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