Pharaohs to make serious run at GS nationals

Pharaohs to make serious run at GS nationals
March 24
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
The Pharaohs get a boost for the Grind Session Nationals with the return of starting point guard Renathan Ona Embo who was sidelined for a little over three weeks with an ankle injury.



Getting the opportunity to play for a national championship has been the driving force behind Quality Education Academy’s basketball team all season long. Now that the opportunity has presented itself, the Pharaohs are not satisfied with being part of the elite 12-team field.

They believe they have the wherewithal to win it all.

The regular season provides ample evidence to support their assertion. QEA went 7-3 against teams who participated in the Grind Session tour that featured stops in 17 cities across the U.S. and Canada. The national championships, which will be played in Lawrence, Kan., tips-off today and ends Sunday.

Since QEA is very familiar with everyone else’s personnel, there is no “awe factor” involved. The talent level in this tournament is said to be the best of high school hoops in America. College scouts agree. Each team has at least one primetime, major-college prospect who’s rated as a four-star or five-star recruit.

For QEA, Deshawn Corprew is the key factor. Corprew, a 6-5 shooting guard, is rated among the nation’s Top 100 players. In recent months, he’s attracted intense interest from Kansas, Louisville, Texas A&M, UCLA and a growing list of other top-tier programs.

Aside from Corprew, here’s a sampling of the talent pool that will play at the GS nationals:

*Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep): The 6-7 shooting guard is rated No. 1 by college scouts for Class of 2016. He’s narrowed his choice of schools to Kansas, Arizona and Michigan State.

*Rawle Alkins (Word of God): Former New York City Player of the Year has committed to Arizona. The 6-5 shooting guard ranks among the nation’s Top 20 and is heavily recruited by Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, N.C. State and Louisville, among others.

*Thon Maker (Athlete Institute): Scouts continue to drool over the 7-foot power forward, who is originally from South Sudan. Maker possesses the complete offensive skill set (shoot, dribble, drive and pass). Kansas, Arizona State, St. John’s and a host of others are keenly interested in adding him to their respective folds.

*DeAndre Ayton (Hillcrest Academy): Widely acknowledged as the top player in the Class of 2017. The 6-10 junior post player has offers from most of the power-house programs. According to reports, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky are in hot pursuit to sign him.

*Advanced Prep International: Terrance Ferguson (shooting guard), Billy Preston (power for-ward) and Trevan Duval (point guard) are all ranked among the nation’s Top 15. Kansas is heavily recruiting all three.

“I think we lost three games in the Grind Session by a total of six points,” said coach Isaac Pitts of QEA. “The final outcome wasn’t determined until near the end of those games. It came down to at shot a buzzer, or a play here, or a play there. So, I’m confident that we can Pitts understands that regular season success doesn’t necessarily translate to the post-season. Even so, he’s acutely aware that his team must excel in certain areas to boost its chances of bringing home a national championship trophy.

“For us, it’s a must that we execute on the often play man-to-man on us. Not only that, but we have to get back to playing sound defense. That means making the right rotations in our help-side defense, getting into the passing lanes. Plus, every player must keep up with their individual assignments.”

QEA players look for-ward to the challenge to proving themselves as bona fide title contenders on a national stage. Pape Ndiaye, a 6-9 power for-ward, likes his team’s chances.

“It all comes down to going out there and playing hard,” said Ndiaye, who’s beginning to round into form after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. “We have great players and we feel like we can win it. It’s all about us communicating on defense. That’s the key.”

Corprew, who averaged a little over 30 points a game during the regular season, believes that maintaining the status quo will help QEA achieve its season-long objective to bag a national crown. “We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ll stay aggressive and play hard to get that (championship) ring. As for me, I’ll keep my focus on running my team and being a leader.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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