Dick’s Nationals Preview: Findlay Prep

First year Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) coach Jerome Williams will look for his team to play its best basketball of the season and bring home the program's fourth Dick's Nationals title. Photo: Ronnie Flores

First year Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) coach Jerome Williams will look for his team to play its best basketball of the season and bring home the program’s fourth Dick’s Nationals title. Photo: Ronnie Flores

We take an in-depth look at all eight teams competing at the 2014 Dick’s Nationals in New York and we begin our series with three-time event champion Findlay Prep.

Related: Dick’s Nationals Team & Individual Records | No. 1 Seed Montverde Academy | No. 2 Seed Rainier Beach | No. 3 Seed Northside Christian Academy | No. 4 Seed Huntington-St. Joseph Prep | No. 5 Seed La Lumiere | No. 6 Seed Oak Hill Academy | No. 8 Seed The Sagemont School | Dick’s Nationals Field Set

Team: No. 7 seed Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 30-4, No. 16 (No. 5 West Region)
Head Coach: Jerome Williams (1st Season)
Key Players: Dillon Brooks (6-6, Jr., F), Justin Jackson (6-8, So., F), Kelly Oubre (6-6, Sr., G/Kansas), Horace Spencer (6-8, Jr., F), Derryck Thornton Jr. (6-1, So., G), Rashad Vaughn (6-6, Sr., G/UNLV), Craig Victor (6-7, Sr., F/Arizona)
Dick’s Nationals History: 10-2 in five appearances. The Pilots won the event in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Findlay Prep entered last year’s tournament unbeaten but saw its 54-game winning streak end in a semifinal loss to runner-up St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.). The Pilots have participated in the event each year since its inception and have only lost in the first round once.

Road To Dick’s Nationals: It’s been an up-and-down season for the Pilots, who’ve battled injury and inconsistency on its way to a Dick’s berth. At the Tarkanian Classic in December, Findlay Prep lost back-to-back to FAB 50 No. 37 Prime Prep Academy (Ft. Worth, Texas) and unranked Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). Those games came down to the wire and the Pilots also lost for the first time to No. 15 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.). When the talent is clicking on all cylinders, the team can look real impressive as it did in its 55-35 victory over No. 19 Corona Del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.). After losing to Gorman, the Pilots closed the regular season with nine consecutive victories.

Inside Scoop: The Pilots were not satisfied with their regular season performance, but are confident going into this tournament because they are finally healthy. Other coaches in the field say this team is completely different when Rashad Vaughn (20.6 ppg) is healthy. The McDonald’s All-American choice missed nine regular season games and wasn’t close to 100 percent in many others in the first half of the regular season. Another key will be the play of sophomores Derryck Thornton Jr., Justin Jackson and Renathan Ona Embo. If Williams gets good minutes from Jackson and Ona Embo, the Pilots have got to like their chances as a No. 7 seed. Thornton Jr. is talented (11.6 ppg, 7.7 apg) and when he limits the turnovers, Findlay Prep is a threat against any team in the country. “We had some adventures with turnovers, but in our last few games everyone has been on the same page and we played well,” Associate Head Coach Andy Johnson said. “The best is yet to come.”

Versus Rainier Beach: The Pilots kept practicing in hopes of an invitation and are in a rare underdog role against the team fans all across the country are interested in seeing competing against this caliber of competition. The key to the game will be points off turnovers, because with its length on the wings and perimeter, Rainier Beach wants to get out and run and score on the fast break. If Findlay Prep can keep the Vikings’ fast break points to a minimum, it will be in excellent position to win. The Pilots definitely have some advantages on the interior with McDonald’s All-American Kelly Oubre (22.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and rugged forward Craig Victor (13.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg). If the guards are patient enough to get the ball inside, it could cause Rainier Beach some trouble. Rainier Beach will be extremely motivated, so Findlay will have to match that. “We are going to have to stick to our core philosophies — run, defend and limit turnovers,” Johnson said. “If we do those things, we have a chance to be successful.”

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Filed under boys basketball event, team rankings

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