By SEVE COUSINS
Special to ZAGSBLOG
ROSELLE, N.J. – Dakari Johnson and Kevin Boyle’s first visit to the Garden State after two years was a success.
Montverde (Fl.) Academy defeated St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.), 89-62, in the Holiday Hoops for Troops event at Roselle Catholic.
From the onset, Montverde, ranked the No. 1 team in the Nation by ESPN.com, lived up to the hype.
Johnson, the No. 1 center in the country, was a dominant force and finished with 16 points, even while sitting out the fourth quarter.
“It felt great to come home and play because my family really wanted to see me play live,” said the 6-foot-11 big man, who has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown.
“It was really cool for my family to come see me and I was very excited to play.”
Top-ranked Montverde also received big contributions from West Virginia-bound power forward Devin Williams (17 points), uncommitted 2014 guard D’Angelo Russell (13) and Florida-bound point guard Kasey Hill (10). Trevis Wyche lead St. Peter’s with 23.
The second homecoming of the night belonged to Boyle, the fiery head coach who led St. Patrick to five New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles during his 23-year tenure that ended when the took the Montverde job in 2011.
During his tenure at St. Pat’s, Boyle served as a foil to Hall of Fame St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley and coached the likes of Al Harrington (Orlando Magic), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)
“It was different, I was happy to come back and see a lot of family and friends.” Boyle said. “I wasn’t overly happy with the way we defended tonight but I think they’ll turn it up tomorrow. “ Thursday night Montverde will face off against host team Roselle Catholic in the marquee game of the event.
Roselle Catholic is led by Syracuse-bound forward Tyler Roberson and 2015 wing Malachi Richardson, who has already received offers from Indiana, Miami and Cincinnati, among others.
Johnson is the top unsigned center in America and is coming off winning MVP honors at the City of Palms Classic.
His college list is now identical to that of the previous No.1 center in the country, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel.
Noel has teamed up with fellow freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein with the unranked Wildcats.
Johnson, who spent his middle school years in Lexington, Ky., spoke with SNY.tv about the possibility of playing with both Noel and Cauley-Stein or replacing them if they head to the NBA.
“I talked to Coach Cal and it wouldn’t matter to me, even if they stayed they would push me harder in practice and I would just be better developed going against those guys every day,” he said.
Johnson also pointed out that he has paid close attention to the development of the Georgetown big men, from Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning to Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. The Hoyas just landed UCLA transfer Josh Smith, so it remains unclear if they will also have room for Johnson.
“Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, all of them their just so great, so developed and very skilled, “Johnson said.
Johnson and his teammates still have many tough games ahead, including contests against Duke-bound Jabari Parker and Chicago Simeon and UCLA-bound Al Freeman and Findlay Prep.
Right now Boyle and his troops appear to be the best team in the country and are capable of winning a mythical national championship.
“I just try to look to the next game; I think we’re good, we can beat anybody,” he said. “We’ve already proven that.
“We have a lot of tough games ahead of us we’ll see what happens.”
Photo: Naples News