NORTH BETHESDA, Md. -- As the Findlay Prep players mugged for the cameras and cut down the nets Sunday evening,
As the new-money winners of the prep hierarchy, Findlay fought off the bluebloods from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 74-66 in a made-for-TV matchup on ESPN of the nation's top two teams. Led by
In navigating his team to a 33-0 record, coach
"[Las Vegas residents] may not have sunk their teeth into us yet," Peck said, "but this means everything to us. It means the world."
The stage for Findlay's coming out party was also an opportunity to kickoff its own marketing campaign. Fans entering the Hanley Center on Georgetown Prep's 220-year-old campus were greeted by billboard-sized Nike advertising and a lobby that doubled as a sneaker show room. Not to be lost among the $15
What the world knew of Findlay before last weekend was, in part, due to Thompson's arrival. Kicked off the team at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., for "public insubordination" in early February, he transferred to Findlay three days later. Viewed as a waiver-wire acquisition for a team that could not scrimmage five-on-five most of the season, Peck said the program, which partners with The Henderson International School for academics, was open to accepting a player that met admission requirements. As Findlay stated, there are three prerequisites for acceptance: being a good person, displaying a willingness to work in the classroom and being a basketball player. "Tristan was a fit not just for now, but next year as well," Peck said.
Fighting for attention against UNLV and the lure of The Strip, the program's Web site boasts of amenities like fully-stocked refrigerators and the off-campus house where the players live with assistant coach
The full measure of the Pilots' ascendant success could be seen in Bradley. A summer-time transfer from Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash., the 6-3 McDonald's All-American joined teammates for 5 a.m. workouts and afternoon lifting sessions over the last six months. It was a scrimmage during the month-long layoff between Findlay's regular-season finale and the NHSI opening round that Bradley showed his mettle. Peck watched his team, slow out of the gate, struggle on offense and fail to retreat on defense. After driving deep into the lane and missing a layup, Bradley raced back on defense when an opponent rose for a seemingly easy layup. Timing his jump perfectly, Avery leapt, elbow over rim, and blocked the shot. Turning to an assistant, Peck said, "That kid's ready to win a national championship. We don't need to light a fire under his butt."
Bradley, who scored 20 points and collected two steals before fouling out, earned the highest praise from Oak Hill Coach
New to the scene no more, the Pilots had gained The Establishment's respect.