High School Final Four

New Orleans – Brandon Slater, a senior forward at Villanova, is in the Final Four with one goal: to win a national championship.

And if achieving that goal means defeating some of his former high school friends, then so be it.

Slater is one of four Final Four players who were teammates at St. Paul VI High School in Chantilly, Washington. When Slater was senior during the 2017-18 season, Paul VI also introduced the North Carolina Guard Anthony Harris and the Duke guards Jeremy Roach and Trevor Kills. Together, they won the state championship.

The team stays in touch via text message during the season to support each other, Slater said, but with a trip to the national championship game on the line, things may not be friendly this week.

“We keep each other positive throughout the year, and if by chance we play with each other during the year, we are not so close friends,” the 6-foot-7 slater, who averages 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for Villanova, said this week In a telephone interview.

Paul VI’s players – “PVI” as the school is abbreviated – are not the only former team members to unite in the national semi-finals. North Carolina’s second guard RJ Davis and Duke’s freshman AJ Griffin won the 2018 New York State Championship together at Archbishop Stephanak High School in White Plains. Duke Wendell Moore Jr.’s junior wing and North Carolina senior forward Leakey Black played together at Cox Mill High School in Concord, North Carolina

Slater Villanova will face Kansas in the first game on Saturday, while Duke and North Carolina will play in the second game. This is the first time that two teams from the same country and the same conference will meet in the Final Four.

Back at Chantilly, Glenn Farlo, Paul VI’s head basketball coach, plans to watch the national semifinals on his couch with his 1-year-old daughter, Zadi, wearing a dark blue T-shirt under a Villanova sweater. Because Harris is not playing this season while recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Farlo is free to find his other past players to meet in Duke-Villanova’s national championship game on Monday.

“If we have a Duke-Villanova final, I guess my three guys will be great, and we’ll celebrate with one and hug the others,” Farlo said in a phone interview.

He added about his former players: “What’s beautiful about all these guys is their competitiveness. They’re all guys who are great teammates. It’s so nice to see your guys keep playing with teams that have a winning culture and contribute to it, and do whatever it takes To help the teams because that’s what they did with us here. “

Throughout the 2017-18 season, Slater has tried to serve as a role model for his young teammates – Roach is a sophomore, Kills a freshman. Slater himself learned the ropes from Aaron Thompson, a longtime friend who preceded him that year in Paul VI and who had just finished a five-year career at Butler, where he is the show’s career leader.

“He and I are very close – we talk almost every day if we can, or every week if we can,” Slater said of Thompson. “He definitely taught me how to lead, and when he left, he knew we still had time to come and there were some players coming. We had young Jeremy Roach, we had young Trevor Kills, Anthony Harris. And he told me it was our time now.”

During that 2017-18 season, the Panthers went 18-0 on the rough schedule of the Catholic Athletics Conference in Washington, which is considered the best preparation league for private basketball schools. But that February, Slater broke a bone in his left-handed shooter, disabling him for the WCAC playoffs, where Paul VI lost to Gonzaga College High School opponent.

He returned with his hand “everything is padded,” Farlow said, and “could not shoot from a distance of 12 feet.” But he played a key defensive role as the Panthers won the state championship over Bishop O’Connell by 18 points.

Slater knew then that Harris, Roach and Kill were meant for bigger and better things.

“You can just know how talented these guys are going to be,” Slater said. “Jeremy Roach and Trevor Kills came up in big moments.”

Villanova coach Jay Wright loved that Slater could fill out the stats sheet. After Slater recorded multiple rebounds, steals and blocks in the game Wright watched, he offered Slater a scholarship. When it came time to choose a college, Slater pledged to Villanova that he liked the university’s approach.

“It was so similar in the way they preach on teamwork and family,” Slater said. “Boylanova, that’s the biggest thing we have is our family.”

After Slater, Major Coach coaches continued to recruit Paul VI players. Roy Williams, a former North Carolina coach, came through the school for Harris, who committed to Tar Heels after initially opting for Virginia Tech. He changed course after coach Buzz Williams left for Texas A&M.

Duke coach Mike Koziewski and his team also visited Paul VI to recruit Roach, who pledged to play for the Blue Devils in May 2019. On one of Koziewski’s visits to see Roach, Farlo called Kels to his office so the young player could meet The hall coaches glory. Farlo knew that Duke was Kills’ dream school.

“He came in and he was wide-eyed,” Farlo recalled. “And when he came out, I turned to Coach K and said, ‘I just wanted to make sure you know who he is, because at some point, I think you might want to go back with that one.’ And really, they did. “

Kills eventually committed to precision in April 2021 and is now one of three fresh precision students – along with Griffin and Paulo Benchero – who are expected to be selected in the first round of this summer’s NBA Draft.

Kills, built like an NFL brake at 6 feet 5 inches and 221 pounds, averages 11.3 points and 3.5 rebounds, while Roach averages 8.6 points and 3.1 assists.

Roach knew they were part of something special with their high school staff, and he felt things were bigger before them.

“Four years later, for everyone to get here in the Final Four, you could not be happier than that,” Roach said Friday. “It just shows you how good PVI is.”

Now they are looking to win another championship on a bigger stage.

Kills said in February that the current Blue Devils have “better talent” and “better depth” than the 2015 team that won the state championship, and that this year’s team can “definitely” cut the nets in Kryzewski’s past year with the program.

Farlo, meanwhile, said he hears from several NBA scouts each week who check in not only on Kills, but also on Slater.

Although Paul VI players are now focused on their teams, Slater said that down the road, the team hopes to learn to appreciate its accomplishments this season.

“When all this is said and done, we are definitely going to sit down and talk about it forever,” he said.

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