NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.- The most competitive event of the summer tipped off Tuesday with NIKE's EYBL finals at the Peach Jam at the Riverview Park Activities Center. Not surprisingly, Anthony Bennett and Rodney Purvis put together big outings.
More Tuesday Peach Jam standouts
Rodney Purvis, PG, CP3- Man, did Purvis ever look impressive on the first day of the Peach Jam. First of all, the physical 6-foot-4 rising senior is in ridiculously good shape. He seems to have become more sleek and quick off the dribble and was making plays for others in way that we've not seen him do before. It's quite evident he's been working hard on his game.
Matt Jones, SG, Texas Titans- The class of 2013 two-guard is well known for his ability to strip the nets from deep. However, at times there hasn't been much more to his game. After showing signs of a more complete floor game at June's Elite 100, the 6-foot-4 Jones took it to the next level against the Spiece Indy Heat. He was hitting floaters in the lane, pull-ups and driving aggressively while racking up 26 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor. His defense, was impressive too.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, PG, Spiece Indy Heat- Plain and simple, Smith-Rivera is a gamer. He's so confident in his offense and strong that he never has to force anything. When Spiece needed him the most during an 11-point, second-half comeback win he was at his best. First he drilled a tough step back three-pointer to cut the lead to one and then he won the game on a drive for the hoop plus a foul shot with just 6.4 seconds to go. UCLA's Ben Howland, Ohio State's Thad Matta, Baylor's Scott Drew, as well as assistants from Texas and Louisville were among those on hand for him. Rick Pitino made it for the night session.
DeJuan Marerro, SF, Spiece Indy Heat- Talk about a guy willing to do the dirty work. The 6-foot-5 senior-to-be was an absolute animal on the glass and played with a warrior mentality. Often matched up with the much bigger Julius Randle and Prince Ibeh, Marerro outworked them on several occasions while notching 11 important rebounds - five of them offensive.
Justin Anderson, SF, Boo Williams- Very quiet in the first half against the Oakland Soldiers because of foul trouble, it wasn't a surprise to see the Virginia pledge come out aggressively in the second. He scored 11 points in the first five minutes to get his guys back to within three. After that, his own enthusiasm got the best of him a bit. He finished with 23 points and seven rebounds in only 21 minutes of action, but perhaps tried to do a bit too much at times. We love his passion for the game, but at times it seems as if he's trying to take on the world by himself.
Josh Fortune, SG, Boo Williams- While Anderson was saddled with foul trouble, the 6-foot-4 wing kept Boo in the game with his shooting from deep. When he's locked in, Fortune is a wing sniper with good size who can nail deep jumpers from any spot around the perimeter and he doesn't need much space to do so. He finished with 24 while making 5-of-7 three-pointers.
Dominic Artis, PG, Oakland Soldiers- Not surprisingly, Artis was terrific while putting together an efficient 22-point, 5-assist line in the Soldiers' win. Artis was locked in with his jumper, made super decisions and also made some nice adjustments on defense to help disrupt the Boo Williams attack.
Brice Johnson, PF, CP3- It would be fair to say that people have slept on Johnson some. But, it's also fair to say that nobody has seen Johnson play with as much aggression, physicality and athleticism as he did on Tuesday. He contested every shot, ran the floor, fought for rebounds and really played strong. Clemson, Florida and South Carolina are on him strong; expect more to join in.
Brandon Ashley, PF, Oakland Soldiers- Since the last couple of games at the Los Angeles EYBL, the 6-foot-8 forward has been on a tear. He was relentless on the interior fighting for loose balls and scoring over each shoulder. For good measure he drained a nice-looking 18-footer during his 24 and 11 outing. One thing Ashley does need to be careful about is keeping his pivot foot in place as he gets whistled for a lot of traveling calls. Howland, Mike Montgomery, Bill Self, Sean Miller and other big-name coaches locked in on him.
Anthony Bennett, PF, CIA Bounce- Forget being a potential impact freshman in 2012, the beastly Canadian is an impact player in college basketball next week. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem like anybody's really gone full bore on his recruitment yet but they should. Physical, skilled and athletic, it's hard not to see some Larry Johnson in his game. The best part is that he brings it consistently and always plays like a beast. You want to take a rebound from Anthony Bennett? It's best you be a grown man about it.
Marcus Paige, PG, All-Iowa Attack- Through the first 24 minutes or so of a tough loss to the CIA Bounce, the North Carolina-bound Paige was solid. He took care of the ball, hit some open jumpers and kept the mistakes to a minimum. But, he was also playing a bit safe. When the game really heated up, so did Paige. Paige got really aggressive off of the dribble, hunted some shots and became creative as a playmaker. If he can play like that from beginning to end on a consistent basis, then you have to look at him differently.
Final Tuesday notes
Playing in front of his future head coach, Butler commit Kellen Dunham just couldn't convert on any of the wide open looks he was getting from Smith-Rivera's dribble penetration. But, he sure put on a clinic when it came to hitting pull-up jumpers from near the elbow. Right or left, it didn't matter. ... For whatever reason, Julius Randle can really struggle to finish at the rim despite his size and strength. It seems that he often makes his first step away from, rather than to, the basket on those finishes he misses. When Randle beats defenders, he either scores or gets fouled as evidenced by his 13 trips to the free-throw line in a tough one-point defeat at the hands of Spiece. For the game, Randle finished with 18 points and six rebounds but was just 4-of-12 on field goals while making 10-13 from the charity stripe. ... During the first half of their loss against the Oakland Soldiers, Boo Williams point guard Anthony Barber had defenders on skates as he got into the paint at will creating wide open shots and dunk opportunities for teammates. However, in the second half as Justin Anderson heated up and became more dominant with the ball, Barber just sat by and watched. As a potentially elite point guard, Barber has to become more of a leader and take command of his team down the road. ...
It wasn't a great shooting night for Kale Abrahamson, but he is a legitimate high-major talent. Great size for the wing, a good athlete and has some length. When he gets the footwork on his jumper consistent, he could be really dangerous as a jump shooter as well. ... Aaron Gordon was a monster against the Texas Titans in an evening game. There's not a better 4/3 in the country on the fast break and that's as a finisher and ballhandler. His jumper looks much improved and he's certainly showing an improved skill level. ... The offense really does come easy for Ricardo Ledo, the guy is as pure a scorer as there is in high school basketball. Deep range, athleticism, handles and a knack for getting clean looks at the rim. ...
Memphis YOMCA's Kordario Fleming makes a killing with 12-foot jumpers from the baseline. He's always canning those things and it was a good day for the 6-foot-6 combo forward. ... On the 16-and-under level, Deshawn Munson of the St. Louis Eagles was impressive. He's a physical combo guard and puts pressure on the defense. ... Another impressive guard in the 16-and-under division was Boo Williams point guard Devon Hall. He's a big 6-foot-3, maybe an inch bigger, and knows how to play. Smart passer, can score and doesn't make many mistakes. He had Virginia coach Tony Bennett and others watching him closely. ... Finally, 2014 shooting guard prospect Kelly Oubre didn't put up big numbers while we watched him, but it wasn't difficult to see his talent. At least 6-foot-4 with long arms, he's a smooth lefty shooting guard. Count him as another pretty high level wing prospect in a class that seems to have an inordinate number of them.