation’s top high school basketball events. This year saw the event host its best field of teams ever, headlined by the number one team in the country in Montverde Academy. The tournament did not disappoint, providing spectators with a plethora of close games and matchups between high-major recruits. Let’s recap what happened at the event.
David West Bracket
The tournament’s headlining bracket was the David West bracket, named after the longtime NBA star who played his high school ball in North Carolina. The bracket’s main attraction was the aforementioned Montverde Academy from Florida, the number one team in the country led by the best player in high school basketball, Cade Cunningham. This isn’t a one-man team, however; the rest of the roster is filled out with four- and five-star recruits of various classes, including North Carolina commit Day’Ron Sharpe, Florida State commit Scottie Barnes, and Arkansas commit Moses Moody, among many others. The bracket’s other headliner was New Jersey’s Patrick School, the number four team in the country led by the top recruit in 2021, forward Jonathan Kuminga.
These two teams – the only two in the bracket that didn’t hail from North Carolina – would end up meeting in the championship, but there was not a lack of exciting games along the way, especially those involving Kuminga’s squad. In the first round, they matched up with Apex Friendship, led by North Carolina State commit Nick Farrar. Apex held a one-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining and looked primed for a huge upset behind Farrar’s 35 points, but The Patrick School would end up pulling away at the end for a 70-64 win. Kuminga finished the game with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
In the second round, The Patrick School met up with Farmville Central, who beat the hosting Broughton High School in the first round, and another NC State commit in Terquavion Smith. Kuminga and his team once again experienced a scare, as the game would go to overtime, but they once again emerged victorious in an 83-76 victory. Kuminga finished with 28 points, while Smith led the game in scoring with 30 points. It was Farmville’s first loss in over 40 games.
Montverde, meanwhile, experienced no trouble in their first two games, beating Durham Academy by 44 and then Millbrook, who defeated reigning state champion Greenfield in the first round, by 29. Prior to the tournament, Millbrook – like Farmville – had been on a massive win streak of nearly 40 games but saw it promptly ended by the number one team in the country. Montverde managed to put forth a balanced scoring attack in both games.
The championship game between Montverde and Patrick School was, on paper, perhaps the event’s biggest game in history. However, it proved not to live up to the hype, as Montverde dominated from the very beginning and would go on to win by their biggest margin of the tournament, 77-32. Kuminga, who still managed to score 21 points, and his team were booed off of the floor, and Montverde provided us with an assertive performance which showed that they may just be the best high school basketball team ever assembled.
— Holiday Invitational (@JohnWallHoliday) December 31, 2019
The All-Tournament team for the David West bracket consisted of Millbrook’s Nick Felton and Eric van der Heijden, Farmville’s Justin Wright and Samage Teel, Montverde’s Caleb Houstan, Moses Moody, and Day’Ron Sharpe, and Apex’s Nick Farrar. The Most Valuable Player was Montverde’s Cade Cunningham, while the Most Outstanding Player was Patrick School’s Jonathan Kuminga.
TJ Warren Bracket
The second of the two brackets was named after TJ Warren, a former lottery pick from NC State who won an ACC Player of the Year award in 2014. This bracket didn’t have a dominant team like Montverde and provided a more competitive field; however, it did have a high-profile national squad in Hillcrest Prep from Arizona, which rosters the likes of Makur Maker, Mike Foster, Puff Johnson, and Dalen Terry, among other high-major recruits.
The first round brought quite a few exciting games. Callaway, from Mississippi, beat Carter Whitt’s Leesville Road team behind 30 points from Daeshun Ruffin. Isaiah Todd and Word of God beat Holly Springs in a low-scoring affair. Moravian Prep, led by a duo of NC State commits in Josh Hall and Shakeel Moore, managed to beat Kinston despite a 30-point effort from Dontrez Styles. Hillcrest survived a legitimate scare from Combine Academy, which is led by new Pittsburgh commit Jalen Hood-Schifino.
The second round brought a matchup between the 6’10 Todd and the 5’9 Ruffin as Word of God faced off against Callaway. Todd’s squad would end up winning the matchup in overtime, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from Ruffin, who led the game with 27 points. The other matchup was between Hillcrest and a Moravian. While the latter’s high-profile duo produced a combined 48 points, Hillcrest’s balanced attack proved too much to overcome, as they came away with a 69-65 victory.
The championship, then, gave us a matchup between Hillcrest and North Carolina’s own Word of God, which naturally had most of the crowd on its side. Unfortunately, they found themselves playing from behind for the majority of the game, and a late surge wasn’t enough to give them a victory. 2021 forward Michael Foster scored 23 points in a 67-63 championship win for Hillcrest.
The All-Tournament team for the TJ Warren bracket consisted of Combine’s Robert Dillingham, Word of God’s Chase Forte, Hillcrest’s Michael Foster and Makur Maker, Leesville’s Chase Hakerem, Moravian’s Josh Hall, Callaway’s Daeshun Ruffin, and Kinston’s Dontrez Styles. The bracket Most Valuable Player was Hillcrest’s Puff Johnson, while the Most Outstanding Player was Word of God’s Isaiah Todd.