Tuscaloosa, Ala. - In a small setting at the University of Alabama, the 24-team Challenge in the South tournament had it's strong moments. With a variety of talent on hand, players like Richard Hendrix, Texas Tech bound Terry Martin and a host of young players stood out on Saturday's action at Coleman Coliseum.
Richard Hendrix, the No. 2 rated player in the class of 2005 by Rivals.com, looked great on the court of one of his potential colleges. For the small Tide following, the Athens (Ala.) High School product had his strong moments from morning 'til night.
The 6-foot-8 power forward did a variety of things for his Lasers squad, including handling the ball up the length of the court and stepping out and knocking down a three or two. There is not a player in the field that can stop him inside. Hendrix said he is still contemplating his college decision between 'Bama and North Carolina.
Helping Hendrix was a variety of players, including 6-foot-9 forward Yamene Coleman. The Wilcox Central (Ala.) High School prospect showed flashes of why he is ranked 145 by Rivals.com. Coleman played well and smart around the basket, grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring on both blocks. Coleman, who is considering a number of ACC and SEC schools, will be playing at the NBA Players Association camp next week.
In a great match-up in pool play, Hendrix and Coleman both had key roles in the Lasers' victory but it was rising junior William Barnes that played great in the second half. The Hillcrest (Ala.) High School 6-foot-2 combo guard attacked the basket with very little problem and finished above the rim. His calm outside touch helped put the dagger in the Challenge.
The Lasers will play the Jackson Panthers for the championship on Sunday at noon. The Mississippi team rode the fantastic play of Texas Tech commitment Terry Martin to the finals. The 6-foot-5 guard has had a sensational start to the AAU season, playing well at the Kingwood Classic, Tournament of Champions and now, the Challenge of the South.
Martin is a collection of great athleticism, solid ball handling skills, sweet shooting, great range and capable passing. Don't be surprised to see him thrive in the Red Raider system and complementing fellow Louisianan Jay Jackson in the backcourt. Coach Bobby Knight reeled in a fantastic high-major player.
While Martin was the most consistent, class of 2007 prospect Biko Paris scored 25 points in a win over the Alabama Challenge, to help propel the Panthers onto the semi-finals. Paris, a 6-foot-1 point guard from John Curtis High School in New Orleans, La., was one of the top guards in the 17 and under pools on Saturday. He muscles to the basket and has great range on his jumper. Just when he's reeled defenders in with his dribble-drives, he was quick to drop off an assist to his athletic teammates.
Also playing well for the Panthers was 6-foot-5 rising senior Roderick Ollie and 6-foot-6 rising senior Jeremy Caldwell. Ollie is an athletic wing that also displayed momentum-killing three point range. Caldwell was a nice surprise, too. He's always in play and gets up around the rim for rebounds or two quick points.
The Panthers did not have an easy road to the finals, having to play Hendrix's Lasers team and the Alabama Challenge. Their prize for advancing out of the semi-final? Try the Southeast Elite, featuring elite prospect Tyler Smith. The 6-foot-7 athlete continues to pick defenses apart with his power drives and mind-boggling vertical antics. He had a dunk contest of his own - in game situations, mind you - and continues to improve on his perimeter jump shot.
While Smith kept defenses honest, another class of 2007 guard began to shine on the perimeter. Keegan Bell, a 6-foot-1 point from Bob Jones (Ala.) High School put in a number of long balls. His jumper is automatic and his court vision is very solid. Expect big things from the youngster.
6-foot-8 big man Dusty Moore opened some eyes with his outside game. He connected on a handful of three pointers, much like he did last weekend at the Tournament of Champions. Moore is also a football prospect but Southeast Elite coach Mark Komara said basketball is the direction he'd like to stick with. Mid-majors are showing an early interest in the rising senior.
Staying in Alabama, 6-foot-7 rising senior Trey Hampton had a solid couple of games on Saturday. His nose for the ball is an unteachable skill and he just makes plays. The Hoover (Ala.) High School product is still riding high after a great showing at the Kingwood Classic. As he develops his outside game, he'll also develop more high majors in terms of his recruitment.
At 6-foot-11, one would think Jonathan Huffman is a center. Not if he can help it. The Central Park (Ala.) star connected on a couple of threes and he loves to put the ball on the floor like a guard. While he still needs weight (a lot of weight), Huffman is developing into an intriguing prospect. He'll attend Louisville's camp next week.
Be on the lookout for news and notes from the 16 and under and 15 and under brackets soon.