Editor's Note: For schedules, brackets and more tourney info, please visit: tarkanianclassic.com
1. Point Guard Matchups In Prep Division
There are over 70 teams in the prep division at Tark and there is an abundance of quality lead guards. Scouts and NBA personnel will want to lock their eyes on the matchup between SoCal Academy (Valencia, Calif.) and Canyon International Academy (Chandler, Ariz.) on Dec. 17 at Gorman. That game will pit Creighton-bound 6-foot-3 2024 Larry Johnson of SoCal Academy vs. Miles Sadler, a 5-foot-10 2026 from CIA who is a blur with the ball. Johnson is a combo downhill scoring threat and will be the one of the best individual talents in the prep division. Sadler is getting hands-on training playing in the EYBL Scholastic high school league and Tark will be a big platform for him to shine. A FAB 50 showdown will take place Dec. 16 between No. 4 Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) and No. 15 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.). That will pit Prolific Prep's Zoom Diallo, a 6-foot-4 do-it-all performer who is still undecided and looking to earn a McDonald's All-American berth, vs. 6-foot-2 2025 Jeremiah Fears, a fearless competitor who played well versus No. 1 Montverde Academy in a recent EYBLS game. Fears can be considered more of a combo, but most colleges are playing with three guards or their two best guards, regardless of position, nowadays, so he'll be highly-coveted when its time to choose his next level destination.
2. Will A Vegas High School Team Step Up?
There is no secret that, talent-wise, teams in the Las Vegas Valley are down this year. No NIAA team came close to cracking the preseason FAB 50 and in recent seasons two or three teams were always on the cusp of the rankings. Host Bishop Gorman, which fell in last year's Platinum Division title game to West Ranch (Valencia, Calif.) and won the title three times in four tournaments prior, is one of the dark horses that feels it has a chance. If the Gaels can get by Sagemont (Weston, Fla.), they like their chances between the winner of Desert Mountain (Ariz.) and Campbell Hall (Calif.). Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) is a slight underdog against St. Pius-St. Matthias (Downey, Calif.), as the Cougars must slow down the inside-out combination of 6-foot-5 San Francisco-bound wing Tyrone Riley and 6-foot-8 2025 power forward Doug Langford. Arbor View (Las Vegas) might be the best local team, but it will have its hands full with FAB 50 No. 19 Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.). San Diego St.-bound Pharaoh Compton is a load to handle, but it will take a player such as 6-foot-1 2025 Trammell Darden, Jr. or 6-foot 2024 Maximus Romero stepping up big-time in order to pull off the upset of the tourney's highest-ranked team. Gorman has the best chance to advance in the winner's bracket of the three local clubs.
3. Will Bishop O'Connell (Va.) Live Up to Expectations?
For the first time since perhaps the 2015 Tark Classic, when Overland (Aurora, Col.) took the top division title, the field in the Platinum Division is wide open. As many as 10 teams should feel they have a legitimate shot at capturing the Platinum title, with O'Connell the slight favorite. Still, outside of Overland, no other teams besides Gorman and California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) clubs have won the championship since the tourney began in 2012, so the Knights have something to prove. They also have to bounce back from a 59-58 loss on Dec. 14 at the Western Maryland Hoops Classic to FAB 50 bubble club and EYBLS member Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.). Bryson Tucker, a 6-foot-6 2024 small forward, missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer vs. Brewster, but he'll be one of the difference-makers in the Platinum bracket. Jayden Harris, another unsigned 6-foot-6 2024, has been getting things done for coach Joe Wootten's club while Quincy Wadley, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, will be one of the best sophomores in the event. O'Connell could meet FAB 50 No. 44 Alta (Sandy, Utah) in a semifinal contest, but first the Utah club has to worry about handling the pressure defense of two-time defending Tark divisional champ Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.), which is in the main division for the first time. Clovis West-Alta gets our vote as the best first round matchup.
4. Can Desert Mountain (Ariz.) Keep Up its Momentum?
If anything, the Wolves are exciting to watch and are also an excellent team despite their youth. This Scottsdale, Ariz.-based club has a never-say-die attitude and terrific perimeter scoring punch. This team has only one senior starter (5-foot-8 Ryan Dick) and he didn't take a field goal shot in Desert Mountain's overtime victory over highly-regarded Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) that knocked that club out of the FAB 50. The Wolves' first-round game vs. Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) will be a track meet with the quality guards on display for both teams. Campbell Hall is looking to stop a three-game slide against national level teams and must slow down the brother combination of 6-foot-3 2026 sophomore Kaden House and 6-foot-2 sophomore Kalek House. The opposition is going to find out 6-foot Jabron Bardwell and 6-foot-3 Javon Bardwell, freshmen (2027) brothers, are difference-makers, as well. If Desert Mountain can keep the turnover count low, it would give itself a solid chance to make the semifinals.
5. There are Plenty of Prospects To Scout In The HS Division
With 126 high school teams from across the country, there is plenty of talent for college coaches and pro scouts to evaluate. NBA scouts will mostly be intrigued by the underclassmen to track down the line. In addition to the previously mentioned names, the Platinum Division contains a plethora of prospects that have the ability to play at some level of D1 ball. Those players include: 6-foot-7 2026 Kevin Thomas and 6-foot-6 2025 Patrick Liburd of Sagemont (Weston, Fla.), Illinois-bound 6-foot-4 2024 Jase Butler and 6-foot-1 2025 Semetri Carr of Branson (Ross, Calif.), 6-foot-7 2024 Kendyl Sanders, 6-foot-7 2026 Tajh Ariza, 6-foot-2 2025 Caleb Versher and 6-foot-7 2026 Christian Malachi Collins of St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Calif.), 6-foot-7 2024 Shon Abaev of Calvary Christian (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Arizona-bound 6-foot-9 2024 Carter Bryant and a trio of sophomores from Centennial (Corona, Calif.), including 6-foot-3 2026 Isaiah Rogers, UC San Diego-bound 6-foot-3 2024 Ryder Elisaldez and 6-foot-1 2025 Nick Jefferson of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), 6-foot-4 2024 Tanner Jones and Cal Poly SLO-bound 6-foot-2 2024 Aaron Powell of Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.), 6-foot-3 2024 Josiah Cunningham and 6-foot-10 2025 Tee Bartlett of Coronado (Henderson, Nev.), Utah-bound 6-foot-8 2024 Jaxon Johnson and 5-foot-11 2024 Ace Reiser of Alta (Sandy, Utah), 6-foot-1 2025 D.J. Stickman of Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.), Cal-St. Fullerton-bound 6-foot-2 2024 LoLo Rudolph and 6-foot-1 2026 Jaiden Bailes of St. Augustine (San Diego, Calif.) and 6-foot 2025 Anthony Knowles and 6-foot-5 2024 Christian Reid of Mater Lakes (Miami, Fla.).
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores
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