Montrose Christian tops Iolani Prep Classic field
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) School boys basketball team left Dulles International Airport in Virginia at 5:30 a.m. EST on Saturday, finally arrived in Honolulu at 5 p.m. local time, and was practicing at Iolani two hours later.
"We like to get in and practice right away," coach Stu Vetter said. "Gotta get the kinks out."
Montrose Christian, No. 14 in USA Today's latest rankings, did not display many kinks during Saturday night's intense two-hour workout. But the Mustangs are taking no chances in preparing for this week's 18th annual Iolani Prep Classic.
Montrose Christian (3-0) is the only ranked team in the Classic, which starts tomorrow with four games. But the 16-team field still is considered very strong, with top teams and players from major metropolitan regions.
Fairfax (Los Angeles) lost to No. 1-ranked Westchester, 86-84, nine days ago. The Lions are led by 6-foot-8 forward Evan Burns, who already has signed with UCLA.
Wilson (Florence, S.C.) features one of the nation's top juniors in 6-10 center Major Wingate. Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.) finished last season ranked No. 12 by USA Today after finishing second in the state.
Garfield (Seattle) reportedly is a favorite to win a state championship and features junior Brandon Roy, a 6-6 swingman who signed with Washington. The Bulldogs' Marcus Echols, a 6-foot shooting guard, has signed with Washington State and 6-3 wing Marcelus Kemp is being recruited by Seton Hall and Oregon.
Northwestern (Miami) is the defending Classic champion and returns junior Cedric McGowan, a 6-5 forward who was a state champion high jumper.
Among the Hawai'i teams participating, defending state champion Kalaheo and runner-up Iolani head the list.
The Classic also will officially enter its second generation when Ryan Scott takes the court for Montrose Christian.
Scott's father, Dennis, was one of the Classic's first marquee stars when he came here with Flint Hill Prep (Virginia) in 1986. Dennis Scott later went on to fame at Georgia Tech and the NBA's Orlando Magic. Dennis' coach at Flint Hill was Vetter.
"It's very heart-warming for me to have Dennis' son with us, because I think it helps validate what we do in our program," Vetter said. "It's not just the basketball it's the study halls and other lessons that will carry over to the rest of their lives. Dennis saw that, and he wanted the same thing for his son."
Vetter's staff and the Montrose Christian players will conduct a clinic this afternoon for kids at Kalihi Valley District Park.
Ryan Scott, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard, said his father shared with him memories of participating in the 1986 and 1987 Iolani Classics.
"He said it was great," Ryan said. "He said he had a lot of fun coming to Hawai'i to play basketball."
Vetter, in his 26th year as a high school coach, said this team may be his youngest ever. He has two seniors, eight juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen.
"I had a team in 1994 that had no seniors, but I've never had three freshmen on the varsity before," Vetter said. "Overall, this is probably the youngest team. But they're very talented and very competitive."
In addition to Scott, another Montrose Christian freshman to watch is 6-2 point guard Eric Price.
The Iolani Classic began in 1983, a year after then-Raiders coach Glenn Young took his team to the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. That Iolani team, led by Scott Laboy, Keith Spencer, Roland Ruff, Frank Lutu and current major league pitcher Mike Fetters, won the state championship but lost all three games in Las Vegas by big margins.
"We played West Philadelphia and couldn't even get the ball past halfcourt," Young said. "Right then, I realized Hawai'i basketball was really behind."
Vetter, who has brought teams to the Classic for 14 of the past 17 years, said times have changed. And he said the Classic played a big role in that change.
"Now the Hawai'i teams are very competitive with the Mainland teams," Vetter said. "I don't think Glenn Young and Iolani get enough credit. People need to know how much basketball here has improved because of this tournament.
"When people on the Mainland talk about big-time tournaments, Iolani is still one of them."
Iolani Prep Classic
When: Tomorrow through Saturday
Where: Iolani School gym
Teams: Iolani, Damien, Punahou, Mililani, Farrington, Kalaheo, 'Aiea, Roosevelt, Kealakehe, Wilson (Florence, S.C.), Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.), Northwestern (Miami), Montrose (Rockville, Md.), Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.), Garfield (Seattle), Fairfax (Los Angeles).
Damien vs. Wilson, 3:30 p.m.
Iolani vs. Cathedral Prep, 5
Punahou vs. Northwestern, 6:30
Mililani vs. Montrose Christian, 8
Farrington vs. Clovis West, 3:30 p.m.
Kalaheo vs. Kealakehe, 5
'Aiea vs. Garfield, 6:30
Roosevelt vs. Fairfax, 8