Duke Commit Vernon Carey Jr. Stars At 2018 Les Schwab Invitational

Sierra Canyon left no doubt about its place among the nation’s elite high school basketball teams at the 2018 Les Schwab Invitational. 

In a championship game showdown of nationally ranked West Coast and East Coast teams, the Trailblazers from the Los Angeles area held a double-digit lead almost wire-to-wire en route to a 68-52 win over University High of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

High 3-star point guard prospect Scotty Pippen Jr. scored 26 points in the championship — 18, including five 3-pointers, before halftime — to pace Sierra Canyon and seal the Invitational’s Most Valuable Player award. 

Kenyon Martin Jr. delivered a title-game double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds en route to earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team. 

Sierra Canyon’s dominant championship game served as fitting conclusion for the Trailblazers over the course of the Les Schwab Invitational. The Trailblazers descended on Portland with a clear mission in mind, and came through with a 84-45 rout of Churchill to kick things off, and 68-51 defeat of Jefferson in the semifinal.

The championship matchup of Sierra Canyon and University was as expected, but University didn’t get to the main event without a fight. The Sharks rallied from a halftime deficit in the semifinal and scored the final six points of regulation to beat Gonzaga Prep 58-53. Five-star center and Duke commit Vernon Carey Jr. scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds for University, matching Gonzaga Prep’s Gonzaga University commit Anton Watson for high score. 

The showdown of future Blue Devils big man and Zags swing man gave the Les Schwab Invitational a vibe similar to the Zion Williamson/Rui Hachimura face-off at November’s Maui Invitational — only with the Duke-bound player coming out on top this time. 

At the tournament’s conclusion, Carey walked away with Most Outstanding Player honors. 

Gonzaga Prep rebounded from its semifinal loss, however, taking third place with a 68-59 win over Jefferson. Watson scored 27 points in the win, stealing the spotlight in another matchup with an elite 2019 prospect. Jefferson point guard and University of Washington commit Marcus Tsohonis finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. 

Watson earned All-Tournament, rounding out a group that also included Grant’s Aaron Deloney (marking his second time on the Les Schwab All-Tournament Team), Columbia Christian’s Ben Gregg and University’s Scottie Barnes. Justin Bieker of Jesuit, which outlasted Lake Oswego in the fifth-place game 63-58, was named the Invitational’s Mr. Hustle. 

The bevy of upcoming talent headlining the 2018 Les Schwab Invitational attracted former and current stars to Portland’s Liberty High School. Among the thousands who came through over the course of the tournament were Philadelphia 76ers wing Jimmy Butler and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. Zach Collins, who led Gonzaga to the 2017 national championship game, was on hand to see future Zag Watson in action. 

The 2018 Les Schwab Invitational continued the tournament’s tradition as a proving ground for future NCAA and NBA stars. Past participants include Markelle Fultz, Marvin Bagley III, and Michael Porter Jr.

Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

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