FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- After the last few weeks of April were dominated by shoe company-sponsored events, things have opened up a bit on the first weekend of May. The annual Bill Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam held at the Spiece Fieldhouse features teams from across the shoe world, and on Friday night a large portion of the Midwest's top talent was on display. Top five senior-to-be Trey Lyles made his return from a knee injury, Milwaukee's finest, Kevon Looney, backed up his top 10 status in the class of 2014, and point guard Chris Chiozza continued a big spring.
Chiozza continues to shine
In its first season on the Under Armour roster of teams, Memphis, Tenn.-based Team Thad plays as fast as anybody in grassroots basketball. But it has not been fully healthy. It thought it would be this week when five-star Leron Black came back from an injury, but now four-star Marcanvis Hymon is out with an injury. The way it looks, it won't matter much. Well, as long as Thad has Chiozza.
Friday night against a good Peoria Irish team, the 5-foot-11 point guard from Memphis (Tenn.) White Station quietly put together a triple double of 17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds while leading Team Thad to a win.
Ranked No. 90 nationally, Chiozza is going to see a nice bump in the next set of rankings because he's earned it. Known for his ability to score and keep defenders off balance with his quickness and ball handling, Chiozza has become a more complete point guard.
He's become one of the most wanted point guards in the country, and he seems kind of surprised by it.
"I've just been trying to help make my team win," Chiozza told Rivals.com "I've picked up all of these scholarships from the big Division I schools, and I didn't think that was going to happen."
It wasn't so long ago that Chiozza was rumored to be leaning toward making an early decision. Now he says he'll wait a little longer. He plays a game that could attract even more attention.
"I'm a fast-paced defensive player and a facilitator," Chiozza said. "But I can score pretty much at will because of my speed and athleticism. I'm pretty crafty too."
Spiece looks dominant
The annual host of the Run-N-Slam, the Spiece organization, has several teams. On Friday night, its top 17-and-under squad looked imposing as it ran away and hid during a big win. It sits atop its division of the EYBL at 6-3, and that has been without its "best" player. Friday night, Lyles made a solid return from a knee injury to add to the firepower.
Lyles isn't just big at about 6-foot-10; he's strong and skilled. He was slowed somewhat by a bulky knee brace, but he had more than enough to spearhead a starting five that looked college ready.
Five-star combo guard Jaquan Lyle looked awfully comfortable running the show. He is big and strong, yes, but his skill is what allows him to control tempo. He navigated screen-and-rolls, got to the rim and hit pull-up jumpers.
When he wasn't scoring, Lyle was busy kicking to sharpshooting wings Trevon Bluiett and James Blackmon. Bluiett is a strong 6-foot-6 wing and easy jump shooter. Blackmon has a rep as a jump shooter and he hit a few, but where he surprised was with his better-than-advertised burst to the rim in transition. Finally, keep an eye on freshman Caleb Swanigan. He's 6-foot-8, eats space in the lane and has great hands and feet. Not surprisingly, he's drawing early accolades as an offensive lineman to go with the potential he is showing as a low-post player.
Anybody who has watched the Milwaukee Rebels over the years knows one thing is sure. The Rebels are going to put points on the board. Friday night against Indiana Elite, it was no different. The Rebels were led by Looney, Rivals150 point guard Damontrae Jefferson and three-star athlete David Burrell.
The high-scoring man on the night, with 30 points, Looney was impressive and efficient. Constant whistles from the refs kept the game from getting flow, but Looney was never rushed and didn't force things. He hit 3-pointers, scored in the lane with either hand, controlled the glass and blocked several shots. All in all, it was a performance befitting his No. 8 ranking in 2014.
Before fouling out, Jefferson put on a show himself. He's only 5-foot-7 or so, but the Milwaukee native plays fearlessly. Indiana Elite defenders had a tough time staying in front of him when he attacked off the dribble, and he really kept them guessing with his willingness to pull up from deep. He had 29 on the evening, and the Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day product will be moving to the class of 2015, according to his coaches.
When Looney and Jefferson weren't scoring, power wing Burrell was doing the dirty work. A high flyer, Burrell came out of nowhere in transition to catch lobs and went to work on the glass. Burrell said he got his first offer from Oral Roberts earlier and that Pepperdine, Buffalo and Cleveland State checked in. He also says he's heard from Maryland, Tennessee and Florida.
More Friday night notes
It wasn't quite on par with his performance a few weeks ago in Dallas, but Indiana Elite's Kelan Martin showed flashes. The powerful 6-foot-6 forward continued to show he can hit from deep while finishing through contact around the rim. Meanwhile, combo guard Ernie Duncan had a fine outing. A former Evansville pledge, Duncan can shoot it from deep, he has strength, and he plays both ends with an edge. The three-star prospect looks like an ideal player for the many strong midlevel programs in the region to recruit.
Illinois commitment Michael Finke was very good for much of the Peoria Irish's game against Team Thad. A skilled forward with excellent touch, Finke is a 6-foot-8 prospect who moves well and knocks home open jumpers. Gaining a lot of intrigue of late for the Irish, three-star Marcus Bartlett is an interesting call. The 6-foot-3 point guard is skinny, but he shows many traits that are desirable in a lead guard with his speed, wiggle and playmaking.
If you didn't know that Eron Gordon was a freshman, you would never believe it. The 6-foot-1 combo guard from Indianapolis (Ind.) North Central is the alpha dog on his team and commands the ball when he wants it. His bread and butter is getting to the rim. He mentioned early offers from Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska and Arizona State. Gordon feels like Michigan, Michigan State, Butler and Ohio State are close to offering.