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April 27, 2008

King James - Saturday

AKRON, OH -- Saturday was an interesting day of basketball at the King James Shooting Stars Classic 17 and under division. Familiar faces are finished early while the Elite Eight has an interesting flavor to it.

GIANT KILLERS

The story of Saturday is simple. The storied AAU clubs are done while the up and comers continue to play on.

Nearly all of the teams thought to be a favorite to win the King James Shooting Stars Classic will be watching from the stands on Sunday. That is, of course, if they are still around to see the action.

The giant killers went to work on Saturday. Of course, don't tell that to the teams that are still playing. They played like they were the giants and not the slayers.

Gone are the Atlanta Celtics, Indiana Elite, New York Gauchos, Illinois Warriors, Illinois Wolves, Playground Elite, The Family, Mac Irvin Fire, Worldwide Renegades and the Florida Rams.

Moving on to the championship bracket for the 17 and under division are the Mean Streets out of Chicago, Ohio Basketball Club, DC Assault, Rising Stars Gold (Ill.), BABC, Caps All-Stars, Team NLP and the CP3 All-Stars.

In a nutshell, that is how the tournament has been over the course of a day and a half.

Here are the highlights from Saturday's stars:

  • DC Assault went to overtime against the Illinois Warriors, runners up in last week's Real Deal on the Hill, thanks to a buzzer beater from 2010 point guard Darryl Traynham.

    The 5-foot-8 guard from Charlotte, N.C. drilled the game-winner over the outstretched arms of a defender. He redeemed himself with the bucket after he missed the front end of a potential game winning free-throw at the start of regulation.

    His energy is contagious and Traynham does a fine job of finding his teammates. The class of 2010 prospect is unselfish and a quiet leader for his Elite Eight squad.

  • In a tussle of Chicago powers, the Mean Streets knocked out the Mac Irvin Fire to advance. Mac Irvin knocked out the Atlanta Celtics with hot-shooting and a huge second half surge to open the playoff bracket up with a bang.

  • Team NLP took care of business against an undermanned Indiana Elite team in the first round 66-58. A round later, the squad knocked out the Worldwide Renegades Black by a dozen.

  • The CP3 All-Stars won a terrific tussle against the New York Gauchos, one of the toughest teams in America on Saturday night. The North Carolina kids were paced by North Carolina bound wing Reggie Bullock, who was outstanding with 18 points in the victory.

  • The upsets, if you want to call the wins that, were everywhere on Saturday. The result should up the intensity level for Sunday. Saturday's games were competitive but the intensity lacked for the most part.

  • The remaining teams in the Diamond Division is as follows:

    Mean Streets (Ill..) vs. Ohio Basketball Club
    DC Assault vs. Rising Stars Gold (Ill.)
    BABC vs. Caps All-Stars (Ind.)
    Team NLP (Ill.) vs. CP3 All-Stars (N.C.)

    SENIOR MOMENTS

    There were a number of prospects from the class of 2009 that stood out from Saturday.

    For the second straight weekend, D.J. Richardson is playing at a high level.

    Richardson has mastered the baseline floater and goes to it often. On three straight possessions, Richardson scored with the floater, hit a mid range shot off the glass and converted a pair of free throws. Late in the second half, he hit a lay-up, nailed a floater and buried a three-pointer. The future Illinois guard has a variety of moves to go to as a scorer. The Warriors have had great success because of his ability to score points in so many ways.

    Richardson has great chemistry with backcourt mate Darius Smith, who continues to shine on the big stage. The 6-foot-1 point guard has a great feel with the ball in his hands. His speed with the ball in his hands is one of his best strengths and he knives through the defense with few problems. Smith is a great ball-handler and a strong defender. A shooter he's not but he's solid in nearly everything else. For a class where the point guards are still trying to find it's collective voice, Smith's call has been heard in April.

    Winning in overtime against Richardson and Smith was a hard fought battle for the Kansas State bound duo of Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder.

    Judge scored on a put back from a missed free throw to send the game into overtime. He struggled with finishing the chip shots in the first half but did a better job when it mattered in the second half. He looks a little rusty but you know there is a big time match-up problem inside of him. He's a tough player to defend because of his size and versatility.

    McGruder was his always-steady self. His rebounding was impressive to watch. For a 6-foot-5 wing, he's not afraid to get into the man's world down low for boards. That should serve him well in Big 12 play.

    Team NLP is in the Elite Eight because they are a great team anchored by a very good player in Illinois bound Brandon Paul. The 6-foot-3 guard is a slasher supreme and did all of his damage at the rim with some athletic plays.

