The South's interior depth and unstoppable play of Louis Williams and Mike Mercer were too much for the North as the South took the gold medal for the third year in a row at the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The North hung with the exceptionally talented South squad for three quarter, only being down 99-95 at the start of the fourth quarter. In fact the North took the lead 91-87 just prior to the end of the quarter when Williams fouled the North's Eric Devendorf on a three point attempt and then picked up a technical for arguing the call. Devendorf drained all 5 free throws, and the North scored afterwards for a 7 point play.
When Williams was benched after the play, Mercer ignited for bucket after bucket at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth as the South pulled away for a 140-123 victory.
Mike Mercer- Mercer hit long range jumpers and pulled up in the lane off terrific dribble moves during his scoring spree. In 32 minutes of play at point guard, he only turned the ball over 1 time and had 5 assists. He finished the game with 24 points on 10 of 19 shooting, including 3 three-pointers. He did a terrific job defensively early in the game on a hobbled (knee) Devendorf. The only thing he did not do was rebound, finishing with only 1 board. He came into the game averaging 6.5 rebounds per game, the highest average of any perimeter player in the camp.
Louis Williams- Supplying the scoring power through out the game was Williams to the tune of 40 points. His 40 point performance gave him a Youth Festival record 152 points in five games for a Youth Festival record average of over 30 points per game. From the field Williams was 14 of 27, and from the line he was 8 of 9. Just as impressive was his only 1 turnover with a team high 7 assists in 35 minutes of play. Williams also set a new Youth Festival single game scoring record of 46. If there had been an MVP award, Williams certainly would have been the recipient.
Kieth Brumbaugh- Playing an outstanding game for the South, Brumbraugh came up big with 20 points on 4 of 7 shooting from behind the arc. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and 6 assists without any turnovers.
Brandon Wright- Super sixth man Wright came in early for a struggling Richard Hendrix and recorded 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 21 minutes of play. He only missed 2 shots and did a good job defensively against Josh McRoberts and Luke Zeller.
Richard Hendrix- Hendrix did not have the same energy he had in all the previous games for some reason. In 29 minutes of play, he finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He sat out most of the first quarter but then made some big plays for the South during the middle of the game.
Tasmin Mitchell- Mitchell proved why he is one of the top players in the class of 2005 with his stellar all around play. In 35 minutes of play, he scored 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field, 1 of 1 shooting from behind the arc, and 1 of 1 shooting from the line. He also had 16 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
Tyler Smith- Smith came back from a back injury and played 16 minutes for the South. Although he only scored 3 points, he played aggressive defense against Brandon Rush.
Pierre Niles- Niles did not play for the second game in a row, apparently for disciplinary reasons.
Brandon Rush- Rush capped of a terrific festival by scoring 31 points and picking up 8 rebounds. Although he struggled guarding Brumbaugh just as Brumbaugh struggled to guard him, Rush may have turned the corner as a player who will play hard every time out and consistently score points. His ball handling, passing, and toughness around the basket improved throughout the Festival.
Josh McRoberts- McRoberts dominated the beginning of the game for the North with his rebounding and aggressive play around the basket. A lack of depth inside for the North caused him to play a game high 41 minutes, and fatigue began to set in. He finished with 22 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
Luke Zeller- Zeller had by far his best game of the festival, finishing with 15 points and 7 rebounds. His midrange catch and shoot jumper was falling, and he played with more fire around the basket than in previous games.
Deandre Thomas- Thomas came off the bench and scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. He did struggle, however, to defend the athletic inside players of the South.
Chris Douglas-Roberts- Douglas-Roberts did not show up for the game, choosing instead to sleep in. He, like a handful of other players at the festival, was disgruntled about his playing time.
News and Notes:
The East took the bronze medal with a 121-120 point win over the West. Curtis Kelly grabbed a loose ball and sank a jump hook with .2 seconds left in the game. Kelly was the second best 2006 prospect at the festival behind Brandan Wright.
Brandan Wright indicated after the game that he does have an offer from Kentucky. North Carolina and Duke have not offered yet, but they are sending mail practically everyday. Wright has now narrowed down his list to these three schools. Another option is the NBA as well. A full update on Write will be forthcoming.
Stanford commitment Anthony Goods chose not to play the last two days of the festival rather than accept a reduced playing role.
Look for a school decision in the coming weeks from Marcus Johnson, and do not be surprised if it is Syracuse. The Orange Men are in a good position to land both Johnson and Eric Devendorf in the coming weeks.
Keith Brumbaugh is still talking the NBA if he is projected as a first round pick. If not, he is down to Florida and Florida State.
Several of the USA Basketball Committee spoke about how they never dreamed this time last year that Robert Swift would be a first round pick in the NBA draft. Swift averaged 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game during last years festival. One member even commented about how much further along Josh McRoberts is at this point than Swift was last year. He also noted that McRoberts measured 6-foot-10.5 without shoes.
Four other 2004 NBA draftees attended the festival last year.
Shaun Livingston averaged 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Sebastian Telfair averaged 15.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. J.R. Smith averaged 25 points, 8.2 rebounds per game. Dorell Wright averaged 15.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks.