FROSTBURG — It’s a wide open field stocked with as much talent and championship pedigree as any before it as the 53rd annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament tips off today, 4 p.m., when Virginia Independent Schools champion Benedictine College Prep, of Richmond, takes on Baltimore Catholic League regular-season and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champion St. Frances Academy at Frostburg State University’s Bobcat Arena.
Game 2, at 5:45 p.m., features Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion, and three-time ACIT champion, Bishop O’Connell, of Arlington, Va., and Mount St. Joseph, the Baltimore Catholic League champion. At 7:30 p.m., five-time ACIT champion and undefeated regular-season WCAC champion Gonzaga plays Cumberland’s Bishop Walsh, the co-champion of the Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference, before the La Lumiere Lakers, of LaPorte, Ind., and the No. 8 team in the country, make their ACIT debut against 21-time and defending ACIT champion DeMatha at 9:15 p.m.
Benedictine (31-4) vs. St. Frances (31-5)
Robert Churchwell III, 1990 ACIT Most Outstanding Player for Gonzaga, and who played for Georgetown and one season in the NBA, succeeded Sean McAloon as the Benedictine head coach and welcomed nine new players to the varsity roster, with senior combo player Charles “L.G.” Gill being the only starter who has been at Benedictine four years.
Robert Johnson, 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard, has led the Cadets, averaging 16.7 points, 2.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals. He is Virginia’s No. 6-rated player in class of 2014 and has received college offers from James Madison, UNC Greensboro, Radford and Virginia Commonwealth. Gill, 6-6 forward, averages 14 points and five rebounds and had an offer from Kennesaw State. Khris Lane, 6-7, 240-pound forward averages 12 points and seven rebounds.
St. Frances, ranked No. 2 in the Baltimore Sun poll, stormed to the MIAA A regular season (15-1) and tournament titles, as well as the BCL regular-season title with a 13-1 mark before being upset in the quarterfinals of the BCL tournament by eighth-seeded Mount Carmel, 59-50.
The Panthers are led this year by first-team All-BCL selection Tevon Saddler, 6-5, 220-pound small forward, who has signed with UNC-Greensboro. Maurice White, 6-4, 200-pound guard, leads the team in scoring, was named second-team All-BCL and has committed to Loyola University in Baltimore. Dwayne Morgan, 6-4, 200-pound junior forward, is ranked in the top 50 nationally in the class of 2014 and will announce his college decision on April 5, with possible destinations being Maryland, Indiana, Missouri, Seton Hall, South Florida and UNLV.
O’Connell (27-7) vs. Mount St. Joe (30-6)
Terps fans will get an early glimpse of Bishop O’Connell’s Melo Trimble, 6-2, 175-pound junior guard, who committed to the University of Maryland in December. Trimble averages 20.3 points a game and has hit 89 three-point goals, third most in the Metro area. A first-team All-WCAC selection, he scored 33 points in the WCAC title game win over St. John’s.
Senior Junior Etou, 6-7, 220 pounds, along with sophomore All-WCAC pick Leroy Butts, provide the Knights with a strong post presence. Etou is averaging 14.8 points a game, and Butts 10.6 rebounds to lead the WCAC. Etou has received offers from Maryland, Kansas State, Clemson, Miami, Temple, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers, Southern Cal and Xavier.
O’Connell is ranked No. 3 in The Washington Post poll.
The Gaels, No. 3 in Baltimore, won their fifth BCL title under Coach Pat Clatchey and are led by two guards Kam Williams and Phil Booth.
Williams, 6-3, 175-pound senior and second-team All-ACIT last year, signed with Ohio State in November. He is rated No. 58 in ESPN.com’s Top 100 and averages 21 points a game. Booth, 6-4, 165-pound junior, is the BCL Defensive Player of the Year and averages over 15 points a game at shooting guard. Among the schools recruiting him are Georgetown, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers, Seton Hall, SMU, South Florida, Temple and Villanova with interest from Florida and Louisville.
Juniors Jaylen Adams and Kyle Doran have both received offers from Mount St. Mary’s, with Doran also being offered by Army.
Gonzaga (25-4) vs. Bishop Walsh (21-7)
Gonzaga, No. 2 in Washington and only the third team to go unbeaten in the WCAC regular season, once more is led by 6-6, 250-pound senior Kris Jenkins, the WCAC Player of the Year, who averages 18.6 points a game, and who has committed to Villanova. Jenkins, the top scorer in last year’s ACIT with 74 points, with a tournament-high game of 38, is also an outstanding rebounder, averaging over 10 per game. Jenkins is the No. 59-rated national recruit in the ESPN Top 100.
Charles Glover, 6-1 senior guard and headed to Mount St. Mary’s, averages 11.1 points a game. Sophomore Bryant Crawford, 6-2 guard, has offers from Connecticut, Georgetown, Indiana, Penn State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida and Texas. Senior Tavon Blackmon is headed to Brown, while 6-7 junior Jordan Abdur Ra’oof has received offers from Brown, George Washington and Kennesaw State.
Bishop Walsh, which also has a share of the Cumberland League title, has been led 6-6 senior forward Quincy Redmon and guard 6-0 Liam Rhodes. Redmon, who averages 15 points a game, became the first BW player since Barry Page (1985-88), who still holds the ACIT rebounding record with 60, to score over 1,000 career points and collect over 1,000 career rebounds, despite missing over two-thirds of his junior season with a knee injury.
Rhodes, the team captain, leads the Spartans in scoring with just under 17 points per game. The Most Outstanding Player of the Mid-Atlantic Tournament in Hagerstown, which the Spartans won, Rhodes led the City League in scoring this season at 17.5.
DeMatha (13-14) vs. LaLumiere (24-3)
Defending champion DeMatha enters the tournament with a sub-.500 record for the first time in 10 years, thanks in part to four losses coming on buzzer-beating shots.
The Stags are led by 6-9, 275-pound center BeeJay Anya, who has signed with North Carolina State, and guard Jairus Lyles, who committed to Virginia Commonwealth.
A first-team All-WCAC pick, Anya, was first-team All-ACIT a year ago after leading the field in rebounds with 32. He averages 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots per game. Anya, whose wingspan measures 7-feet, 9-inches, is rated 69th in the country in the ESPN 100.
Lyles, 6-2 four-star guard, who is second-team All-WCAC, averages over 12 points a game and scored 16 points in the Stags’ ACIT title-game win over Paul VI last year. Having played combo guard at DeMatha, Lyles will be a shooting guard at VCU.
La Lumiere, ranked No. 8 in the country by USA Today and No. 9 by ESPN, comes to the ACIT with one of the top backcourts in the nation, featuring 6-3 senior Jalen James and 6-3 senior Detrick Mostella.
Mostella, who committed to Oklahoma State, is a four-star recruit and Rivals.com’s 68th-rated player in the nation, and the No. 22 shooting guard. James has received offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Tulane, Cleveland State, Charleston and Western Kentucky. Torren James, the 6-9 power forward, has committed to the University of Missouri.
Johnathon Wilkins, 6-11 junior, has offers from Auburn, Bradley, Marquette, Miami, Villanova, while Sam Logwood, 6-6 small forward, has offers from Miami-Ohio, Radford, IUPUI, Buffalo, New Orleans, Indiana State, Auburn and Bradley, and has drawn attention from Purdue, Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, UNC-Greensboro, Detroit, Indiana and Michigan State.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com