By Matt Popchock
The Wisconsin men's basketball team was on the road in Ann Arbor over the weekend, and assistant coach Lamont Paris was on the road in western Pennsylvania during that time to offer Beaver Falls senior combo guard Sheldon Jeter a scholarship.
Jeter (6'8", 200 lbs.), who is being recruited as a forward, now has a top three consisting of the Badgers, Big Ten rival Penn State, and Northeastern, a Division I program in Boston that plays in the Colonial Athletic Association. In fact, Jeter was invited to Penn State Sunday to see the Lions lose 88-82 to No. 12 Indiana.
Wisconsin also lost on Sunday, its third straight defeat, though the Badgers are still No. 24 in the latest CBS Sports poll.
Could the young man who is arguably the best WPIAL recruit in the Class of 2012 solidify an already good team? We'd have to respond with a qualified yes.
He's one of the top scorers in the district, and now that he's added a few pounds while subtracting that cast on his left hand, Beaver Falls' offense carries much more weight. The Tigers, winners of eight in a row overall, rank second in Class AA scoring, averaging over 71 points per game.
Wisconsin is averaging 65.6 points per game, which puts the Badgers toward the bottom of the conference and roughly the middle of the country.
But most importantly, as Jason Mackey of the Tribune-Review recently pointed out, Jeter has shown a more steadfast commitment to defense as a senior. He's averaging a robust double-double per game, and Beaver Falls, again, ranks second in Class AA in total defense, yielding just over 45 points per game.
Wisconsin is allowing just under 48 points per game. Not only is that the best average in the Big Ten, it's also the best in Division I.
Very few players in the district have the range and/or the physical stature of Jeter, and even as a true freshman, it seems like he could give the Badgers another option up front. None of their current regulars shoot 50% or better.
So even though they were, reportedly, a late entry to the Sheldon Jeter sweepstakes, and even though going to State College would give him the chance to grow alongside fellow WPIAL star Geno Thorpe of Shaler, Wisconsin might actually make the most sense for Jeter. It's a team for which he can strengthen an area of strength and improve upon an area of weakness.
Plus, let's not forget, it's a team that is closer right now to relevance than the others.
If you want to sample Jeter's skills, check out this video from Rubino Productions, which includes him scoring his 1,000th career point earlier this season:
(P.S.: If you've ever wondered how good Micah Mason, another talented guard from Highlands, really is, you'll definitely want to see this video.)
Speaking of 1,000 points, another District 7 b-baller reached that milestone Monday night. Vincentian Academy senior guard Ashlee Darby hit it during a 20-point performance that allowed the Royals to remain perfect (3-0, 11-0) in an 91-60 romp over Riverivew in Class A Section 2 action.
It's been a good year in the gym for private schools, at least on the girls' side. Oakland Catholic is also perfect (5-0, 12-0) and still looks like the team to beat in Quad-A after a decisive 59-45 win over Section 3 rival North Allegheny Monday. Bobbi Baker led the Eagles with 21 points, and Oakland Catholic still has the number one defense in the classification, allowing 35 points per game.
Its neighbor, Central Catholic (2-2, 6-6), has wounds to lick as it prepares to host North Allegheny in a AAAA-Sec. 3 battle tonight at 7:30. The Vikings suffered a not-so-surprising loss to Shaler, but then were stunned by Pine-Richland, so they need a win at home to tread water in the playoff race. Central Catholic is led by Lincoln Davis, a senior guard who is one of the top boys' recruits in the area.
North Allegheny (2-1, 7-2) is one of the top boys' squads in the classification, but the Tigers are also coming off an upset loss to section rival Butler last Friday. J.C. Howard, the Tigers' lone returning starter in 2011-12, had 16 points in defeat, and Adam Haus delivered a game-high 24.
Haus has been one of the top sixth men in the classification, but this game could come down to guard play. Davis has learned to play the point, and Howard has learned to lead the Tigers despite the loss of sharpshooter and backcourt buddy Anthony Dallier, who transferred to Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts, one of the state's finest hoops schools, for his senior year.
Check out "The Court Report" later for more on this game. Meanwhile, there are several other games worth noting throughout western Pennsylvania Tuesday night.
In AAA-Sec. 3 the Greensburg-Salem boys visit Uniontown. The Golden Lions have stormed out to a tie in the section title race by winning seven in a row overall, with a game in hand. The Red Raiders technically lead them by half a game, and with the top offense in the section, their only two losses have come to Quad-A neighborhood rival Connellsville.
In boys' AA-Sec. 3 Brentwood travels to Monessen. It's the same story here; both are unbeaten in section play, but the WPIAL champs are ahead of the Spartans, who have a game in hand. Monessen is very dangerous and very balanced offensively, but Brentwood is flying under the radar as one of the top defensive teams in Class AA.
In addition, Lincoln Park travels to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in search of its second Class A Section 1 win in as many tries. The Chargers are unbeaten thanks to newfound consistency on offense. The Leopards can certainly score in bunches with Temple recruit Devontae Watson up front, but the x-factor in this one could be OLSH's defense, which gives up under 40 points a game.
Among the girls' contests we're watching this Thursday night are Hempfield-Norwin (AAAA-Sec. 1), Steel Valley-Bishop Canevin (AA-Sec. 5), Serra Catholic-Monessen (A-Sec. 4), and Blackhawk-Central Valley (AAA-Sec. 2).
The top five teams in girls' Class AAA Section 2 are separated by just two games, and the Warriors (2-2, 8-2), who looked good at the C.J. Betters Tournament over the holidays, find themselves at the bottom of that totem pole after New Castle ended their five-game overall winning streak Monday. The Cougars need a win on the road Thursday to keep the pressure on the first-place Red Hurricane, though the WPIAL champions look like champions nevertheless with the top offense in the classification at 63.7 points per game.
With a game-high 18 points, guard Chassidy Omogrosso led Blackhawk (3-1, 9-1) to a 56-38 shellacking of Hopewell, which features player-of-the-year candidate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Monday night.
The big story in that game, and the big story of the season for the Cougars, is that head coach Steve Lodovico got an amazing 45 points from freshmen in Monday's victory, including Omogrosso. Blackhawk has eight of those on its current roster.
Not only does this make us wonder what they'll do for an encore, but it also speaks volumes about Blackhawk's prospects as a defending champion.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)
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