Outside of maybe a foot-long from Casapulla’s and a renewal to my Netflix subscription (“Breaking Bad” deserves a third binge), all I want for Christmas is a three-day pass to the 2017 Slam Dunk To The Beach. This year’s tourney features a truly national lineup, as organizers inked top-notch teams from Vermont to California. Nine states and the District of Columbia are represented in this year’s field, which boasts two of MaxPreps’s top 25 teams nationally, seven of ESPN’s top 100 seniors, two juniors ranked among ESPN’s top 40, and the 15th-rated sophomore in America. Over the next two editions, I will tell you everything you need to know about this year’s Slam slate.
Archbishop Wood (Pa.) Vikings
Location: Warminster, Pa.
Coach: John Mosco
Last year: 28-3, 5A state champion, #20 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-11 Sr F Seth Pinkney (considering Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s), 6-3 Sr G Tyree Pickron (signed with Quinnipiac), 6-4 Sr G Andrew Funk (signed with Bucknell), 6-7 Sr F Karrington Wallace (signed with Central Connecticut St.)
NBA Alumni: None
The Skinny: The Vikings showed up and showed out at last year’s Slam behind a breakout performance from guard Collin Gillespie, upending national power Roselle Catholic and capturing the hearts of the crowd. Although Gillespie has moved on to Villanova, Wood returns plenty of talent in the heady, slashing Pickron and the wiry, shot-swatting Pinkney. Funk, who comes from a family full of college stars, can shoot it with the best of them.
Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) Lions
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Coach: Ed Gonzalez
Last year: 20-7, NYC Catholic semifinalist, #239 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-7 Jr F Justin Champagnie, 6-7 Jr F Julian Champagnie, 5-11 Jr G William Lee, 6-9 Jr C Chad Venning
NBA Alumni: Mark Jackson, Devin Ebanks, Doron Lamb
The Skinny: Some pundits think this is a rebuilding year for the Lions, who lost high-major talents Keith Williams and Markquis Nowell, but the high-flying Champagnie twins look to prove otherwise. Gonzalez’s squad is young, athletic and hungry to make a name for itself.
Bishop McNamara (Md.) Mustangs
Location: Forestville, Md.
Coach: Martin Keithline
Last year: 9-22, #2,915 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-5 Sr F Nigel Marshall (considering Coppin St.), 5-10 Sr G Ibn Williams (considering Coppin St.), 5-11 Jr G Garrett Kirkland, 5-10 Sr G Cam’ron Smith
NBA Alumni: None
The Skinny: Marshall and Williams both transferred from powerhouse St. Anthony (N.J.) to help the Mustangs fill the void left when Maryland-bound twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell left the program. Marshall is a bull of a wing who thrives on contact, while Williams is a crafty lead guard with a good stroke.
Cape Henlopen (Del.) Vikings
Location: Lewes, Del.
Coach: Steve Re
Last year: 15-7, #3,863 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-5 Sr F Randy Rickards, 6-6 Sr F Ian Robertson, 6-3 So G Sh’Kai Chandler, 6-1 Sr G Izaiah Dadzie
NBA Alumni: None
The Skinny: Rickards and Robertson, two of Delaware’s best, lead the charge for a Cape squad with state title aspirations. Rickards thrives on the glass and in transition, while Robertson and Chandler are among four Vikings who hit 20 or more threes last year. Dadzie brings a great feel for the game and canned 40 percent of his long-distance tries a season ago. The tourney hosts are looking for their first Slam win since the event’s rebirth in 2014.
Caravel Academy (Del.) Buccaneers
Location: Bear, Del.
Coach: Mark Tobin
Last year: 18-7, state finalist, #4,014 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-3 Sr G O’Koye Parker, 5-9 Jr G Trevon Alderman, 5-10 Jr G Brandon Sengphachanh
NBA Alumni: None
The Skinny: The 19th-seeded Bucs rode Parker’s 22 points per night and silky three-point stroke to an improbable appearance in the DIAA final in 2016-17. Alderman, one of the state’s premier guards, makes up for his lack of height with freakish athleticism.
Dillard (Fla.) Panthers
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Coach: Darryl Burrows
Last year: 28-4, 7A state champion, #20 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-2 Sr G Bryce Oliver (considering Louisville, Ky. for football), 6-1 Sr G Seth Coddington, 6-3 Sr G Stanley Garner (signed with Kentucky for football), 6-1 Jr Deshawn Bartley, 6-4 Jr F Braylon Ingraham (considering Ohio St., Miami for football)
NBA Alumni: Keyon Dooling
The Skinny: Like many big schools from the Sunshine State, Dillard’s halls are chock-full of pure athletes who excel on both the hardwood and gridiron. Burrows’ bunch lost two high-major talents from last year’s state title team but will look to the sharpshooting Oliver to spark another run. The Panthers make up for their lack of size with quickness and physicality.
Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.) Raiders
Location: Greenbelt, Md.
