Wednesday, February 4, 2009

NBA talent on display in prep game

When Word of God Christian Academy visits Ravenscroft School today at 7 p.m., weather permitting, fans will get a chance to see at least four Division I basketball recruits on one court, in one game.

"You've probably got three or more future NBA players," Word of God coach Levi Beckwith said.
He was referring to the Ravens' Ryan Kelly and the Holy Rams' John Wall and C.J. Leslie.

"This is probably the first time in the city of Raleigh that you have that many guys on the court at the same time that may go to the NBA," Beckwith said.

Wall is considered by recruiting experts to be the top senior in the nation. The 6-foot-4 point guard has not decided where he will attend college next year.

Then there's his teammate, Leslie, a junior forward listed at 6-9. He has verbally committed to N.C. State.

Beckwith said other Holy Rams drawing Division I interest are sophomore guard Bishop Daniels, junior center Stephon Drane and junior forward Montel Baines.

Ravenscroft (21-5) features two senior big men, Kelly at 6-10 and Matt Wilson at 6-11.

Kelly, a senior, has signed with Duke, and Wilson is headed to UNC-Wilmington.

It's rare for two private schools operating in the same city to have this much home-grown talent, Beckwith noted.

"The Triangle is very well represented in the number of Division I players that it's producing," Ravens coach Kevin Billerman said, mentioning Middle Creek's Garrius Adams (Miami) and Panther Creek's Earnest Ross (Auburn). "It opens up the city of Raleigh to seeing a very high caliber of basketball."

Today's game is a rematch. Ravenscroft won 68-59 on Jan. 7 at Word of God. Wall had 17 points in the game, below his 21 points-per-game average.

Since then, Word of God (15-6) hasn't lost in eight games, and Wall has averaged 31.8 points per game in the Holy Rams' past six.

"He's developed a certain attitude and mentality that's needed to beat certain teams," Beckwith said.

Beckwith said Wall uses his speed in transition to get through defenses designed to stop him.
"So he's a lot harder for you to get to, even if you have your defense set up," said Beckwith. "He's coming down and going full steam ahead."

Word of God can win, Beckwith said, the team keeps its focus and "makes sure that we're not trying to impress who we're playing in front of. We can't let that take us out of our element."
Billerman looked back to the first game.

"We made our free throws and key defensive stops," he said. "We were able to control the game at the end."

Guarding Wall with man-to-man defense the majority of the time is the game plan.
"You try to keep him in front of you, but it's virtually impossible to do," Billerman said.
Both teams played in Raleigh's GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational in December but didn't face each other.

But this game should have about the same amount of buzz around it, with a large crowd in attendance.

Ravenscroft is preparing for a big crowd. The A.E. Finley Activity Center has a capacity of 1,200, and tickets are on a first-come, first-serve basis. The doors open at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. The junior varsity game starts at 4 p.m.

Like the Holiday Invitational, once the venue has reached capacity, no one will be allowed to enter unless someone leaves the building. There will be extra security to monitor the entrances.

Watch for coverage of this game on

-- Javier Serna