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Scouting Notes: WCAC Tournament
By Tyler McKittrick
The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), arguably the most consistent and competitive high school basketball conference in the country, held its league tournament last weekend, and I’m not sure there’s enough luggage to carry all that needs to be unpacked from it. A clash of historical high school titans and 100-year old rivalries; exciting young talent and seasoned senior leadership; current high-major signees and future ones for every level, from role players to blue-bloods; and a literal storybook ending to one of the best high school basketball games ever played. Each year, this tournament seems to give you a little bit of everything, but this year was extra special.
With the two semifinal contests being decided by a total of 3 points, the championship stage was set for a national top-20 showdown that was truly for the ages between #4 Paul VI (VA) and #16 St. John’s (DC) (per ESPN’s rankings on 2/27/2023). The game, which could have its own 5-page article written on it, came down to the last seconds, with St. John’s eventually coming out on top 65-63 in perhaps the best high school contest these Point Guard Eyes have ever seen. The win gave St. John’s WCAC Coach of the Year, Pat Behan, who was diagnosed with ALS in May of 2022, a victory that feels like it could only be written in a Disney fairy tale.
In a league jam packed with talent, players from every class stepped up with their play. Here’s an extensive, but not exhaustive, rundown of those who stood out.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP – TOP PERFORMERS
Daquan Davis | 6’1” G | St. John’s (DC) | Class of 2024 | Uncommitted
When Daquan Davis transferred from Baltimore powerhouse St. Frances Academy over the summer, he brought much more than the tangible skill-set that helped lead St. Frances to the regular season Baltimore Catholic League and Team Takeover to their 16U Peach Jam title. No, what he also brought with him – what those around the DC area who were not familiar with his game would soon learn – were the intangibles that Davis carries with him to every game he plays. Elite intangibles impact winning in ways that cannot be tallied on a stat sheet or computed by analytical algorithms. His will to win and competitive drive are evident every time out from the opening tip. I can think of no better example of a current high school player who plays bigger than he is. There’s a fire that burns in Davis that has proven unquenchable. Not by failure, not by success, not by distractions. That fire shows itself in the form of mental toughness, exceptional grit, and pure tenacity.
Of course, there is the tangible skillset. A true two-way champion, Davis often takes on the most difficult defensive assignments, imposing his will on the perimeter with a blend of pressure and a terrific ability to stay in front, turn, and make it difficult to get quality looks. His high level effort, coupled with his athleticism, craft, and impressive functional strength, allow him to be effective against bigger matchups. Offensively, he’s an aggressive, on-ball-oriented lead guard who puts tremendous pressure on the defense, but is also effective playing off the ball. There’s the ability to create excellent space off with the dribble and knock down the shot afterwards. Everything he does is quick, sharp, and burst-oriented. He mixes shifty changes of direction with often dramatic hesitations and changes of pace. He’s direct, but can probe and replace himself with the dribble when necessary. He’s especially difficult to deal with in pick-and-roll play, where he attacks the hedge with decisiveness and will turn the corner to accelerate downhill or set himself up for his “on a dime” pull-up. It’s not advisable to go under the screen, as he can fill it up from deep at increasing distances off the dribble.
Next, there’s the high-percentage shooting on the catch, helping to stretch the defense, open driving lanes, and give teammates more space to work with inside. While Davis is a blur in transition, he also shows maturity in his willingness to stop and pop the pull-up, as opposed to racing to the rim. Speaking of the rim, his elite burst allows him to consistently touch the paint and pressure it. He uses a floater game based off two feet and will look to finish on quick flashes all the way to the basket. This is exactly what took place when he scored the game winner in the championship game. Davis came off the high ball screen moving right, took on the hard switch, hesitated, and turned on the burners right to the rim for the lay-up with 3.8 seconds left. It happened so quickly that Paul VI’s usual timely help was too late to react. Over his team’s 3 wins in the tournament, he averaged 18.0 points on 48.7 FG% (40 3P% on 5 attempts per game), 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks.
