The Georgia high school basketball season came to an end last weekend, but DeKalb County’s Class 5A state champions Miller Grove Wolverines get the opportunity to play three more games beginning on March 31 in New York City as the No. 6 seed in the 8th annual Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals Invitational.
The 30-2 Wolverines earned the bid via a seventh state championship in eight seasons (Class 4A 2009-2012, Class 5A 2013-14, 2016) and a final USA Today Super 25 Boys’ High School Basketball Expert Ratings of 17th.
It is the first invitation for the Wolverines and they give the tournament its second consecutive year with a Georgia representative after Wheeler’s campaign to play in the tournament was successful a year ago.
“I’m extremely excited for our guys to get this opportunity,” said Miller Grove Head Coach Sharman White. “It is great to see them achieve a goal they set before the season, one that no one knew about but us. They’ve worked hard and earned this opportunity to play against some of the top teams in the country.”
Miller Grove plays in the nightcap on Thursday, March 31st at 6:00 pm with a match up against the No. 3 seeded Findlay Prep Pilots (28-1) from Henderson, Nevada at Christ the King High School in New York.
Findlay Prep is a veteran of the tournament making its eighth consecutive appearance. The Pilots have won the tournament four times including the first two (2009-10) and the fourth (2012). The three time champion is 12-4 in its seven previous appearances
Senior point guard Skylar Mays (LSU commit) is the floor leader for Findlay averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. He is joined by UNLV commit shooting guard Carlos Johnson (14.7 ppg) and Baylor commit power forward Tristan Clark (9.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
Juniors shooting guard Markus Howard (18.6 ppg, 3.4 apg) and power forward P.J. Washington (16.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg) are at the top of the scoring and rebounding lists for the Pilots.
The Wolverines counter with their big senior trio of guards Alterique Gilbert (20.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 4.3 spg) and Aaron Augustin (10.0 ppg, 8.1 apg, 4.0 spg) and power forward Raylon Richardson (9.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.1 bpg). The three led the Wolverines back to the Class 5A state championship for the third time in four seasons after missing out in 2015.
Gilbert is an UConn signee as well as a 2016 McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American and Georgia Class 5A First Team All-State player. He became the first DeKalb County player to join the 2,000 points (2,096), 500 rebounds (600), 500 assists (710), and 500 steals (550) club. Gilbert is the only boys’ McDonald’s All-American playing in the tournament.
Junior Naquante Hardy (10.0 ppg) and senior Colin Young (10.6 ppg) add more offense to the Wolverines’ attack.
Only six states have jumped on board with the idea of sending their affiliated schools to the Dick’s Nationals tournament, they are Arizona, Florida, Utah, Georgia, North Carolina independent, and South Carolina independent schools. Other teams allowed to participate include schools that are not associated with a state athletic association such as Oak Hill Academy (OH), Findlay Prep (NV), Montverde Academy (FL), and others.
The rest of the field includes No. 1 seed 25-1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL), the reigning three-time champion, No. 2 seed 41-1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA), No. 4 seed 31-1 St. Benedict’s Prep ( Newark, NJ), No. 5 seed 24-3 La Lumiere (LaPorte, IN), No. 7 seed 29-3 Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, UT) and No. 8 seed 30-3 Providence Day (Charlotte, NC).
The opening round games all televised on ESPNU include St. Benedict’s vs. La Lumiere (12:00 pm), Oak Hill vs. Wasatch Academy (2:00 pm), Montverde vs. Providence Day (4:00 pm) and Miller Grove vs. Findlay Prep (6:00 pm).
The semifinal games are also at Christ the King and on ESPNU at 3:00 and 5:00 pm on April 1 with the championship game set for 12:00 pm at Madison Square Garden and televised by ESPN.
Teams in the tournament get the all-expenses paid trip to New York with a stay in the Westin Grand Central. They arrived in New York on Wednesday (March 30) and will also get sightseeing tours in the Big Apple.
“The opportunity to play more basketball together and all the educational opportunities for them in New York is a great reward for this group of players,” White said. “They get to see a different part of the country and see how different it is to where they grew up.”