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GEICO Nationals 2022: Meet the 8 basketball powerhouses playing in Florida

McDonald's All-Americans Gradey Dick, Mark Mitchell and top-seeded Sunrise Christian Academy, No. 1 in the SBLive/SI Power 25, enter as the team to beat

Gatorade National Player of the Year Gradey Dick and top-seeded Sunrise Christian Academy enters the 2022 GEICO Nationals the favorite.

Can the Buffaloes finish the job?

After winning the inaugural National Interscholastic Basketball Conference in its inaugural season, Sunrise, No. 1 in SBLive/SI’s Power 25 national high school basketball rankings, headlines a talent-laden field with many of the nation’s top prospects.

RELATED: SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 (March 28)

"We know any one of the eight teams in the field can win the whole thing," Link Academy coach Rodney Perry said.

Six of the eight teams in the field are from the NIBC and make up six of the top seven spots in the Power 25. The other two — AZ Compass Prep and Prolific Prep — are national prep schools.


The tournament starts with the quarterfinals Thursday morning and runs through Saturday morning’s finals.

Here is a breakdown of the field:


Coach: Luke Barnwell

2021-22 resume: 24-1, NIBC champions

Power 25 ranking: No. 1

Three to see

Gradey Dick, senior

Tabbed as a shooter in year’s past, Dick has exploded as a do-it-all senior whose attention is commanded all over the floor. The Kansas commit, McDonald’s All-American is a dead-eye shooter with a quick release, can put the ball on the floor and has an innate understanding of how to find and exploit a defense’s pressure points.

Mark Mitchell, senior

A prize piece of Duke’s 2022 class, Mitchell is a versatile forward who can dominate on the wing and down low. Mitchell and Dick complement one another well.

Scotty Middleton, junior

The 6-foot-7 wing picked up basketball at a relatively late age and ultimately wants to play point guard. He gives the Buffaloes length and strength on the defensive end, and versatility as a standout two-way contributor.

Outlook: SBLive’s preseason No. 4 team, Sunrise entered the 2021-22 calendar with a strong group. Though the course of the season, it has separated itself among a crowded pack of national powers as the top team in the country under Naismith National Coach of the Year Luke Barnwell. The Buffaloes have seven Power 25 wins on the season, won nation’s toughest conference and beat the only team it lost to — Montverde Academy — the second time the teams met.


Coach: Sean MacAloon

Power 25 ranking: No. 3

2021-22 resume: 21-4

Three to see

Keyonte George, senior

A big-bodied lead guard who will overpower you and grab control of a game. The 6-foot-4 Baylor signee has taken over at times, going for a season-high 40 points in an OT loss to La Lumiere.

Jett Howard, senior

Howard is a 6-foot-7 wing who is among IMG's top 3-point shooters. Son of Juwan Howard is committed to play for his dad at Michigan.

Jarace Walker, senior

A walking highlight reel, Walker, No. 24 in the SI99, is among the most dominant players in the country on both sides of the ball. At 6-foot-8, 220, he makes his mark down low.

Outlook: Want to see a trove of talent? The Ascenders have it. Nine IMG seniors made the SI99, headlined by George, the team's unabashed leader. IMG won GEICOs in 2019 and reached the semifinals in 2021, where it lost to Sunrise Christian. Beat Montverde in both matchups this season and its four losses come from teams in the field — including two to Sunrise Christian.


Coach: Kevin Boyle

Power 25 ranking: No. 4

2021-22 resume: 20-4

Three to see:

Skyy Clark, senior

Kentucky de-commit is a dead-eye shooter and elite offensive playmaker. Returned mid-season from an ACL injury and didn't wait long to make his mark, hitting a game-winning OT 3 to beat Calvary Christian.

Dillon Mitchell, senior

The 6-foot-7 lefty wing, a McDonald's All-American and Texas signee, is one of the most purely athletic players in the class causes mayhem on both sides of the ball, especially as a piece in Montverde's overwhelmingly talented lineup.

Dariq Whitehead, senior

To say the 6-6 guard is decorated would be an understatement. He's the Naismith National Player of the Year, McDonald's All-American Game MVP and a Duke pledge, averaging 17.1 points, 5.1 boards and 3.4 assists on the season.

Outlook: SBLive's preseason No. 1 team in the country already has a record four GEICO Nationals titles and has all the pieces to take it home for the fifth time. That starts with Whitehead, one of seven Eagles seniors in the SI99. Montverde is the only team to beat top-ranked Sunrise Academy, finished second in the NIBC (8-3), its four losses have come to teams currently in the top five of the Power 25, and it has beat three of those same teams this year.

Coach: Rodney Perry

Power 25 ranking: No. 5

2021-22 resume: 32-1

Three to see

Jordan Walsh, senior

Watch out when he gets going downhill. Arkansas commit is long, versatile and much of the Lions' offense runs through him. Arkansas commit and McDonald's All-American.

Julian Phillips, senior

A standout 3-and-D guy, Phillips is long and versatile. Perry thinks Link's offense is at its best when incorporating Phillips in the post. Played through a stomach bug at the McDonald's All-American game Tuesday and de-committed from LSU in the wake of Will Wade's firing.

Tarris Reed, senior

Michigan signee is a gifted scorer in the paint and with his back to the basket who can step out and hit from 3-point range if needed.

