Nations: Post-grad squad is first-rate

I should probably just file this column away for periodic use, since I seem to write something along these lines every year.

Here’s the gist of it, again — many area sports fans are missing the proverbial boat when it comes to what’s happening out in Woodstock. The good news is, there’s still time to climb on board this season and catch Massanutten Academy’s nationally-ranked postgraduate men’s basketball team live and in action on a court near you.

Mark these dates down in your calendar — Feb. 21 and 22 — and reserve a bit of time to go check out this year’s Colonels. Under first-year coach Melvin Abrams, Massanutten has maintained the momentum built by former head coach Chad Myers, something you can see for yourself later this month at the Massanutten Academy Invitational. Just like last year, the showcase event won’t be held in the cozy confines of MA’s Memorial Gymnasium. Rather, the two-day event will once more take place at nearby Central High School.

Oftentimes when the Colonels are home, their home gym is just fine for handling the crowd. That’s a shame, really, since the school offers a unique level of basketball simply not found elsewhere in the area. Certainly, the high school rivalries are always exciting and draw sizable crowds. For collegiate basketball aficionados, Shenandoah University continues to make strides as a real player in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, Christendom College offers a cool small-college atmosphere at home games and Lord Fairfax Community College often features many players who recently starred in neighboring high schools. The Winchester Storm is also in the midst of another season, as former collegiate players battle it out in the semi-professional Eastern Basketball Alliance.

So there are options for basketball fans, for sure, but catching Massanutten’s post-grad team live and in person should be on every diehard basketball fan’s to-do list this season. Where else in the area, after all, are you going to catch rising talents like Frank Mason (now a standout point guard at Kansas) and Deandre Burnett (University of Miami). Those two were among an impressive crop of talent to suit up for the Colonels last season, a year in which the Colonels held the No. 1 national ranking among postgraduate programs for much of the season.

Massanutten hasn’t rated quite that highly this year, but the Colonels have maintained a steady presence among national polls while pulling off a few impressive wins against the likes of Hargrave Military Academy and longtime rival Fishburne Military School, both also highly-ranked postgraduate programs.

Fishburne will be among the teams coming to Woodstock for the invitational, a showcase event featuring three games on each day. For the opener next Friday, Fishburne takes on Shooting4Greatness (N.C.) at 4 p.m., followed by Ridgeview Prep (N.C.) facing Mt. Zion Prep (Md.) at 6 p.m., with the host Colonels squaring off against Believe Prep (S.C.) in the 8 p.m. nightcap.

The second day features Ridgeview Prep against Believe Prep at 2 p.m., followed by Mt. Zion Prep against Fishburne at 4 p.m., and Massanutten facing Shooting4Greatness at 6 p.m. All games will be played at Central.

Unlike high school games, the showcase will feature NCAA rules including two 20-minute halves and a 35-second shot clock, with one notable exception — players will be allowed six fouls apiece.

Massanutten features two Division I signees in forward D.J. Foreman (Rutgers) and combo guard Isaac Fleming (Hawaii), with several other players getting serious looks. Fishburne brings 6-foot-10 big man Jabari Craig, a Southern Cal recruit, and guard Tre’ Harris (Kansas State). Mt. Zion brings its own impressive big man in 6-9 forward Tariq Owens (Ohio U.). Believe Prep offers flashy point guard Trae Jefferson and 7-footer Legend Robertin. And those are just a few of the high-level collegiate prospects who’ll be taking the Central court next weekend.

Now in its 11th year fielding a postgraduate program, Massanutten has annually offered area fans the opportunity to see some first-class basketball talent up close and personal. It’s a regular opportunity thanks to the Colonels, but still a rare one for basketball junkies.

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>