Dec 24, 2013
Carlisle School, of Martinsville, Va., is no stranger to tough competition. The Chiefs, coached by Jason Niblett, have already faced several top schools from at least a half dozen states this season — including a win against Huntington (W.V.) Prep and a five-point loss to Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, both then-nationally ranked.
They’re scheduled to continue this trend of tough competition into their second-half slate, tipping with this week’s HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational, the program’s first appearance in the tourney.
Led by sophomore sensation Thon Maker (ESPN ranked five-star center), Niblett said his team is prepared for the tough competition the Holiday Invitational is expected to provide.
“We’re a well-balanced team,” he said. “We try to play basketball the right way.”
Maker, a 7-foot shot blocker from the Class of 2016, has offers from Arizona, Georgetown, Miami and Virginia. While his length is sure to give players trouble on the interior, Niblett said the other aspects of Maker’s game make him a more complete player.
“He’s a very exciting player to watch; he’s very important to our team,” Niblett said. “He’s a good defender, but he’s not afraid to take some mid-range shots, some 3-pointers. He can put the ball on the floor.”
He will be joined by on the court by senior Eric Johnson, a three-star point guard prospect.
“He’s a playmaker who can find his own shot,” he added. “We go as he goes (and) it’s an exciting time for Carlisle basketball.”
Niblett said his team will also rely on junior Kaleb Johnson through the Holiday Invitational. The 6-foot 6-inch guard is another all-around player in the Chiefs lineup.
“Kaleb plays all over,” he said. “He can play the one through three, and can defend about four different positions on the floor.
“He can shoot the 3-ball and has a great mid-range jump shot, but he can also put his back to the basket and score. He’s one of those players that doesn’t try to make the play, but the right play.”
The Chiefs, which have won six Virginia state basketball championships, the most of any private school in the Commonwealth, are looking forward to continuing their challenging non-conference schedule during the Invitational.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time and try to win all the games that we can — that’s our goal” Niblett said. “It’s always a challenge when you step on the floor, regardless of who you’re playing against.”
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