Outlook: Link is right where it wants to be in its first year as a program: competing for a national crown. The Lions assembled a talent-laden roster over one summer, selling players on a dream of playing in the GEICOs that is now being realized. What jumps out about its lineup is size and length, headlined by high-major wing/post prospects Tarris Reed Jr. (6-10), Jordan Walsh (6-7), Julian Phillips (6-8) and Omaha Biliew (6-8) and two strong point guards in juniors Jordan Ross and Trey Green. Link has played two teams in the field already. Beat AZ Compass Prep 59-54 on March 12 and picked up its lone loss of the season to Sunrise Christian in early February, 74-65. Perry told SBLive Ross will replace Green in the starting lineup.


Coach: Steve Smith

Power 25 ranking: No. 9

2021-22 resume: 32-7

Three to see

Caleb Foster, junior

Top-rated junior in Virginia. Foster, a Duke commit, is long at 6-foot-5 and a commanding point guard who has taken the reins of Smith's offense.

Chris Livingston, senior

The Kentucky commit, No. 15 in the SI99, is the alpha of this team and toughest matchup at 6-foot-6, 200 pounds. He's averaging 17.1 points on 55 percent shooting and 8.0 boards per game.

Judah Mintz, junior

The 6-foot-3 combo guard can score off the dribble or step back and shoot contested shots and has done so in big moments this season, averaging 15.2 points, 4.0 assists and a steal per game.

Outlook: In retiring longtime coach Steve Smith's four decades at Oak Hill, his final team certainly isn't among his least talented. It just took a while for them to get going. After a 10-5 start, Oak Hill won three in a row, including a 76-72 rebound win over IMG Academy, on its way to a runner-up finish. It was a turning point in the season, head coach Steve Smith said, and the Warriors enter the weekend winners of 19 in a row. Smith's retirement is among the top storylines entering the weekend. He last led Oak Hill to a GEICO title in 2016 and has won the event — or similar events — nine times.


Coach: Ed Gipson

2021-22 resume: 25-4

Three to see

Dylan Andrews, senior

UCLA pledge forms an elite backcourt alongside Boswell. He finishes through contact well and is a knock-down outside shooter.

Chance Westry, senior

Rangy 6-foot-6 wing and Auburn commit is a well-rounded scorer and standout on both ends of the court.

Kylan Boswell, junior

Arizona pledge is a born winner. The bigger the moment, the better for the 6-foot-1 point guard, who slid in naturally at Compass Prep after leading Corona Centennial past Sierra Cannyon for a CIF Southern Section Open Division title.

Outlook: The Dragons return to GEICO Nationals for the second consecutive season, after making the field for the first time in 2021, beating 5-seed Wasatch Academy in the quarters before losing to eventual champion Montverde in the semis. Once the offseason hit, the soon-to-be NIBC program brought in a flurry of talent, inlcuding the top two prospects in the state of Oregon, Mookie Cook and Lamar Washington, as well as 5-star former Corona Centennial standout Kylan Boswell. Compass Prep is 3-2 against Power 25 opponents and 1-3 against the field. Signature win was on Dec. 11 over Oak Hill, which was short-handed.


Coach: Patrick Holmes

Power 25 ranking: No. 7

2021-22 resume: 21-4

Three to see

Aden Holloway, junior

Give Holloway a big moment with the season on the line, and he'll deliver. The 6-foot point guard is a big-shot taker — and maker.

JJ Starling, senior

Notre Dame commit, No. 25 in the SI99, was La Lumiere's rep in the McDonald's All-American Game. Gifted scorer may be just 6-4, but his rangy 6-9 wingspan make his jumper tough to touch.

Kebba Nije, senior

Penn State pledge is one of the top bigs in the field. The 6-9 forward is No. 80 in the SI99.

Outlook: Its signature win came on Feb. 3, when Aden Holloway drilled a late double-overtime 3 to beat IMG Academy. La Lumiere also has wins over AZ Compass Prep and Oak Hill, and its four losses are all to NIBC teams — Sunrise, Montverde (twice) and Oak Hill. Like many teams, the Lakers boast a Division I prospect-filled lineup. They also have balance in strong point guard play, with Michigan State-bound junior guard Jeremy Fears, a highly-touted junior, and knockdown shooter Aden Holloway. It's the ninth trip to GEICO Nationals for the  program, which last reached the finals in 2019, where it lost to IMG.


Coach: Billy McKnight

2021-22 resume: 25-6

Three to see

MJ Rice

Sturdy, imposing 6-5 guard/wing is strong on the glass and a dynamic scorer. The Kansas pledge is a McDonald's All-American and No. 7 in the SI99.

Adem Bona, senior

UCLA pledge is an imposing 6-10 big who has a high ceiling and is a load down low on the glass. Offensively, he can put the ball on the floor and face up and shoot. McDonalds All-American and No. 20 in the SI99.

Tre White, senior

USC commit is a 6-6 wing, No. 37 in the SI99 with jump-out-of-the gym bounce. Versatile on both sides of the ball.

Outlook: The California-based prep school hosts two McDonald's All-Americans in MJ Rice and Adem Bona. But neither played in Tuesday night's showcase. Will they suit up in Fort Myers, Fla. this weekend? Without them, Prolific is substantially hindered, but the cupboard isn't bare. It's the prep school's second GEICO appearance. Holds a 1-2 record against the field, having edged AZ Compass Prep 65-63 in January and lost to Link Academy twice. Has not played an NIBC school this season.