By Collin Atwood
Throughout the entirety of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay, Dana Gymnasium at Springfield College is used as a practice facility for some of the top high school teams and players in the country. High school hoopers pour in and out of the gym as they prepare to step into the spotlight.
Immediately after Simeon Career Academy left the gym on Saturday morning, a sea of purple and gold made its way into Dana. Before heading over to Blake Arena, the Montverde Academy Eagles (FL) worked on their game plan for their upcoming matchups.
The Eagles go up against DeMatha Catholic High School (MD) today at 4:30 p.m. and face off against IMG Academy (FL) on Monday, Jan. 17 at 3 p.m.
With their game just hours away, the Eagles held a practice to mostly get warm and perfect their plan for DeMatha Catholic. They started off with a mid-range shooting drill while having each shot contested by a teammate. Each player counted off as a shot was made; “One, two, three” and so on.
The gym was fairly calm until Drayvn Gibbs Lawhorn, a junior guard for the Eagles, attempted a windmill dunk that barely missed after it slammed off of the back of the rim. Although that attempt gave the gym some energy, most of the intensity and sweat came from the man wearing a hoodie, jeans and casual sneakers: head coach Kevin Boyle.
Boyle was flying around the gym. Pointing and telling is not how he makes his players better. He helps them by showing them what he wants done — and he does it at full speed.
During a defensive drill, Boyle wasn’t pleased with how Dillon Mitchell was following his opponent around the court and stepped in to do it for him. Later on in the practice, Boyle showed Derik Queen how he wanted him to set a screen.
As Boyle set the screen on Queen himself he yelled, “Get big,” to the six-foot-eight sophomore forward. Coaching young teens with a superstar talent and a unique athletic build is not uncommon for Boyle.
Montverde Academy is full of highly ranked basketball players who all have bright futures. Dariq Whitehead (No. 5), Vincent Iwuchukwu (No. 11), Skyy Clark (no. 16), Dillon Mitchell (No. 18), Malik Reneau (No. 23) and Jalen Hood-Schifino (No. 24) are all ranked in ESPN’s top 25 prospects.
All of that talent in one room led to lots of encouragement to one another. Throughout the practice, players would applaud for their teammates and yell “Good shot,” or “Let’s get it!” As Clark faded away and took a shot during a drill, Whitehead voiced a loud “BING-BONG” that echoed through the gym. The shot went in, avoiding the rim, and the two Division I commits shared a laugh.
Boyle wasn’t the only coach who brought life to the practice. The Eagles have another Boyle on the staff in Kevin Boyle Jr. who serves as the assistant varsity coach to his father.
Boyle Jr. attended St. Patrick High School in New Jersey and played point guard for his father. After graduating, Boyle Jr. played basketball at Florida Gulf Coast University before coming to Montverde to help his father coach the Eagles.
At the start of practice, Boyle Jr. was dribbling up and down the court with a basketball in each hand as if he was warming up for a game himself.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Boyle Jr. running all over the court during practice, but instead of wearing casual shoes, he laced up with his custom Montverde Nike’s.
Before practice came to an end, the team took part in a light shoot around. On the right side of the court, Clark and Kwame Evans practiced their three point shots together. Evans is a six-foot-nine junior ranked at No. 3 on ESPN’s Top 60 list for the class of 2023.
Boyle called for a huddle at the end of the practice, and each player clapped as they rallied towards the middle of the court.
Each coach had something to say to the Eagles before they handed off Dana to the next team. For the coaching duo of Boyle and Boyle Jr., their thoughts were consumed with the upcoming matchups.
“Listen with your eyes,” Boyle said, “make sure to stay focused.”
The most anticipated matchup of the two for Montverde comes on Monday when they play IMG Academy, but Boyle Jr. wants the team to be just as prepared for the game today.
“It comes down to who wants it…set the tone today,” Boyle Jr. said.
When it comes to assistant coach Rae Miller, he just wants to make sure that his Florida ball players are prepared for the New England weather. He wants the team to bundle up because “this weather isn’t good for anyone,” Miller said.
Photo Courtesy of Nico Fiscella/The Student