Even though I will be there in person, sitting in coat and tie on the Montrose bench as I have for the past 6 years, I have already set my DVR for 7:00pm on ESPN2 for this Friday.  I suggest you do the same. Why? You don’t want to miss the most anticipated high school basketball game of the year–Oak Hill Academy vs. Montrose Christian.  This game has the potential to be an instant classic.

Let me set the stage.  Oak Hill, led by Oklahoma bound All American Keith “Tiny” Gallon and Virginia Tech bound All American Lamont “Mo Mo” Jones is currently 36-0 and ranked nationally in USA Today (#3), ESPN (#2), and Prep Nation (#2).  Montrose, led by two Villanova bound studs, Isaiah Armwood and All American Mouph Yarou, is currently 20-1 and ranked #1 in the Washington Post and ranked nationally in USA Today (#6), ESPN (#9), and Prep Nation (#4).  And Montrose’s only loss was to Oak Hill in double OT in the championship game of the Iolani Classic in Hawaii right before Christmas! Both Oak Hill and Montrose are in the hunt for a 2009 National Championship; so this game has unbelievable significance.
This game could be an instant classic because of what happened 3 years ago. People are still talking about the epic battle that took place in DC on March 4, 2006.  I have been around elite level basketball the past 10 years and that game was, hands down, the most electric experience I have ever been a part of.  I still get goose bumps every time I think about it.
Before a sell-out crowd of 4,000 at Coolidge High School in Washington DC, Montrose rallied from being down 16 in the 4th quarter to hit a game winning put back as time expired to beat Oak Hill by 2 points, 74-72.  At the time, Oak Hill was on a 56 game winning streak and was 40-0; ranked #1 in the nation by every publication.  In addition to the buzzer beater finish, the reason that game will go down in history as one of the most memorable ever, was because of the high caliber players who played. Oak Hill’s starting five was one of the most remarkable high school teams of all time, featuring Tywon Lawson (UNC), Nolan Smith (Duke), Landon Milbourne (Maryland), Jeff Allen (Virginia Tech), and Michael Beasley (Miami Heat).  Montrose had some talent too, led by Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Adrian Bowie (Maryland), and last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder).  Are those line-ups ridiculous or what?  And that was a high school game!
The reason Montrose was able to do the impossible and rally from what appeared to be an insurmountable lead against the best team in that nation was because of communication, toughness, and competitiveness. These traits are stressed at Montrose all year long, in our summer and pre-season workouts, in our individual skill sessions, and in our practices.  Not only was the gym slam packed and was standing room only, there was a DJ spinning records at every dead ball.  It was so loud our players couldn’t hear Coach Vetter from the sideline.  But they still found a way to communicate effectively with each other.  Hand signals, eye contact, and extra tight huddles before every free throw kept our guys on the same page at all times.  And our players were tough. 
A turning point in the game happened in the 4th quarter when our Japanese born point guard, Taishi Ito (5’ 9”, 155lbs) stepped in and took a charge from Michael Beasley (6’ 7”, 230 lbs).  Beasley had a full head of steam running on a fast break, like a freight train, and Taishi sacrificed his body to help the team.  And in my humble opinion, and this is nothing against the Oak Hill players…as Tywon, Nolan, Jeff and Mike are all long time clients of mine in the off season, but Montrose competed harder down the stretch and flat out wanted it more.  After a jawing match between Tywon and Greivis during a dead ball (in which the referees had to separate them), Tywon took the inbounds pass, broke Greivis down with a sick crossover, and went straight down the lane for a one handed tomahawk dunk…only to be (literally) tackled out of mid air by a freshman, Terrell Vinson.  It was an NBA playoff type foul and was the epitome of how hard our kids competed.  Every possession mattered and we were not going to give up a dunk.
Another reason the legend of that game will live forever is because of the rich history each program and coach have as a whole. Oak Hill and Montrose are two of the most dominant programs in high school basketball with two of the most decorated coaches in history; Steve Smith of Oak Hill and Stu Vetter of Montrose Christian.  Both coaches hover around the 800 win mark, both have sent well over 100 players to play Division-I basketball, both have numerous players in the NBA (Oak Hill–Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, and Rajon Rondo and Montrose–Linas Kleiza and Kevin Durant).  Oak Hill has won 6 national titles in the past 15 years and Coach Vetter led programs have won 2.  Both coaches have been named the National High School Basketball Coach of the Year on several occasions.  Both programs are sponsored by Jordan Brand and have been Nike Elite programs since the concept was incepted.  This game will be a true clash of the titans.
This game will be a war from start to finish as Montrose is focused on avenging the double OT loss in Hawaii and Oak Hill tries to prove that game was no fluke and they are the nation’s best team. The battle of the big men, Tiny vs. Mouph will be intense, as both are not only strong and powerful but have tremendous footwork and finesse around the basket.  And heralded freshman Justin Anderson (ranked the #1 freshman in the nation by most scouting services) will be one of many assigned to stop Mo Mo; who erupted for 40 points (mostly from long range) last time these two teams squared off.
To paraphrase Chocolate Thunder, there will be game delayin’, backboards swayin’, bodies flyin’ and babies cryin’… 
Don’t miss it.  Friday March 6, 2009 at Georgetown Prep on ESPN2.
If you would like to contact me about this blog, my training and/or camps and clinics, please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com.  I will respond as quickly as possible!
Train hard.  Train smart.
Alan Stein