National prep teams highlight opening night of Flyin’ to the Hoop

Prolific’s Alimamy Koroma (with ball). Prolific Prep (Calif.) defeated IMG Academy (Fla.) 75-71 in the 16th annual Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena in Kettering on Sat., Jan. 13, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dave Briski’s basketball team has already spent close to 20 nights in hotels this season. He’s coaching a high school team, not a college or pro team. His ISA Andrews Osborne team from Northeast Ohio will be at Fairmont High School’s Trent Arena tonight for the opening games of Flyin’ To The Hoop and not sleeping in their own beds.

Briski and other coaches and directors of these national prep teams that travel to events across the country say this life isn’t for every high school basketball player. But for the ones who want this experience, Briski and others like him have a passion for getting their players extra ready for college basketball. Four of these schools will be on the court Friday night with no less than a combined eight 5-star, 14 4-star and four 3-star players. With 6-foot-10 and 6-11 post players, 6-8 wings and sometimes big and always quick point guards, it will look more like college games than high school games.

That’s the point.

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Briski and two of his colleagues at ISA (International Sports Academy) started the program last year in conjunction with Andrews Osborne Academy, a 100-year-old boarding school in Willoughby. AOA provides the education and the basketball staff structures the basketball program as much like a college one as they can. Before starting ISA, they were part of another Northeast Ohio prep program, Spire Academy. Spire is bringing its post-grad team to Flyin’ To The Hoop on Monday to play Springfield High School.

“I know that if I put a really good player in front of a really good player, they’re both going to make each other better,” Briski said. “Our coaching staff’s record of sending guys to college and having success as freshmen is pretty good.”

Briski coached former Dunbar players Caleb McConnell and DeVon Baker. McConnell led Rutgers in 3-point shooting last year as a freshman, has a career-high of 25 points against Illinois and has started 11 games this year. Baker led Big South Conference freshmen in scoring at 16.1 points a game last year and is the team’s second-leading scorer this year at 16.2.

“How we judge ourselves as coaches isn’t what they do with us but what they do after us,” Briski said. “And that’s on and off the court.”

The most celebrated ISA player is junior Meechie Johnson, an Ohio State commit. Johnson, however, will be on the bench while his teammates play Hillcrest Prep of Arizona. He is recovering from ACL surgery. He’s rehabbing for AAU season and will play for ISA next year. Johnson made the Flyin’ all-tournament team last year playing for Garfield Heights High School.

Phillipe Doherty helped found the Prolific Prep program at Napa Christian School in the San Francisco Bay area six years ago. Prolific has been to Flyin’ each year and will be stopping in Dayton on a coast-to-coast trip. After playing Friday, Prolific catches a flight Saturday morning for a televised event in Massachusetts.

Prolific, which will play another Flyin’ regular Huntington Prep from West Virginia, has seven international players, the No. 3 player in the ESPN 100 2020 class in Jalen Green and the No. 21 player in Texas Tech signee Nimari Burnett. Doherty, who is one of the program’s directors and a former Division I player and coach, sees the benefits of a program like Prolific much the same way Briski does.

“The quicker you can play competition at or above your level, the faster you’ll develop,” Doherty said. “And if you include a curriculum that is advanced and you have peers that can challenge you and a game schedule that you can play teams as good or better it’ll most likely accelerate their development.”

The 18th annual tournament continues with six games each Saturday through Monday.

The following is the 18th Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop schedule.

When: Friday, Jan. 17 through Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

Where: Trent Arena, Kettering.

Friday, Jan. 17

Game #1: 6:30 pm Hillcrest Prep (AZ) vs. ISA Andrews Osborne (OH)

Game #2: 8:15 pm Prolific Prep (CA) vs. Huntington Prep (WV)

Saturday, Jan. 18

Game #3: 11:30 am Beavercreek Girls (OH) vs. Carroll Girls (OH)

Game #4: 1:15 pm Walnut Ridge (OH) vs. Woodward (OH)

Game #5: 3:00 pm Lutheran East (OH) vs. Alter (OH)

Game #6: 4:45 pm Milton (GA) vs. Pickerington North (OH)

Game #7: 6:30 pm Huntington Prep (WV) vs. Lakewood St. Edward (OH)

Game #8: 8:15 pm Grayson (GA) vs. Wayne (OH)

Sunday, Jan. 19

Game #9: 11:30 am Crestwood Prep (CN) vs. Garfield Heights (OH)

Game #10: 1:15 pm First Love Christian (PA) vs. Brush (OH)

Game #11: 3:00 pm St. Vincent – St. Mary’s (OH) vs. Trotwood (OH)

Game #12: 4:45 pm Lakewood St. Edwards (OH) vs. Princeton (OH)

Game #13: 6:30 pm Dream City Christian (AZ) vs. Pickerington Central (OH)

Game #14: 8:15 pm AZ Compass (AZ) vs. Centerville (OH)

Monday, Jan 20

Game #15: 11:30 am Pace Academy (GA) vs. Aiken (OH)

Game #16: 1:15 pm Gamble Montessori (OH) vs. Chaminade Julienne (OH)

Game #17: 3:00 pm Ottoville (OH) vs. Anna (OH)

Game #18: 4:45 pm Spire Prep Academy (OH) vs. Springfield (OH)

Game #19: 6:30 pm Taft (OH) vs. Thurgood Marshall (OH)

Game #20: 8:15 pm Hughes (OH) vs. Fairmont (OH)

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