    He got to the basket any time he wanted to. Paul's first step to the basket has been tough to defend and his confidence is growing by the game. He put in 26 points on Indiana Elite in the first round of the tournament.

    M33M Ballers forward Christian Watford is having another strong weekend. The bigger and stronger forward from Alabama can rack up the points with the best of them. He's using his upgraded frame to his advantage for more punch inside and he hasn't lost his touch from the perimeter. The four-star prospect racked up games of 38, 35 and 24 points on Saturday.

    THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

    Two of the best players in the class of 2011 put on a heck of a show in pool play as Mike Shaw and his Mac Irvin Fire and Austin Rivers of Team STAT met each other at center game late in a back-and-forth game on Saturday morning.

    Both players had great individual moments in the contest but it was Shaw's open court steal on Rivers, a usual security guard with the ball, that led to a transition dunk that swung the momentum to the Fire and eventually the win.

    Shaw, a 6-foot-7 combo forward, doesn't play like a freshman and has no problems of wearing the mantle of being one of the top players in his class. His versatility and inside-out capabilities will serve him well during his high school career. Shaw has all the makings of an elite level player in 2011 and doesn't appear to be slowing down.

    The same can be said for Rivers, who was outstanding two weeks ago at the Boo Williams Invitational, where he helped Team STAT claim the 16 and under title. He looked perfectly comfortable playing up in the 17 and under division. In fact, he might have been the most poised guard on the floor.

    Rivers has great intangibles and he has a leadership quality to him that few guards have amongst players have as a 15-year-old, let alone playing up in the oldest division. He continues to impress on the big stages.

    Let it be said that there will be few teams in the King James Shooting Stars Classic 16 and under field than the All-Ohio Red and DC Assault teams. Both made it look easy in the first games of the day at Kent State.

    Dayton has an absolute steal in point guard Juwan Staten. The 5-foot-10 guard is tremendous off the bounce with his jumper and controlled the pace of the game for All-Ohio at the point. He didn't play much because he didn't need to. He piloted his squad well out of the blocks and set the tone early on.

    Jared Sullinger had a chance to get some rest time because of the running clock blow out but in the short time he was in the game, the future Ohio State Buckeye resembled a young Richard Hendrix of Alabama fame. That's a big time compliment considering the Southern was a 20 and 10 guy in the SEC this year.

    Anchoring the other side of the blocks was bouncy 6-foot-7 forward J.D. Weatherspoon. He was one of the more intriguing players in the 16 and under division. Known primarily as a pure athlete in local circles, Weatherspoon showed more than just being a play above the rim guy. He hit three three-pointers as a pop out post man. He's super intriguing and it's easy to see why West Virginia, Miami, Akron (offer), James Madison (offer), Wisconsin and Xavier are involved early.

    For DC Assault, the workload is well spread and balanced between the depth of guards and the steadiness of the big men.

    In the morning game, Cedrick Lindsay was the main scorer as he knocked down three three-pointers and

    The overall talent on the defensive end from Lindsay, Erik Atkins and Tyler Thornton was the reason why the Assault played like it's namesake. The underclassmen understand how to defend both mentally and physically. Thornton might be one of the top defenders in his class.

    Big man Josh Hairston had a big following of coaches all day Saturday as he's looking like one of the top power forwards in his class. Hairston has a great understanding of the game for an underclassmen and rarely makes mistakes at his position. While he wasn't beating down the door with production in the morning game, he clearly has the tools of a highly recruited high-major player.

    Maxie Eshoo was the top big man in the morning game for the Assault. The 6-foot-7 did work as a face up four man. He hit tough shots in the midrange and was tough on the glass as a rebounder. The class of 2010 prospect was also strong around the rim. He was a nice surprise on Saturday.

    When it comes to putting the ball in the basket, Anthony Johnson of the Illinois Warriors 16 and under team knows how to put the ball in the cylinder. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 20-plus points in an overtime win over the Ohio Basketball Club. He said he picked up a pair of offers from Iowa and Purdue this month while Illinois and Notre Dame are also in deep.

    HI, MY NAME IS…

    Pittsburgh Storm center Zeke Marshall put on a block party against Lou Will Elite and did a tremendous job of protecting the basket on the defensive end. The near 7-footer got better as he played on Saturday.

    One of the question marks, according to the Pittsburgh locals, was Marshall's offensive ability. Those questions, for the most part, were answered in the morning pool game. Marshall's touch around the cup was good and he caught everything that came his way. He lacks good physical strength and that limits his effectiveness at time but for what he showed in a tough win, he did enough to make believers.