Coach: Brendan O’Connell
Last year: 19-5, 4A regional semifinalist, #1,273 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-4 Sr G Jaden Faulkner (considering Central Connecticut St., James Madison), 6-3 Jr G Cameron Brown (considering High Point, others), 6-4 Sr G Juston Bailey
NBA Alumni: Delonte West, John Turner, Eddie Basden
The Skinny: Faulkner will carry the Raiders on his broad shoulders - he has a 6-9 wingspan - at the Slam. A self described “big-guard who rebounds and passes well,” Faulkner drives to the cup with reckless abandon and is a ballhawk on the other end. Brown, meanwhile, made 30-plus three-pointers a year ago.
#17 (MaxPreps) Gonzaga College (D.C.) Eagles
Location: Washington, D.C.
Coach: Stephen Turner
Last year: 32-5, DC city champion, #19 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-3 Sr G Prentiss Hubb (signed with Notre Dame; ESPN #92 senior), 6-7 So F Terrance Williams (considering Maryland, Georgetown, North Carolina St.), 6-5 Sr F Myles Dread (signed with Penn St.), 6-6 So F Myles Stute (considering Massachusetts, George Mason), 6-4 Jr G Anwar Gill (considering George Mason, James Madison), 6-6 Sr F Allin Blunt (considering Holy Cross, Colgate)
NBA Alumni: Tom Sluby, Robert Churchwell
The Skinny: One of high school roundball's all-time heavyweights, Gonzaga boasts a roster that more than lives up to its hefty reputation. Although Hubb will miss the season with an ACL tear, the Eagles’ perimeter unit still ranks among the Slam’s - and the country’s - most potent. Williams, ranked among America’s top 50 sophomores, likens his game to that of Boston Celtic Jayson Tatum. Dread is one of the East Coast’s most feared long-range marksmen, Stute brings versatility and scoring punch, and Gill offers high-level defense and length in the backcourt.
Gray Collegiate (S.C.) War Eagles
Location: West Columbia, S.C.
Coach: Dion Bethea
Last year: 17-8, 2A state semifinalist, #680 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-6 Jr F Juwan Gary (considering NC State, Maryland, Georgia; ESPN #29 junior), 6-2 Jr G Tommy Bruner (considering UNLV, East Carolina), 6-0 Jr G Khalil Robinson (considering East Carolina, Charleston Southern), 7-0 Sr C Mezziah Oakman (considering College of Charleston), 6-9 Sr C Michael Marsh, 6-3 Jr G Jalil Robinson
NBA Alumni: None
The Skinny: The Eagles put on a show in a last-second loss to Westtown (Pa.) at last year’s tourney, a 20-slam bonanza that some outlets called the best high school game of the year. Gary, who went for 16 points and eight boards in that one, can score at will and may be the most jaw-dropping dunker in this year’s field. Bruner is a creative scorer and high-level athlete, while newcomers Oakman and Marsh give Gray the size it lacked last season.
Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) Wolverines
Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Coach: David Rebibo
Last year: 23-12, Division II regional semifinalist, #160 MaxPreps ranking
Standouts: 6-6 So G Johnny Juzang (considering USC, UCLA, Miami, Alabama; ESPN #15 sophomore), 6-10 So F Mason Hooks, 6-5 So G Brase Dottin, 5-8 So G Spencer Hubbard
NBA Alumni: Jason Collins, Jarron Collins, Alex Stepheson
The Skinny: The first California squad to attend the revamped Slam, Harvard-Westlake will play four games in three days. Juzang ranks among the most talented scorers in his class, as he’s developed an offensive skill set that belies his age. If he gets hot from the outside, watch out. Hooks delivers double-doubles aplenty, while Dottin does a little bit of everything and Hubbard is a three-point specialist.
*All rankings and college choices as of Dec. 19.
Wednesday, Dec. 27
Smyrna (Del.) vs. Howard (Del.), noon
Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.) vs. Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.), 1:30 p.m.
Caravel (Del.) vs. Saint James (Md.), 3 p.m.
Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) vs. Bishop McNamara (Md.), 5 p.m.
Roselle Catholic (N.J.) vs. Gray Collegiate (S.C.), 6:30 p.m.
Vermont Academy (Vt.) vs. Sidwell Friends (D.C.), 8 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 28
Gonzaga College (D.C.) vs. Harvard-Westlake (Calif.), 11 a.m.
Saint James (Md.) vs. Immaculate Conception (N.J.), 12:30 p.m.
Smyrna (Del.) vs. Roselle Catholic (N.J.), 2 p.m.
St. John’s College (D.C.) vs. John Carroll (Md.), 4 p.m.
Westtown (Pa.) vs. Dillard (Fla.), 5:30 p.m.
Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) vs. Cape Henlopen (Del.), 7 p.m.
Gray Collegiate (S.C.) vs. Vermont Academy (Vt.), 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 29
Dillard (Fla.) vs. Harvard-Westlake (Calif.), noon
Immaculate Conception (N.J.) vs. Archbishop Wood (Pa.), 1:30 p.m.
Bishop McNamara (Md.) vs. Howard (Del.), 3 p.m.
Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) vs. Gonzaga College (D.C.), 5 p.m.
Sidwell Friends (D.C.) vs. Westtown (Pa.), 6:30 p.m.
Caravel (Del.) vs. Cape Henlopen (Del.), 8 p.m.