When Archbishop Molloy coach Mike McCleary first heard about the field for the 2018 SNY Invitational, he knew his team was going to face a tough road.
"It's an incredibly difficult tournament," McCleary told SNY.tv. "When we first met, they hadn't done the matchups and they said to me, 'Who would you prefer playing?' I said, 'That's like asking, 'Do you want to die by lethal injection or firing squad?'
"There are very, very talented teams in this tournament. You'd be lucky to come out with a win, and certainly lucky to win the championship."
The two-day tournament kicks off live on SNY on Friday at 6 p.m. ET as the NY State Sportswriters Association's No. 10 ranked Archbishop Molloy Stanners take on the No. 5 ranked Long Island Lutheran Crusaders. The Friday evening semifinal concludes as Jersey City's Hudson Catholic Hawks, ranked No. 2 in New Jersey by NJ.com, face off against New York's No. 2 ranked Cardinal Hayes Cardinals. SNY's championship coverage begins Saturday, January 27 at 2 p.m. ET.
"I've been following the tournament for the 10 years and I would say this is probably hands down the deepest, most talented field SNY's put together," LuHi coach John Buck said.
Since the tournament's inception in 2008, 68 tournament participants have gone on to play Division 1 basketball at schools such as UConn, Kentucky, UCLA and Georgetown. Two former players -- Lance Stephenson and Kyle Anderson -- were named McDonald's All-Americans and are now in the NBA.
This year's event features a record three McDonald's All-Americans in Moses Brown of Molloy, who on Monday verbally committed to UCLA, Louis King (Oregon) and Jahvon Quinerly (uncommitted) of Hudson Catholic.
The 7-foot-2 Brown chose UCLA over Maryland and Florida State, and will sign his National Letter of Intent this spring.
"UCLA is a really good school, I love their campus," he said at the prestigious HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass., earlier this month. "And I like the conference that they're in."
Hudson Catholic has two McDonald's All-Americans of its own. King went off for 32 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists as Hudson Catholic cruised to a 71-58 decision over Kentucky-bound Immanuel Quickley and John Carroll (Md.) at the Hoophall Classic.
"Louis was tremendous," Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello said. "When he's engaged, he's as good as anyone in the country. I thought he defended well, I thought he shot the ball well, I thought he drove the ball well.
Louis King with the tomahawk dunk in front of Dana Altman. He has 15 pic.twitter.com/qIXkdYALhO- Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 15, 2018
King's performance came in front of his future coach, Oregon's Dana Altman.
"Lou's got a lot of upside," Altman said. "He can put the ball on the floor, he's got a good shooting touch. I think as he gets stronger, he's going to really be a good rebounder. He's got good instincts going after the ball. I love his willingness to pass. I think he's a really good passer. I loved the way he moved the ball.
"I think Nick does a great job with him. He's a great basketball player. He's going to step right in and play a lot of basketball for us, I'm quite sure about that."
The 6-2 Quinerly has kept a low profile on his recruitment since decommitting from Arizona, but coaches from Rutgers, Villanova and Oregon watched him at the Hoophall. In addition to the McDonald's All-Americans, the tournament features plenty of other talent.
"I think beyond those three [McDonald's All-Americans], there are many, many more really capable players," said LuHi coach John Buck, whose team will counter with point guard Tyson Etienne and forwards Frankie Policelli and Weber State-bound Donatas Kupsas. "That's what makes this so exciting." Molloy should benefit from the return of junior point guard Cole Anthony, the No. 5-ranked prospect in the Class of 2019 according to ESPN.com and the son of former Knicks point guard Greg Anthony. Cole has been out with a bone bruise in his foot.
"In high school, any time you have a really strong point guard and a center, I think that's your starting points, your building ground, and I think they have two of the best in the country," Buck said of the Molloy duo. "And they have Khalid Moore [Georgia Tech] and other capable players around them, so they're really, really talented and we'll have to play a solid game to come out with a win." McCleary feels the same way on the other side.
"I think [LuHi] is a little deeper than we are," he said. "I think our 'Big Three' guys are good and able to play with them but after that we kind of slip a little bit. So we need those guys to step up and play big for us if we're going to do well in the tournament."
Of a potential chance at the title, McCleary added: "It would be great for us. Frankly this season has been we get a win, then we get a loss. The schedule has been so tough for us playing this national schedule. So it would be nice to build a little momentum as we come to the end of the season and the playoffs."