DeShawn Harris-Smith | 6’5” G | Paul VI (VA) | Class of 2023 | Committed to Maryland
Speaking of toughness, grit, and tenacity, if you were to take the intangibles from Daquan Davis (above) and stuff them inside a 6’5”, ~210-pound guard, you’d get DeShawn Harris-Smith. Simply put, the recent Naismith Honorable Mention All-American honoree was the best player in the tournament. He’s quite possibly the most physical guard in his class. His ability to get to his spots on his own time, despite the defense knowing where that will be, is uncanny. Yes, the powerful lefty thrives getting downhill, but his ability to get to the rack in so many different ways puts an incredible amount of pressure on the defense; and once he gets there, he finishes amid traffic and through contact as well as anyone. He’s honed the craft of using his body both in route to the rim and as a finisher, and continues to exhibit his PG-esque feel for the game that materializes in the forms of pace, patience, and mature reads of the defense.
While Harris-Smith’s impact is obvious during the game, it’s not until you break down his film that you realize just how much he really does to contribute to winning. He’s the epitome of a basketball Swiss army knife. As good as he’s been, and what Maryland fans can be most excited about, is how he continues to add to his game. The scouting report has largely been the same for opposing teams coming into games against PVI: force him right and make him into a jump shooter. While he’s made these defensive tasks nearly impossible to execute for the entirety of games, he’s become that much harder to stop now that he has upped his long and midrange shooting percentages on higher volume and implemented counters going right. Overall, his on-ball skill-set has vastly improved in a short time. His effectiveness in the pick-and-roll has been downright impressive. Always a threat to turn the corner, he’s consistently shown a willingness to pull-up from 15-16 feet against the drop coverage, especially in the latter half of the season.
In the last WCAC tournament of a storied high-school career, Harris-Smith refused to let his team lose in their semifinal matchup against DeMatha, dropping 27 points and 13 rebounds in the 2-point victory. The following night, after picking up 2 early fouls and being forced to drop his aggression level to avoid a 3rd, he scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half of the championship game. All-in-all, he averaged 21.0 points on 56.1 FG% (4-9 3P), with 51.2 FTr, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in their 3 games.
Malik Mack | 6’2” PG | St. John’s (DC) | Class of 2023 | Committed to Harvard
As much as St. John’s fed off the fire of Daquan Davis, they were equally steadied by the smooth, icy presence of their veteran floor general, Malik Mack. The skillful lefty showed his innate understanding for what his team needed from him most during various situations throughout the tournament. The event’s leader in assists (24) consistently set the table for his teammates, whether he was finding them in transition with nicely placed lead passes or zipping one-handed rope passes 30 feet from the basket over a double team; whether he was executing on a textbook penetrate-and-kick to his perimeter shooter or picking out the right read out of the pick-and-roll. But he also knew when it was time to put the ball in the basket. For example, Mack hit a gigantic step back 22-footer from the top of the key to put his team up by 1 in the clutch during the championship game. He also hit a 16-footer coming left off a ball screen a couple of minutes prior. He’s also reliable down the stretch at the free throw line, as he showed when helped put the game out of reach in their quarterfinal win over Good Counsel.
Sure, Mack’s combination of craftiness with the ball, shot making off the bounce, and court vision make for an ideal lead guard; but it’s how he’s developed his mind over the past calendar year that’s been the most impressive aspect of his growth as a player. Once a score-first lead guard, Mack has been able to transform into a pure point guard who runs the show, consistently makes the right reads, and thrives on making plays for others. He plays with poise, savvy, and has advanced his game management skills tremendously. His positional refinement may be just as instrumental to the team’s winning ways as the addition of Davis. One thing’s for sure, Harvard has a real player arriving on campus in the fall. For the tournament, Mack averaged 13.7 points on 45.2 FG%, 7.0 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 3 games.
CLASS OF 2024 IMPACT PLAYERS
Darren Harris, 6’6” SG, Paul VI (VA), Committed to Duke
Harris continues to make incremental gains on his ability to impact the game outside of shooting the basketball. He’s grown more aggressive in his rim attack with maturing vertical explosiveness and a greater willingness to create contact, resulting in more trips to the line (48.3 FTr over 3 games; 11-14 FT). Further, his mid-range pull-up game now consists of 1-through-3 dribble pull-ups and a turnaround jumper over his left shoulder when he gets cut off. All of this is vitally important, as every team he faces actively strives to take away the 3 ball. It’s Harris’ shooting gravity that impacts the game almost as much as anything. Not only does he solve this attention by attacking the hard closeouts with decisive rim pressure and pull up jumpers, but he can also easily step out to 25-26 feet off of movements like dribble hand-offs and routine down screens with minimal dip and a very quick release. This only adds to the impact of his gravity by creating the additional space. Harris led the tournament with 8 3PM (8-17) and remains a reliable team defender. He averaged 16.7 points on 51.7 FG% and 2.7 rebounds in 3 games.
