Ar­drey Kell’s Luke Stankav­age, back from painful in­jury, looks like a star

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY LANGSTON WERTZ JR. lw­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

When North­side Chris­tian and Ar­drey Kell walked to cen­ter court to start their fifth-place game at the Hoodie’s Clas­sic Satur­day af­ter­noon, the dif­fer­ence in size was star­tling.

North­side Chris­tian’s fresh­man point guard, Jalen HoodSchifino, a sure-fire Power 5 player, is 6-foot-4. He was taller than any Knights player, and Ar­drey Kell kind of looks like five guys you might see at the YMCA on a week­day af­ter­noon.

“We don’t pass the eye test, for sure,” Knights coach Mike Craft said after his team whipped North­side 78-65 with a dis­ci­plined per­for­mance. “But these guys are re­silient and they run our sys­tem. We had to ad­just (to North­side’s chang­ing de­fenses), but we got where we were sup­posed to be, and Luke was sen­sa­tional.”

Luke Stankav­age, a ju­nior, is the Knights’ best player. He’s a 6-foot-1 combo guard who is one of the re­gion’s best shoot­ers. Against North­side, Stan- kav­age made 6-of-12 3point shots and had 27 points, and this week, he’s been one of the big­gest stars in one of the Caroli­nas’ best hol­i­day events.

In three games at the Hoodie’s, against elite com­pe­ti­tion, Stankav­age av­er­aged 22 points, four re­bounds and four as­sists. With Stankav­age play­ing like this — he av­er­ages 17 points, five as­sists for the sea­son — the Knights have won four of their last five games and are 10-2 over­all.

“Ever since last May,” Stankav­age said, “we said we wanted to be spe­cial this year, and we have worked hard since then. We’re smaller, but we make it work. When we play, our tallest guy is 6-3, but we just go out and play hard, play to­gether and let the re­sults take care of them­selves. And I just love be­ing a part of this team.”

Stankav­age be­gan his ca­reer at Prov­i­dence Day, play­ing solid min­utes as a fresh­man on a na­tion­ally ranked team. But in early 2017, at a tour­na­ment at na­tional power Montverde (Fla.) Academy, Stankav­age se­verely in­jured his left knee dur­ing warmups. Sud­denly, a promis­ing ca­reer was tak­ing a de­tour: surgery to re­pair a dam­aged ACL and many months away from the game he loves so much.

Stankav­age said his fam­ily de­cided to trans­fer to Ar­drey Kell after the in­jury, in part be­cause the school was right across the street from the fam­ily’s home, which made mak­ing post-surgery bas­ket­ball work­outs eas­ier to get to.

But it didn’t make them eas­ier to get through.

“It was ter­ri­ble,” Stankav­age said. “I missed the play­offs (with Prov­i­dence Day) that year. That sucked. I missed all of AAU. That sucked. Ev­ery day was tough.”

The worst part, Stankav­age said, was the re­hab. He couldn’t re­ally walk for awhile, and when he could, the doc­tors asked him to do knee bends and squats that didn’t ex­actly feel good.

But that was noth­ing com­pared to the first time he tried to use a leg ex­ten­sion ma­chine.

“It hurt so bad,” Stankav­age said. “The ma­chine did some­thing to my (quadri­ceps) and I started bawl­ing so bad. I mean, I knew I was go­ing to come back be­cause I wasn’t go­ing to let that stop me. But I won’t lie. That was tough.”

Stankav­age was back on the court ahead of sched­ule. He played in 25 of Ar­drey Kell’s 29 games last sea­son as sopho­more. He av­er­aged 12 points, three re­bounds and two as­sists on a 23-win team.

And with the star of the 2017-18 team, David Kasan­ganay, grad­u­ated and now at Navy, Ar­drey Kell is Luke’s team now.

He’s do­ing a re­ally good job with it, too. He’s con­fi­dent han­dling the bas­ket­ball. He can shoot it as well as any­one around and — like N.C. re­cruit­ing an­a­lyst Rick Lewis of Phe­nom Hoop Re­port kept say­ing while watch­ing him go for 20 points, eight re­bounds and five as­sists against New York’s Scan­lan High Fri­day — Stankav­age is “tough as nails.”

“Luke does all the lit­tle things well,” Lewis said sit­ting be­side me on press row, “and he doesn’t get rat­tled.”

What’s in­ter­est­ing, though, is that Stankav­age doesn’t have any col­lege of­fers yet. He has all As on his re­port card, ex­cept a B in AP U.S. his­tory. He said he’s talk­ing to coaches from Elon, Fur­man, Princeton, Wof­ford and Yale.

“We talk to a lot of peo­ple about him,” Craft said, “and once one (school) pulls the trig­ger, they all will. He’s a gem. The kid is in the gym at 5:30 ev­ery day, not dur­ing the sea­son, but he works so hard. I am just re­ally, re­ally blessed to have him, and the best thing?

“He’s got an­other year left.”

Note: This story went to print be­fore the Hoodie’s Clas­sic cham­pi­onship was played be­tween na­tion­ally ranked Char­lotte Chris­tian and Long Is­land (NY) Lutheran. For cov­er­age, visit char­lot­teob­server.com/sports/high-school

SATUR­DAY’S TOP PER­FORM­ERS

Koby Brea, Mon­signor (NY) Scan­lan: 22 points, seven re­bounds, three steals and two as­sists in an 81-58 win over South At­lanta (GA) in the sev­enth place game. Brea made 7-of-11 field goal at­tempts and 5-of-9 3-point at­tempts.

Jalen Hood-Schifino, North­side Chris­tian: 6-4 fresh­man had 28 points, mak­ing 9-of-10 field goals and all four 3-point at­tempts, in a 78-65 loss to Ar­drey Kell in the fifth place game.

Steven Sher­rill, Ar­drey Kell: 13 points, eight re­bounds and two steals against North­side. He made 6-of-9 field goal at­tempts.

Luke Stankav­age, Ar­drey Kell: 27 points, in­clud­ing mak­ing 6-of-12 3-point at­tempts, against North­side. Stankav­age had five as­sists and two steals.

JONATHAN AGUALLO Spe­cial to the Ob­server

Holly Springs Cen­ter Kadin Shedrick (21) gets the block dur­ing late first-half ac­tion. Holly Springs de­feated Nazareth Re­gional 76-57 for third place at the Hoodie's House High School Hoops Clas­sic.

Luke Stankav­age

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