By JOHN PAVIA
Special to ZAGSBLOG
UNION, N.J. — With many eyes on the marquee battle between St. Joseph’s Karl Towns and Monteverde Academy’s Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell used the second half of Montverde’s 79-70 victory to leave his mark on the game and lead his team to a come-from-behind victory at the Metro Classic on Sunday night at Kean University.
Russell, the 6-foot-4 2014 Ohio State-commit, finished with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a fantastic all-around performance that had to leave Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, who was in attendance, very excited about what Russell will bring to his Buckeyes next season.
With his team leading 64-62 in the fourth quarter, Russell took over by scoring seven unanswered points to increase Monteverde’s lead to nine points. He made and was fouled on a mid-range jumper and took two aggressive drives to the rim with acrobatic finishes that seemed to give his team all the momentum it needed to finish the game on top.
“I’ve got to get used to it now,” Russell told SNY.tv of what it was like playing in front of Matta, who was also there to watch 2015 Pope John XXIII forward Moustapha Diagne. “I’ve got to approach every game the same way. Like I said, it’s just a blessing to be able to play in front of your coach like that and we got the win so it was cool.”
When informed that Matta had reached his 14th straight season of winning 20 games or more after Saturday’s win over Illinois, Russell sounded very eager to be a part of it.
“I mean, he’s on a roll,” Russell said. “I want to join the movement. He hasn’t won a national championship yet, [but] I hope can help get the team to where he wants to go and I know that’s what he wants. We all want that so I want to be a part of the movement.”
Russell also told SNY.tv what he thinks he can provide to the Buckeyes next season.
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “If it’s scoring the ball, defense, rebounding, whatever it takes.”
Russell and his Monteverde Academy team sit at 24-1 and were most recently ranked No. 3 in USA Today’s Super 25 Rankings. They will try to defend their national championship at the National High School Invitational in New York in April.