Donnie Freeman, 6’9” F, St. John’s (DC)
Freeman’s growth as a player was key in their championship run. Throughout the season, he’s shown significant improvements in motor, skillset, and decision making; and his elevated play has impacted winning on both ends. Defensively, he’s increased his activity, showed greater grit and desire to defend on the perimeter and interior, and has hit the defensive glass with greater consistency. He uses his length to alter shots, rebound in traffic, and drive a pretty massive catch radius. He’s taken several steps
toward a reliable offensive game by:
1.) Adding a consistent pull-up jumper off the dribble to his already accurate midrange game
2.) Improving off the ball by moving with purpose and both visually and vocally calling for the ball
3.) Utilizing a tough fadeaway from 15 feet-and-in
4.) Increasing his consistency on the catch from 3, while developing a pull-up from beyond the arc, as well
5.) Getting to the rim off the dribble by attacking closeouts and implementing more self-creation dribbles, such as a left-to-right crossover. In tournament play, he picked his spots to be aggressive strategically, took advantage of his touches, and knocked down some big shots.
Freeman averaged 14.0 points on 56.7 FG%, including 8-11 FG in the championship game, and 5.7 rebounds in 3 games.
Malcom Thomas, 6’7” F, DeMatha (MD)
The progress Thomas has made in developing his considerable raw potential over the course of the season showed itself during DeMatha’s two tournament outings. The bouncy, extremely lengthy lefty has added a consistent midrange jumper, with his favorite spots coming from the foul line area and short corners. From the post, he utilizes a nice turnaround jumper over the right shoulder, and likes to wheel left from his various points of origin or spin back left after an initial drive right. While his attack is left-hand dominant, his decisiveness and athleticism help to compensate for the predictability. He runs the floor with excellent pace, following up plays off the rim and sprinting lanes for high-flying finishes. Defensively, those physical tools provide promising potential as a versatile defender who could be capable of guarding multiple positions. That high ceiling currently shows itself best in the form of rim protection, where he takes advantage of his length and athleticism to skillfully deter attempts around the basket. Thomas averaged 14 points on 58.8 FG% and 5 rebounds as they defeated Bishop O’Connell and lost narrowly to Paul VI.
Patrick Ngongba, 6’10” C, Paul VI (VA)
Ngongba’s impact has widened as the season has advanced, and it was no fuller than during WCAC tournament play. The traditional big consistently established favorable position deep in the post. Just the position itself put pressure on the defense to collapse inward, opening driving lanes for his downhill oriented teammates by clearing space in the paint. He’s got great hands, finishes from the dunker spot, and sets solid ball screens that lead to fluid rolls towards the rim. He works the offensive boards and, with great discipline, rarely brings the ball down on his second chances or outlet passes. In the post, he flashes the jump hook, mainly over the left shoulder, and occasionally uses spins and drop steps. While his ancillary role on offense held its weight, it was on the defensive end where his presence may have been felt most. Ngongba’s fundamental skill-set directly translates to this end, allowing him to effectively neutralize the post and place him in timely, opportune positions to help on the drive. His length, timing, and hand-eye coordination make him a formidable shot blocker. He showed his ability across the 3 tourney games, denying 4.3 shots and altering several more per contest. He also averaged 9.0 points (10-14 FG, 7-11 FT) and 5.7 rebounds.
GONZAGA’S BACKCOURT OF THE FUTURE – CLASS OF 2025
• Nyk Lewis, 6’2” PG, Gonzaga (DC), Class of 2025: A gamer of a lead guard who applies heavy pressure on the defense off the bounce. His persistence on the drive results from terrific ball control, sharp changes of direction in tight spots, and excellent functional strength to absorb defensive contact. Possesses a superb feel when reading a defense and plays a terrific floor game. A premier positional rebounder and promising perimeter defender. Capable pull up shooter from mid-range and shows increasing consistency from 3. Elite floater package. Averaged 11.5 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, (9-20 FG) in 2 games (a win versus Bishop McNamara and a 1- point loss to St. John’s).
