“The gym holds 3,100 people…3,090 of them will be Northland fans”


Northland and Findlay Prep (NV), the reigning national champion, square off tonight.

Thursday night’s match up of two of the country’s heavyweights
should prove to be an early Christmas present to the hoop junkies
around the Columbus area. Columbus Northland (No. 4 nationally) will meet No. 1 Findlay Prep
(Henderson, NV) on the campus of Otterbein College at 7 p.m. The game
will air live on ESPN.

Thursday night’s match up of two of the country’s heavyweights
should prove to be an early Christmas present to the hoop junkies
around the Columbus area. Columbus Northland will meet Findlay Prep
(Henderson, NV) on the campus of Otterbein College at 7 p.m. The game
will air live from the Rike Center on ESPN.

Findlay Prep, the nation’s No. 1 team, will bring its (12-0)
record to Columbus to take on Ohio’s defending D-I state champion,
Columbus Northland (1-0). The Vikings, who are ranked No. 4 by USA
Today, got their season started this past Tuesday in a 69-43 triumph of
rival Columbus Brookhaven.

The Pilots, who opened the season on November 13th,
will feature some of the best prep talent to grace Columbus in quite
some time. Some may even argue, Prep has more talent than some of the
teams that travel to the state capital playing Ohio State.

Prep is coming off an unbeaten (33-0) campaign in which it won
the mythical national championship. Head Coach Michael Peck is (77-1)
as the Pilots’ head man.

One main difference between the two clubs are the hometowns on each respective roster.

Northland has a kid that lives in Grove City and another that
transferred from Westerville South, while Prep’s roster consists of
kids from Canada, Arizona, Oregon, California, Croatia, Texas, Nigeria,
Australia, and Denmark. Sort of makes the trip from Grove City to
Northland resemble a trip to the refrigerator from your favorite

The Pilots have eight regulars that log most of the minutes,
and all have either committed or are being heavily recruited by D-1

Texas signee Tristan Thompson is a five-star player ranked in
the Top 10 nationally by almost all accounts. The 6-foot-10 senior is
averaging 17.3 points per game and 10 rebounds.

“Tristan is doing great,” said Pilots head coach Michael Peck.
“We will probably never have a kid like this ever again. A kid with his
size and ball skills comes to a school once in a million years. He is
just so versatile from playing on the perimeter to finishing at the rim
with power. He is just one of those rare talents.”

Thompson will join former Findlay Prep star, Avery Bradley, in Austin next year.

The Pilots will be led by 6-foot-3 senior point guard Cory
Joseph and his 20.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 3.7 steals
per game. The Canada-native is near a 4-to-1 turnover-to-assist ratio.

“Cory is doing everything we could ask for in a leader,” Peck
stated.  “He just has a great feel for the game. He plays with a ton of
poise and can play fast or slow depending on what we need from him. He
is truly one of the best players this program will ever have.”

Joseph’s list is down to five schools including Minnesota, Texas, UNLV, Connecticut, and Villanova.

Another stand out is Jabari Brown (6’4/2011) averaging 17.9
points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a night. The California-kid has
offers from Arizona, California, and Wake Forest.

6-foot-3 junior Nick Johnson is highly-sought after guard
averaging 14.4 points and 3.2 assist per encounter. The Arizona-native
has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Ohio State, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Marko Petrovic (6’4/2010) of Croatia is averaging 9.7 points per game and will soon be earning D-1 interest.

6-foot-8 senior Godwin Okonji is another weapon for the Pilots
helping to provide depth with his 8.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Nigeria-native has offers from Hawaii, New Mexico, and San Diego.

Two of the most highly sought-after underclassmen in the
country are Winston Shepard (6’7/2012) and Nigel Williams-Goss
(6’3/2013) both are playing significant roles for the Pilots.

Williams-Goss, an Oregon-native, is averaging 8.8 points per
game and already gaining serious interest from UNLV, Oregon State, and

Shepard is getting 5.4 points and 5 caroms a game thus far in
2009. The Texas-native has 11 offers in all including Arizona, Arizona
State, Kansas, Louisville, Memphis, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas,
Texas AM, UNLV, and Wake Forest.

As a team, the unbeaten Pilots are averaging 96.8 points per game, while giving up 64.3 lightings.

“Starting with Northland we will be receiving new challenges,”
Peck mentioned. “The ante is going to be upped a bit that is for sure.
Northland is as good as anyone we have ever played, so are margin for
error will have to be very slim. Our attention to detail against a team
like Northland will be essential. We will have to play with more of a
sense of urgency against a team that good.”

Though, over 2,000 miles separate Henderson and Columbus, Peck
knows all about the Vikings. The Northwood (MI) College-graduate is
more than aware of what the reigning state champs bring to the table.

“I know they were a one-loss team last year,” the Pilots boss
declared. “They are a very talented group with Jared (Sullinger), (JD)
Weatherspoon, and the point guard (Trey) Burke along with a very good
supporting cast. Like I said before, they will be as good as anyone we
have ever played.”

Sullinger, the “Big Smooth”, will have to be the No. 1 player
in the country tomorrow night for the Vikings to pull off the upset.
That is something Sullinger has proven time-after-time on the AAU
circuit regardless of the person on the opposing team. He has made a
career out of proving the doubters wrong, and don’t expect anything
different tomorrow night.

“He knows the game very well, and is so versatile,” Peck
relayed. “He is very mobile and skilled with great feet and hands. We
have played against some good players, but he is one of if not the

That is high praise considering the track record of Findlay Prep.

Sullinger, the Ohio State signee, scored 17 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and blocked five shots in the Vikings opener.

Penn State commit Trey Burke (6’0/2011) led the Vikings with 21
points and seven steals, while Ohio State signee JD Weatherspoon
tallied seven markers.

The Northland supporting cast will be key against the talented
Pilots. Guards Joran Potts (5’10/2012), KeChaun Lewis (6’3/2012), and
Jakyl Cornley (6’2/2011) will have to be solid, and reserve post
players Jalen Robinson (6’8/2012) and Devon Scott (6’8/2012) will need
to provide the Vikings with quality minutes on the interior. Robinson
recently committed to West Virginia.

The Pilots arrived in Columbus around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday
and were scheduled to practice at the Rike Center that evening. The
Otterbein domed facility may be empty on Wednesday, but Peck knows
Thursday will be a different story.

“I told the kids that the gym holds 3,100 people and about
3,090 of them will be Northland fans,” Peck joked. “I just hope we have
the other 10 fans.”

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