There simply hasn’t been another team to put South Florida basketball on the radar this year like the Calvary Christian Eagles.
Home to six players with Division I scholarships, the talent ranges at any position for Cilk McSweeney’s program. And as they enter their second game of the Montverde Academy Invitational, they’ll have a shot at showcasing those skills, along with a chance to represent their area.
“We definitely had goals before the season started and they’re coming into fruition,” McSweeney told 305 Sports on Thursday. “That’s always a great thing. The guys are building chemistry on and off the court and enjoying playing with each other. And that speaks of our program because we try to create a family atmosphere. Everyone’s buying into it and everything’s going well.”
The Eagles, now 10-5 on the season, opened the tournament up with a battle versus Montverde Academy (19-0), who’s currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps. That said, they couldn’t keep it as close as they did earlier in their 2020-21 campaign, falling 102-64.
Their opportunity to bounce back from a current two-game losing skid begins Friday, taking on a 4-7 La Lumiere squad at 7:00 p.m. To make things sweeter, it’ll be broadcasted on ESPN3.
“We just need to be there physically first, and then most of all be there mentally as well,” McSweeney said. “These teams are going 10-11 deep. We have to be ready for everything they’re throwing at us, just being able to compete.”
The Eagles are no strangers to taking on the nation’s best, having finished second place in the Beach Ball Classic following victories over Cannon, Archbishop Moeller and Oak Ridge. That impressive sprout garnered them a top 25 national ranking, before falling to Westminster Christian a few weeks back in a shocking upset.
Along with that game vs. La Lumiere, Calvary Christian will meet Sunrise Christian Academy, the No. 3 ranked team in the country.
Taking on such prestigious talent goes to show the excitement surrounding this team, considering that they’ll be graduating just three players – Dylan Canoville, Logan Lord, Isaach Marson.
“ESPN and the Montverde guys recommended us because of the buzz that we had and the guys are playing well,” McSweeney said. “When you’re playing well as a team, everyone benefits. That’s what we’ve been trying to preach to them since the very beginning. It’s not about you personally, it’s about the team and everybody getting noticed.”
Leading the group is Canoville and a triad of juniors in Taylor Hendricks, Greg Glenn and Marvel Allen, along with sophomore Carl Cherenfant.
Hendricks, who possesses offers from schools like Miami, Florida and Memphis, transferred from NSU University School this past summer, and has made his presence felt consistently. Averaging 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, the 6-foot-10 forward’s mid-range jumper makes him a threat offensively, while his length and awareness helps defensively.
“Taylor’s been behind the scenes as far as playing behind [Vernon Carey] and [Scottie Barnes] in this level, but he never really had a chance to be the guy that the team counted on in this position,” McSweeney said. “This was kind of new for him.”
As for Glenn, who’s adding 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, his return to Calvary features a chance to play with more talent than ever, which ultimately has led to persistent success.
“Greg’s always had a bullseye on his back since eighth grade,” McSweeney said. “This is his year as far as with his high school team, being a top 25 team, and him being ready to be consistent night in and night out.”
At the one spot has been Allen, who transferred from Wellington this summer. And after a sluggish start to his Eagles career, he’s picked things up to be one of the Eagles’ perennial weapons.
“Since Marvel’s been with us, he’s been getting better since day one,” McSweeney said. “He struggled in the beginning because of a new situation, new coaches asking for new things from him, new teammates. As he was getting adjusted to everything and his shot started falling again, he just took over. He’s leading our team in scoring right now (14.5 PPG) and that’s not surprising because he can score in a lot of different ways. He’s tough, he’s enjoyable to coach, he has a great attitude, he has a great family too. He’s been great.”
Luckily for McSweeney’s group, he’s had the privilege to coach them since early in the summer, under the KT Kings. Having the chance to play some of the top AAU teams, chemistry and an overall understanding of how good this team could be were set early on.
“I wanted to make our summer and preseason schedule the toughest we’ve ever seen,” he said. “Even though we hadn’t played together long, we had to figure it out. How to figure out to win, everything. We’re grateful for that opportunity because it actually got us ready. We only had 14 regular season games, so it got us ready for the grind that we’re going to see. All of this prepares us for the state run we’re going to make.”
Calvary looms into the postseason as serious favorites to capture a 3A state title. Their last time was in 2017, although they were close just last season, losing to Santa Fe Catholic 48-41 in the regional semifinals.
Still, although a state title’s the goal considering the loaded roster McSweeney’s team holds, he hopes his players will always remember the journey they’ve been through together.
“I really want the guys to continue building memories they can always hang on to,” he said. “Our 2017 team that won states, we still have a group chat and all the guys are still close. That’s what I envision for this team. Not only that, we want to finish strong because next year there are talks of us being a preseason top-five team in the country. We want to definitely finish strong and have that carry us next season, too, with our younger guys.”