• Derek Dixon, 6’4” CG, Gonzaga (DC), Class of 2025: Like his backcourt running mate, he possesses a superior feel for the on-ball defender, and uses his body very well to position himself for his smooth, sometimes automatic pull-up jumper. Plays with pace and typically doesn’t allow the defense to speed him up. A knock-down 3-point shooter on the catch and growing in consistency off the dribble. Owns an awesome understanding of how to move without the ball. Showed tremendous growth as a passer, and is at his best when balancing his pursuit of buckets with finding his teammates for quality looks. High IQ player who makes the simple play. Despite struggling in the semifinal loss to DeMatha, he averaged 13.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 2 games.
A GLIMPSE INTO A PROMISING PIPELINE – CLASS OF 2026
• Quincy Wadley, 6’5” W, Bishop O’Connell (VA), Class of 2026: Owner of perhaps the highest ceiling in the DMV. Gifted with a rare combination of skill, athleticism, length, and size. Lanky and fluid with long strides and dribble moves. Improvisational self-creation skillset with advanced shot making chops for his age. Accurate, rainbow jump shooter with a finesse finishing package. Relaxed and loose on the floor. Outstanding potential. Put up 14 points (5-13 FG, 2-8 3P, 2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in a narrow loss to DeMatha.
• Silas Devonish, ~5’9” PG, Bishop Ireton (VA), Class of 2026: Top-drawer burst, speed, and quickness. Attack-minded, fearless, and decisive off the bounce. Uses a tight handle and low center of gravity to navigate crevices and frequent the paint. Tough shot maker who’s especially effective in pick-and-roll situations going left. Scored 18 points (6-10 FG, 3-5 3P, 3-5 FT), while adding 3 assists and 2 steals in a loss to Paul VI.
• Jalyn Collingwood, ~6’6” F, Bishop McNamara (MD), Class of 2026: Lengthy athlete with good size. Flashed an inside-outside skill-set by knocking down a pair of spot-up 3-pointers, a turnaround midrange jumper, competes in the paint, and showcased good timing and anticipation on the glass. Put up a double-double in the loss to Gonzaga with 10 points (4-10 FG, 2-4 3P), 10 rebounds, and 2 assists.
• Adam Oumiddoch, 6’5” SG, Bishop O’Connell (VA), Class of 2026: Advanced scoring skill-set that includes a natural feel and a high basketball IQ. Confident and rangy with a shooter’s mindset that involves long range and a short memory. Uses his body innately on the drive. Refined, mature approach to the game with a competitive streak. A very good shooter who excels on the catch from behind the arc and efficiently-used dribbles into midrange pull-ups. Excellent upside. Scored 10 points (2-6 FG, 1-3 3P, 5-6 FT), brought down 4 rebounds, and picked up 2 steals in a loss to DeMatha.
UNCOMMITTED 2023 STANDOUTS
• Jaden Winston, 5’10” PG, DeMatha (MD): Quick, crafty guard who knows only one way to play: all out. Scrappy, hard-nosed defender with a master’s degree in thievery. Extremely competitive. Strong floater game, decisive off the bounce, and a leader who commands respect. Has shown tremendous all-around growth over the last year, including his consistency as a 3-point shooter. Averaged 15 points, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals on 48 FG% (4-8 3P) in DeMatha’s 2 games (win over Bishop O’Connell and loss to Paul VI).
• Ryan Sabol, 6’3” SG, Gonzaga (DC): Sharpshooter from beyond the arc who excels on the catch. Capable scorer from the 1st and 2nd levels. Possesses a dribble/shoot/pass skillset, with a growing ability to make plays off the bounce. Stealthy athlete. Sound defender – solid on and off the ball, with a strong understanding of team defensive concepts. Averaged 12 points on 47 FG%, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals in 2 games (win over Bishop McNamara and loss to St. John’s).
• Corey Chesley, 6’5” W, Good Counsel (MD): Extremely bouncy athlete with a strong slasher skillset. Improving shot maker and a straight-line driver who crashes the offensive glass with great timing and anticipation. Be sure to watch your head! Owns good functional strength. Plays with a high motor. Put all of this on display when he dropped 15 points (6-16 FG, 1-3 3P, 2-2 FT) and 12 rebounds in a loss to St. John’s.
Point Guard Eyes