Montverde Academy Coach Kevin Boyle will lose a lot off the team that just won a national championship, but that won’t temper expectations for next season.
McDonald’s All-Americans Dakari Johnson and Kasey Hill will be among the Montverde stars heading off to college. That means expanded roles for such players as D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons.
Russell has been a popular kid in the past few weeks. The Louisville native played well at the National High School Invitational two weeks ago, helping lead Montverde to a national title. The effort did not go unnoticed. Last week, the 2014 shooting guard picked up a scholarship offer from North Carolina. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels reported Thursday that Florida had also offered Russell.
Boyle told the Herald-Leader earlier this week that coaches from Louisville — another program that has offered Russell — are expected to visit the Florida school next week for a meeting with the hometown star.
“I thought D’Angelo played excellent in the (NHSI),” Boyle said. “He’s made big progress in one year. So he needs to keep doing that and playing hard and playing ‘D’ and making championship plays.”
Boyle said he hasn’t spoken with anyone from UK lately, but Scout.com reported last week that Russell has been in contact with the Kentucky staff and is hoping to set up a visit sometime this summer.
Ohio State, Missouri and Indiana are among the many other schools that have offered.
With Hill moving on to college, Russell will pick up added responsibilities next season.
Boyle said the 6-foot-4 guard will get to run some point for Montverde.
“He’ll get that opportunity, without question,” he said. “He’ll get to handle the ball in the open court a lot more than he did this year with Kasey there.”
Playing alongside Russell will be Simmons, an Australian who transferred to Montverde during the middle of the season and made his debut at the NHSI.
Simmons, a sophomore forward, raised eyebrows with his athletic play. Boyle says it’s only the beginning.
“Ben’s an extremely athletic kid,” he said. “He’s approximately 6-8, 6-9. He actually shoots it a lot better than people realize. He came in and doesn’t know how good he is yet.”
Boyle compared Simmons’ demeanor to another one of his former players — current Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, who played with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dexter Strickland under Boyle’s tutelage at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey.
The Montverde coach said Irving was obviously “on another level offensively” from his teammates, but he often deferred to them instead of making plays happen on his own.
Eventually, Irving stepped up, and Boyle is looking forward to seeing the same from Simmons next season.
“I think Ben is very much in a different position,” he said. “He’s kind of like a point forward. He’s a real versatile player and I think he’s as good as anyone in the nation, in the world, at his age.”