    After emerging onto the scene at the Boo Williams Invitational, Mouptaou Tarou continued to cement himself onto the national radar with a strong performance against Team NLP. The muscular 6-foot-10 forward has a strong post game literally and figuratively. He's still a raw product but not as raw as other African transplants in the past. Tarou is a no-brainer high-major prospect because of his great physical traits and his flash here, flash there play in the post. He was the only player to have it rolling for the Blue Devils in a loss to Team NLP.

    When we saw a little bit of the King James Shooting Stars, big man Jonathan Smith of Grove City (Ohio) stood out. Smith played well in the paint and made a lot of noise with his play above the rim. The 6-foot-7 forward Smith said he has heard from James Madison, Kent State, Bowling Green, Saint Louis and the majority of the MAC. He played the role of a good mid-level prospect very well.

    Charlie Gibson was an eye-catcher for the REACH All-Stars. The 6-foot-8 from Detroit Southeastern forward brought high-energy and production in the middle of the line-up. A number of coaches came to see his talented teammate Keith Appling, a 2010 prospect, and chances are, they were impressed with the play of Gibson. Like Smith, he's a strong mid-level prospect.

    The Mac Irvin Fire won big games because of the play of it's stars and the production of guys like Stan Brown, a 6-foot-8 dirty work post player. He quietly made big plays in big games when he needed to. Brown said he played well last week in Houston and heard from Howard, Iowa, Indiana State and Clemson after the event. He played well again in Akron and should see his list continue to grow.

    The Carolina Celtics are a team with good depth and good size and guard Kenny Manigualt knows it. He shined as the team's top passer in a bucket for bucket games against the Baltimore Stars.

    SCHOOL LIST CENTRAL

    Michigan 2010 prospect Trey Zeigler said his early final list of schools consists of UCLA, Texas, Michigan State, Kansas, Stanford and Kentucky.

    Louis Young, a 2010 point guard with the DC Blue Devils 16 and under team, gave a list of William & Mary (offer), Maryland, Marquette and Richmond.

    Blake Bozeman, a teammate to Young, said he is hearing from Richmond, St. Joseph's and Stanford.

    Markel Starks, a 2010 starting point guard for the Blue Devils 17 and under club, rattled off a list that consisted of Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgetown, Virginia, St. Joseph's, Baylor, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Marquette and Stanford.

    Big man Joston Thomas said he's heard from Georgetown, West Virginia, Florida State and Syracuse.

    Center Waverly Austin said West Virginia and Xavier have jumped into the race while Florida State recently tendered an offer.

    NOTES FROM THE NOTEPAD

  • Andre Malone has his mojo back. The Auburn bound Atlanta Celtic has played very well this AAU season after a self-described bad junior year in high school. He's playing with a high level of confidence and making tough shots that he just didn't make during the regular season.

  • Richard Howell has been one of the most consistent players for the Worldwide Renegades Orange team this AAU season. According to numerous eyes in the gym, he was outstanding on Saturday morning and was the toughest player on the floor to defend.

  • If there is a spot on the floor and if there is even a glimmer of hope of getting to it, DC Blue Devils guard Markel Starks is going to get there. The class of 2010 point guard has been one of the few bright spots for his team, even as an underclassmen playing up.

  • You have to like it when prospects find the right fit for college. That is clearly the case for Michigan bound forward Jordan Morgan. The 6-foot-9 forward should have a good career for the Wolverines because he's not afraid to bang, can really pass from the post and when his number is called, he can knocked down the face-up jumper.

  • Playing his third game in a row, Michigan guard Keith Appling didn't have his best game in front of us. The locals have raved about his play and word is he went for 30-plus and 20-something in the two prior games to our viewing. He's a scoring point guard with a wiry frame. Word is Michigan State is very strong with him. The Spartans just landed a commitment from his 2009 high school teammate Derrick Nix last week.

  • Nursing an injury, Crandall Head spent most of the second half on the bench as his Mac Irvin Fire team beat the Atlanta Celtics. The game before against Team STAT, he showed why Illinois locked him up early with a couple of big time athletic plays. He's a freaky athlete that has a couple of wow moments up his sleeve for every game he plays in.

  • Lipscomb picked up a solid commitment from Ohio point guard Zach Brown. The Atlantic Sun contenders are always anchored by a tough as nails floor leader. The Bison have one coming to Nashville in Brown.

  • Top big man Adreian Payne was missing from action for the All-Ohio Red 16 and under team. The 6-foot-9 big man injured a stomach muscle while participating in a track meet this week and will be out for three weeks.


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