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October 20, 2014

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Findlay Prep

Findlay Prep defeats former NBAer and his pals

It was a tough night for the Junkyard Dog and his band of 30-something hoopsters up at the Henderson International School.

Former NBA player Jerome Williams, who was nicknamed Junkyard Dog early in his career by former Detroit tough guy Rick Mahorn, played a little scrimmage against Findlay Prep.

As in, defending national champion Findlay Prep.

Granted, the Pilots don’t have Avery Bradley (now at Texas) and D.J. Richardson (now at Illinois), two key players in their run to the first ESPN National High School Invitational title in Maryland.

But they have Cory Joseph, arguably the best prep point guard in the land.

Arguably? Maybe easily.

It would be a stern test for the largely new-look Pilots, whose core this season will be returnees Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Godwin Okonji, all seniors.

The new blood includes leaper Nick Johnson, the nephew of the late Dennis Johnson who appears to have at least a 45-inch vertical. He doesn’t have shins – they’re hydraulic pumps.

Jabari Brown, Winston Shepard, Marko Petrovic, Dekeeba Battee-Aston and Nigel Williams-Goss round out the Findlay roster.

The Pilots raced out to score the first eight points Wednesday night, and JYD battled back. Then Findlay eased out to a 16-7 lead, but JYD battled back.

In the third 10-minute quarter, JYD put an offensive board back in the basket to tie it, 45-45. Brown answered with a jumper and then put in Johnson’s missed jump shot, and Battee-Aston hit a couple shots to give Findlay some breathing room.

JYD didn’t go away, though, sinking a three-quarter-length shot at the third-quarter buzzer to get within 65-59.

It was 77-72 late when Joseph drilled a 3-pointer, and Johnson followed with a 3-point shot of his own and a dunk to secure it.

Unofficially, Thompson and Joseph had 16 points, Brown had 11 and Johnson added 10.

When a teammate was at the line shooting a late free throw, Williams sauntered over to UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who no doubt came across JYD a few times when he coached the Atlanta Hawks.

(Kruger is after Joseph and likely has his eyes on several other Pilots, so it was wise for him to attend the scrimmage.)

Williams, panting a bit and hunched over, with his hands on his knees, shook Kruger’s hand. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound Williams last played in the league for the Knicks in 2004-05 and he now lives in Las Vegas.

“These guys are way too fast and way too strong,” Williams, 36, said to Kruger.

Findlay won, 89-80. That’s usual under coach Mike Peck, who is 65-1 in his two seasons running the Pilots.

At least future foes can take solace in knowing that Findlay can even handle a former NBAer and the best group of pick-up players he can find.

Follow Rob Miech on Twitter at twitter.com/RobMiech.

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