Last year’s Montverde Academy Purple vs. Gold scrimmage ended in a tie after one overtime period was played. It showed the depth and versatility of an Eagles team that would go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country and finish with an unblemished record at 35-0.
This year’s Purple vs. Gold scrimmage was much different. The squads weren’t evenly split talent-wise and that led to the Gold team getting out to a 20-6 lead after one quarter of play and eventually winning with ease at 74-51.
The main players on the Gold squad were 6’8 senior Precious Achuiwa, 7’1 senior Balsa Kaprovica, 6’7 junior Cade Cunningham, 6’6 junior Moses Moody, 6’5 junior Justin Powell, and 6’5 freshman Dariq Whitehead.
The Purple squads primary players were 6’9 senior Omar Payne, 6’4 senior Harmond Beverly, 6’4 junior Osei Price, 6’6 freshman Caleb Houston, and 6’1 freshman Ryan Nembhard.
Precious Achiuwa: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals – Achiuwa inherits the mantle of best player from the likes of R.J. Barrett and Ben Simmons. He plays with passion and aggression on both ends. Achiuwa will need to show opponents he can make perimeter jumpers for Montverde to stay at the top of the national rankings.
Balsa Kaprovica: 4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals – Kaprovica is the lone returning contributor from last season’s team. His stats don’t give testament to his skill and impact on the game. While he didn’t register any blocks, he still made it difficult to score in the lane.
Cade Cunningham: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists – Arguably the best all-around player on the Eagles roster, Cunningham, despite his size, will most likely play the point guard spot or at least be the one to initiate the offense. He didn’t start looking to score until late into the second quarter. He was 2-3 from beyond the arc.
Moses Moody: 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal – The Eagles coaches told us that Moody is still dealing with a lingering ankle injury. Because of that, his court time was limited and his production was sub-par. Still, we can see that when healthy, he has the body, athleticism, and shooting stroke to make a big impact on any game in which he plays.
Justin Powell: 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal – Powell’s stats certainly aren’t overwhelming. However, he will be a necessary component to success with his ability to make positive plays and limit negative ones. Powell at this point doesn’t appear to be a certain starter but he will certainly make important contributions off the bench.
Dariq Whitehead: 23 points, 2 rebounds – Whitehead made quite the first impression. He connected on his first four three point shot attempts of the game, finishing 5-8 overall from distance. His lateral quickness makes him a solid perimeter defender and he proved to be an electrifying finisher on the break.
Omar Payne: 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks – If Payne doesn’t start, he will no doubt push the starters in practice and quickly come off the bench in games. He’s the type of rangy defender, rebounder, and shot blocker that thrives in today’s game. Payne consistently hit mid-range jumpers and with his ability the quickly leap above an opponent’s reach, he scored well inside with a righty jump-hook.
Harmond Beverly: 17 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 steal – Beverly struggled with his perimeter shooting (1-9) but when he got out in transition, he made things happen. He converted lobs in the half-court, used his speed, length, and quickness to force turnovers, and converted free throws after being fouled when attacking the basket off the bounce.
Osei Price: 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists – A long, athlete, Price is at his best when the game is up-tempo and he can either get out in transition or force turnovers and convert them in to points.
Caleb Houston: 2 points, 5 rebounds – The freshman seemed a bit overwhelmed at times by the speed of the game but he’s got a solid frame, is an above-average athlete and a player that doesn’t shy away from the physical play in the lane.
Ryan Nembhard: 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals – Should he get to older brother Andrew’s size, he will be just as coveted a recruit. Blessed with great basketball IQ and court vision, Nembhard’s only negative is a lack of strength. With the way that Montverde plays defense, he will get a lot of help from teammates should opposing drivers get past him into the lane.
This version of Montverde faces an incredibly tough schedule. Another undefeated season is too much to ask or expect with eleven games against nationally-ranked opponents. Still, they should be a viable candidate for a spot in the Dick’s Invitational at the end of the year. There are no concerns with the team’s depth of talent. The challenge will be consistent perimeter shooting (the teams combined to go just 10-42 from beyond the arc in the scrimmage) as well as dealing with the lack of a true point guard. Cunningham can certainly handle the position in a slow-down game, but can he consistently make good decisions when the speed of the game is ramped up? Finally, last year Barrett could lock down the other team’s best perimeter player. Is there a player this year that can do that?