No. 1-ranked Montverde Academy wins City of Palms as Kevin Boyle may have best team ever | Zagsblog
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Friday / May 29.
  • No. 1-ranked Montverde Academy wins City of Palms as Kevin Boyle may have best team ever

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    Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the program for the City of Palms Classic and was updated after Montverde won the title over IMG Academy.

    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Kevin Boyle has brought some loaded teams to the City of Palms Classic over the years.

    But it’s possible this current squad could be his best ever. Montverde Academy is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Super 25 Boys Basketball Rankings and features more than half a dozen players who could spend time in NBA training camps. Oklahoma State-bound senior point guard Cade Cunningham is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, according to ESPN.com.

    “Our talent this year is very deep and very versatile which makes the team potentially very good because we have a team that could switch almost every position on defense,” Boyle said. “We have potentially probably seven or eight guys that will end up in minimally in an NBA camp one day, if not greater. So we have a lot of talent, a lot of versatility and they are incredible at sharing the basketball, not caring who scores. And if they could keep that same attitude, it could make for a team that hopefully could compete for our fifth [Geico High School] National Championship.”

    Boyle has been synonymous with the City of Palms over the years, both during his tenure at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., and, beginning in 2011, at Montverde, which is only about three hours from the tournament.

    In 17 appearances at City of Palms, Boyle has now won five titles after Montverde beat IMG Academy, 63-55, in the final on Dec. 23. The only other coaches to win multiple tournament titles since the name change in 1987 are Ed Azzam (LA Westchester), who won it three times, and Gary McKnight (Mater Dei) who won it twice.

    Still, it took Boyle 10 attempts with St. Pat’s to win his first title in 2010, and even then it came as the result of a broken play.

    Jarrel Lane, a 6-foot senior who hadn’t taken a single shot all game, hit a 3-pointer from the right wing on a broken play in the final seconds to give the Celtics a 69-67 victory over Milton (GA) as the Celtics won their first City of Palms crown in six finals appearances.

    St. Pat’s had previously lost in the championship in 1994, ‘96, ‘97, ‘02 and ‘08.

    “It’s exciting, very exciting,” Lane said at the time. “Not even for the shot, for the team, the program. St. Patrick has been coming here for 10 years. I’m definitely excited about that. My teammates work so hard.”

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who went on to play at Kentucky and is now with the Charlotte Hornets,was named MVP after finishing with 25 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

    After leaving the Jersey school for the warmer confines of Montverde, Boyle played City of Palms six straight years from 2011-16. He opted to take his team to Hawaii in 2017 and ‘18.

    Montverde previously won City of Palms in 2012, ‘13 and ‘16, while losing to Wheeler (GA) in the 2014 final and to Chino Hills (CA) in the 2015 quarterfinals. LiAngelo, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball combined for 77 points in that 83-82 win over No. 1-ranked Montverde. LaMelo Ball is now in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft while spending this season playing in the Australian NBL.

    “The City of Palms is traditionally the best, or one of the best, tournaments every single year in high school basketball,” Boyle said. “Donnie Wilkie and the tournament have done a terrific job of consistently getting highly-ranked teams and finding teams that will end up being state champions or ranked in that season. They do a great job of finding teams that are coming up. Donnie travels throughout the country, really researches it and is as good as anybody at finding the next best teams to attend his tournaments.”

    There will be plenty of challengers to Montverde in this year’s event, including IMG Academy, ranked No. 6 by USA Today and Montverde’s potential opponent in the final. Archbishop Stepinac, ranked No. 25, features North Carolina-bound senior point guard R.J. Davis, and Duke-bound junior forward A.J. Griffin, who recently combined for 70 points in a game.

    “Being at Montverde already, there’s a big target on your back and being No. 1 makes that a bit larger,” Boyle said. “But I’d always rather start there and see if we’re good enough to be able to withstand the competition throughout the year. Our talent this year is very deep and very versatile which makes the team potentially very good.”

    Cunningham is the No. 2-ranked player in the Class of 2020 and recently made news by picking Oklahoma State over Kentucky and other suitors. His brother, Cannen Cunningham, was hired this past summer to Mike Boynton’s staff.

    “To be honest, I was this close to picking a different school, but blood is always thicker than water,” Cunningham said when he committed. “Go Pokes.”

    Boyle has coached six top-3 NBA Draft picks since 2011 – more than any coach anywhere other than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski – and Cunningham is now in line to become his seventh. That list includes former No. 1 picks Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, No. 2s Kidd-Gilchrist and D’Angelo Russell and No. 3s Joel Embiid and R.J. Barrett.

    “I think potentially this team has two potential lottery picks in Cade Cunningham, who looks very sure being the No. 1 mock draft pick in the recent NBA mock,” Boyle said. “And also Scottie Barnes who’s placed in that first round.

    “Cade is in a situation where he’s a big point guard,” Boyle added. “Kind of like Ben, his best position would be playing the point at the NBA level and we kind of tried to put him there last year and this year like we did Ben when he was a senior. I think it’s best for their careers and eventually best for the team.

    “And again, he could possibly be the National Player of the Year. That would be amazing if it happened because it would be our third guy in six years as the National Player of the Year if that came to fruition.”

    Boyle also thinks the Florida State-bound Barnes could be a lottery pick in 2021. The 6-8 Barnes is currently projected at No. 26 by ESPN.com.

    “Scottie could be the premier defensive player in high school basketball and he also rebounds very well,” Boyle said. “I think those two things could get him on a court very quickly in the NBA and be very productive early, as opposed to a lot of offensive players that don’t produce in the NBA. He’s a real safe bet to be productive in the NBA.”

    Montverde also features North Carolina-bound forward Day’Ron Sharpe, Arkansas-bound guard Moses Moody, shooting guard Langston Love, junior point guard Ryan Nembhard and a pair of sophomore five-stars in shooting guard Dariq Whitehead and wing Caleb Houstan. If the NBA’s one-and-done rule goes away by 2022, Whitehead could go straight to the Association, Boyle believes.

    That will be more than a handful for most high school opponents to stop.

    As for Boyle himself, many have wondered over the years if he would ever leave Montverde to coach in the college ranks. He was briefly linked to the Rutgers opening in his home state of New Jersey before Steve Pikiell was hired in 2016.

    “I’m really happy at Montverde Academy and at this point in my life, it would take a really unusual circumstance for me not to be at Montverde Academy,” he said.

    So there you have it. Boyle isn’t going anywhere for the time being and is looking forward to racking up more City of Palms titles and more national championships.

    Photo:  Catalina Fragoso, USA TODAY Sports

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.