Irish eyes smiling on DeMatha basketball team; Stags off to 8-1 start
BY CHRIS MCMANES — Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey is always welcomed at DeMatha Catholic High School. The 1977 graduate is the most successful college coach of Morgan Wootten’s former players. He also played a key role in the fundraising effort to build DeMatha’s modern arena.
Stags Coach Mike Jones has another reason he likes seeing Brey at the LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney ’99 Convocation Center: When Brey shows up, DeMatha senior and Notre Dame recruit D.J. Harvey turns his game up a notch.
“Every time Mike is in the house, D.J. plays well,” Jones said after Harvey scored 24 points in Brey’s presence on Dec. 10. Harvey’s play in the early season has helped the Stags (8-1) move from preseason No. 3 to the top of The Washington Post Top 20. They are now second behind league rival Gonzaga.
DeMatha will return to action against Bishop McNamara on Jan. 3 in Hyattsville. The Stags will be looking to improve to 4-0 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). They won’t meet Gonzaga for the first time until Jan. 24.
After DeMatha opened the season with a 95-29 domination of Cardozo, it went to Eleanor Roosevelt and fell behind by four at halftime before leaving Greenbelt with an eight-point win. Next up for the Stags was a date with Wheeler High in the 10th Annual National High School Hoops Festival at DeMatha. Wheeler, from Marietta, Georgia, was ranked second in the preseason by MaxPreps.
The Stags were clinging to a 58-55 lead with under a minute to play when center Josh Carlton took a pass from Harvey and hit a jump hook. Carlton added two free throws before Harvey brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and slam dunk. His display of speed and power helped punctuate DeMatha’s 66-58 victory.
Harvey was named game MVP after his 24-point performance. Brey attended the contest after his Fighting Irish fell to No. 1 Villanova outside Philadelphia. In a news release the day before, Brey commented on what he liked about the 6 foot-6-inch, 185-pound swingman from Bowie: “He is a big guard with a complete skill set,” Brey said. “He has a feel for the game and a great shooting stroke. Add in his athletic ability and high basketball IQ and we feel he will fit really well into our system.
“He has been our No. 1 target for two years, and we are thrilled that he will be joining us.”
Jerian Grant, the last Stag to play for Notre Dame, now plays for the Chicago Bulls. In 2014-15, he was a consensus All-American.
Harvey moved to the area from Huntsville, Alabama. He became the first DeMatha player to start the first game of his freshman campaign since another former Stag, Adrian Dantley, did so in 1969-70. Dantley was a two-time All-American at Notre Dame and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Harvey averaged 15.4 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists as a junior last season. With All-American Markelle Fultz’ departure for the University of Washington, Harvey is the Stags’ go-to guy on the perimeter.
In DeMatha’s 68-58 win over league rival St. John’s on Dec. 14, Harvey started slowly before finishing with 16 points. One of two Stags to play all 32 minutes, he at times looked like he was trying to do too much.
“We need him to do that right now,” Jones said. “As we mature as a team, I think you’ll see less of him forcing [things]. But tonight we needed him to be that aggressive.”
Point guard Ryan Allen, who has signed to play at Delaware next season, produced 17 points in the win over St. John’s.
“He didn’t have a great first half [although] … he made some shots when we really needed him,” Jones said. “He was much better in the second half.”
DeMatha lost its first game on Dec. 29, falling to host Providence Day, 77-71, in the Hoodies House National High School Hoops Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina. The team rebounded to take third place the next day by defeating WCAC foe St. Mary’s Ryken 62-58 in overtime.
Stags Go Big
DeMatha has used its exceptional skills and superior size to wear down most of its opponents. Senior John McCrae is 6 feet 7 inches tall, sophomore Jamel Melvin and freshman Paul Smith are 6 feet 8 inches tall, and sophomore Jordan Wilmore is 6 feet 10½ inches tall.
“I think our size is going to be the difference in a lot of games this year,” Jones said. “We’ve got a luxury is having all that size.”
Carlton, who has accepted a scholarship to play at Connecticut, checks in at 6 feet 9½ inches. He played at South Central High in Winterville, North Carolina, in 2014-15.
“Josh was new to the program last year, and like a lot of other players, had to make some adjustments to playing against guys who were as good or better than him,” Jones said. “I think he’s a lot more comfortable this year. I think his best days are ahead of him.”
The tallest Stag is Hunter Dickinson, a 6-foot-11-inch freshman who is likely still growing. He comes to DeMatha from Alexandria, Virginia, and played last year at Mater Dei School in Bethesda, Maryland.
“He’s a great kid [and] a great student from a great family,” Jones said.
The 15-year Stags coach recruited Dickinson hard to come to Hyattsville.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We begged Hunter to come here.”