Not Blue At Number Two

MSE National Select Team

Eight years ago Middle School Elite was created for the purpose of providing maximum exposure for the top youth basketball players throughout the United States. Over that time period MSE has successfully identified many of the nation’s top players’ prior to them ever stepping foot onto a high school or college campus; some of them even receiving scholarship offers during their actual middle school tenure.

Over that course of time many have questioned the long term viability of MSE’s process; but after a multitude of success stories the MSE brand has proven itself continuously.  Realizing that the process produced results MSE detractors quickly moved to challenging the players themselves.  The common theme being that these middle school stars are one dimensional ball dominant players carrying their respective teams and clubs to local and national notoriety instead of complete basketball players. Commentary that these players can only play for certain coaches, that said players require to be the “man” and cannot play within a true team concept, and finally that they will fail on the next level when challenged by players of the same caliber or skill set.

MSE National Select

6’3 Montez McNeil holding MSE Nat’l Select’s first team trophy 2nd Pl

Enter Middle School elite National Select and fast forward to March 2014; not only did MSE set out to prove that its player evaluation system(s) were infallible but that the best players in the country could adapt quickly and defer to each other for greater success.

On March 8, 2014 top players from the class of 2020; hailing from 5 different states stepped onto the court after a 15 minute walk through to compete against some of the top club teams in the powerful DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) circuit. This area, long renowned as a basketball hotbed, is home to multiple top level programs – including National Power Team Takeover (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/-college-basketball-mens-tournament/news/20130329/college-basketball-washington-dc/) whose program and players practice together, as with other premier clubs, multiple times per week to prepare for battle in their homes states as well as nationally.

What transpired next is nothing short of remarkable; after a tough initial loss in pool play to the aforementioned Team Takeover (Class of 2020) led by national top ten player Ishmael Legget; MSE National Select proceeded to dismantle each opponent placed in front of them.  National Select, having to win all their remaining games to remain alive in pool play faced a motivated Maryland Finest team, defeating them 45-25 after the evocation of the tournament “mercy” rule.  Led by 19-pts and 12 rebound from Jordan Toles (#3 Class of 2020) and Zion Harmon’s 8points and 10 assist (#1 Class of 2021), MSE National Select also received key contributions from Joshia Hardy (4 Blks, 6 rebounds), Cory Barns (3-4 fg), and Montez McNeil (6pts, 8 rebounds, 3 Blks).  Charles Harris proved valuable as always showing his worth on both ends of the court contributing in multiple categories showing the immense versatility that he has become known for.  Zeb Jackson from Toledo, Ohio played a steady game spacing the court with his long range shooting.

The next day in what equated to a quarterfinal match up MSE National Select faced River City Reign from Richmond, Virginia. A focused squad showed a balanced effort in winning, again under the “mercy” rule, 48-21.  Toles led all scorers with 13pts and Harmon played a true floor game contributing 11pts and 7 assist.  Harris chipped in with tournament high 10pts in that game and was supported by the post presence of McNeil and Hardy who collectively blocked 8 shots in stellar defensive effort.  Second day addition Dimingus Stephens came off the bench to knock down 3 of his first 4 3-pointers showing why he is one of the best shooters in his class.

In the semi-final, focused and primed for a  trip to the championship National Select went up early and never looked back defeating the #1 Seed from the other pool, Byron Moutons 6th Man Warriors. In what Coach Francis and Coach Bird deemed as a statement game; with a 3rd game on the horizon the goal was to take them out early to coast into the finals.  The team responded with its most dominating performance of the weekend winning 52-17.  Toledo’s Zeb Jackson hit 3 3-pointers in the effort along with some beautiful finishes at the basket; saving its best game for a crucial semi-final game.  Chuck Harris dropped in 10-points and Hardy put in another solid performance with 8pts, 8 rebounds, and a few more blocks adding to the total. National Select then found themselves in what would equate to the game of the weekend; a standing only and raucous crowed encompassed the court for the championship game verse Team Takeover.  With 4 games under their belts the National Select team went into the game confident and open up with a 7-1 run out the gate – Takeover jumped right back into the game with back to back three pointers cutting the lead to one and completing a 9-0 run to take the lead at 10 to 7.  Zion Harmon who came out the gate hot pumped in 15 points in the first half to lead National Select, Jordan Toles contributed 6 points, and McNeil came in strong off the bench becoming a presence in the lane immediately on both ends of the floor.  Takeover’s resiliency and strong shooting (5 3-pointers in the first half) kept the pressure on in route to a 35-27 halftime lead.

Out of the half, National Select adjusted moving to a match-up zone – which initially Takeover figured out, pushing their lead to 12 points out of the break.  Coming out of the timeout Jordan Toles put his imprint on the game scoring from all over the court tallying 18 scored half points finishing with 24-points on the day.  McNeil also began to exert himself on the glass and in the paint pumping up the crowd with a chest pound after a huge bucket to the cut the lead to 61-55 with 2:30 left on the clock. Takeover maintained and put on an electrifying shooting display from behind the arch throughout the game and in the final minutes kept the ball in the hands of leading scorer Ishmael Legget who didn’t miss a single free-throw down the stretch resulting in a final score of 69-62.

“To have the opportunity in our inaugural games to play a talented team and program such as Takeover” said Coach Francis via telephone conference “and to push and compete with them without the benefit of practice and group of players who just met….shows that in 48-hours National Select can compete with programs that have been around for decades.” That in itself is an accomplishment and shows that the premise in which National Select was based on works – great players can come together and win with being selfless, showing a top level basketball IQ, and playing hard and for each other.  Not only can they come together and play, they can beat and challenge the current top teams from across the nation who are in the gym practicing together 4 to 5 times per week by getting together and simply playing ball for a two or three day event. For media opportunities and/or to discuss opportunities to either play with or against National Select please email [email protected] or call 1.800.338.4629.

MSE plans on playing in the following events with other dates to be potentially added – specific age groups will be determined.

April 25, 26, 27 – King James Classic, Akron, OH
May 2, 3, 4 – PAT Tournament, New York City
May 24, 25, 26 – Glory Tournament, Washington, DC
June 13th – June 15th – MIT Tournament, Maryland
I believe you are familiar with this event already…
June 27th – June 29th – West Coast Nationals, Sacramento, CA
July 26th – July 29th – Las Vegas Fab 48 – Las Vegas

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  1. DMV says:

    How do you determine which kids play in which tournaments

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