NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - One of the best events of the year kicked off on Tuesday morning as the Nike Peach Jam got rolling and several big match-ups kick started the day. Spencer Hawes and Jason Bennett tangled in the paint while Brandan Wright had his hands full with Vernon Macklin and Duke Crews.
We meet again
Spencer Hawes and Jason Bennett have become the big man rivalry. The two centers have matched up with each other at the Kingwood Classic and recently at the Nike All-American camp. On day one of the Peach Jam, the two pivot men battled it out once again.
Credit Tuesday's match-up to Hawes in a big way. The Seattle big man went to work and didn't back down to the 7-foot-2 prospect from Jacksonville, Fla. From the start, Hawes showed off an entire array of moves inside the paint against Bennett. He scored with his left hand, he hit a running hook shot, knocked down a turnaround jumper and even buried home a three ball. Hawes finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Bennett did what he does best and that was play solid defense inside. He blocked six shots, snatched down nine boards and scored seven points. He's a different player than he was last year. He's confident, has a fire under his belly and he's beginning to put it all together but Hawes just got it done in the end. Cincinnati was on hand to see Bennett play.
Hawes said he's looking to trim his list down from Arizona, UConn, Duke, Kansas, UNC, Stanford, UCLA and Washington. It's going to be tough. Just check out the who's who list of coaches watching him play this morning - Lorenzo Romar (Washington), Trent Johnson (Stanford), Roy Williams (UNC), Ben Braun (UCLA), Bill Self (Kansas), Lute Olsen (Arizona) were all sitting courtside in the morning.
Wright's Murfreesboro Stars team is not going to hang with the loaded roster of Boo Williams. That's a given but Wright did hold his own early on. The 6-foot-9 forward teased coaches with his turn around baseline jumper, a 17 foot jumper and ball handling skills. He's not a three man though. He's a four and has tried to show off his perimeter skills all summer long. His money maker is his interior presence. There aren't guys around anymore that block shots like Wright can. He's a beast in that regard.
Roy Williams and assistants from Duke and Kentucky watched Wright in action. Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech) and Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) were also taking a long look at the five-star prospect as he went for 13 points.
Crews was the story though in this game. He defended the longer Wright and pushed the big man out of the paint, where he does his best damage. It's going to be hard to find anyone more explosive off the floor than Crews. He just flies off the ground for boards and rim-rattling dunks. The guy is a monkey-wrench in the law of physics. Crews finished with 14 points while Macklin had 15 points.
Head coaches watching the game: Stallings, Williams, Hewitt, Herb Sendek, Frank Haith and Bill Self while assistants from LSU, Duke, St. John's, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Florida, Arkanas, Wake Forest and Florida State were on hand. Expect things to get real interesting with Macklin's recruitment after the Peach Jam.
Getting to the point
Several point guards had big opening sessions. Here is a look at Tuesday morning's best:
The Miami Tropics weren't going to hand over their game to Friends of Hoop if Josue Soto could help it. Playing in front of his future head coach Leonard Hamilton, the Florida State commit had a huge game and carried the Tropics right to the end. Soto finished with 37 points (11-22 FG, 5-6 3 point) and five assists in a valiant effort.
Soto's jumper was just dropping all day long. He was money from everywhere he shot it behind the line and he was calm and composed from the foul strip, putting in 10 of 13 from the charity stripe. He also had five assists.
After having a great ABCD camp, point guard Isaiah Thomas rejoins his Friends of Hoop club and picked up where he left off in Jersey. The mighty mite point guard nailed some big free throws in the closing minute of the game to help Friends of Hoop claim the 77-74 victory. He finished with 19 points
At one point in the game, Thomas had a hand in 11 straight points for FOH, scoring on seven of them, dishing out two assists and grabbing two steals to lead the break. He's small. There is no denying that but he's proving his got a big game in him. Thomas said Kentucky, Indiana, UCLA, Florida and Washington are recruiting him the hardest right now.
Scotty Reynolds picked the right system for his game. The future Oklahoma Sooner continues to show off his ultra-aggressive attack to the basket and deadly range. He showed off an against gear with the dribble against the Murfreesboro Stars.
Odds & Ends
Tywon Lawson is taking the offensive load for the DC Blue Devils. He cashed in for 40 points and six assists and shot a deadly 13 of 17 from the floor against the Metro Hawks.
Future Wake Forest guard Anthony Gurley went off for 36 points against the New Jersey All-Stars.
Stefan Welsh said he's beginning to hear from Florida, Providence, and Connecticut as well Arkanas, Notre Dame and Clemson.
Had Bryce Webster had the same success he had in the first half against All-Ohio Red as he did in the second half his Howard Pulley club would have claimed a hard-fought victory. The big man bullied his way around the basket for 12 points and nine rebounds by our count and
Webster said his school list is trimmed to four - Minnesota, Marquette, Boston College and Notre Dame - and he'll make a decision sometime in the fall. He's visited Marquette three times for unofficial visits and Minnesota is only nine miles away from his doorstep.
Isaiah Dahlman told Rivals.com he is down to three schools. Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa are his finalists and after he makes his official visit to Michigan State in the fall he'll make a decision soon after the trip to the Big Ten school.
Ryan Anderson is one of the best shooters in the West. All four of his made buckets came from deep as he finished with 14 points against the Miami Tropics. He said he's hearing from Connecticut, Nebraska, Old Dominion, Montana and San Francisco.
Montrose Christian guard Greivis Vasquez doesn't get out on the AAU scene too much but he is here at the Peach Jam to the delight of several coaches. The Venezuelan said he's hearing from Maryland, NC State, Gonzaga, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Texas.
NC State head coach Herb Sendek was watching him at teammate Chris Wright, one of the top guards from the class of 2007. Virginia Tech had an assistant also watching Vasquez and 2006 commit Lewis Witcher, one of the best offensive rebounders in the country.
Wright has the Pack, Maryland and Duke in his top three while Texas, Georgetown and Kansas are all interested. Coaches from each of those programs were at his game this morning.
Duke Crews told Rivals.com Wake Forest recently offered him. He'll have a lot more big time offers by the summer's end. He's had a big July already and started the Peach Jam with a typical Duke Crews bang. He's so fast off of the floor and plays so much bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame. Note that St. John's was watching him closely from mid court.
Ricky Jackson was a key player for All-Ohio Red this morning. He knocked down a 12 foot jumper, attacked the rim and only missed two shots from both the field and the foul stripe. The Canton (Ohio) McKinley product said NC State, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Stanford, Michigan State and Ohio State are all recruiting him.
Several key guys are not here in Augusta. Kevin Love is absent for the Portland Legends. Kevin Durant is missing for the D.C. Blue Devils. Sherron Collins may be done for the summer. All three five-star prospects would have made a big splash here. An added bonus: Lance Thomas is here with the New Jersey All-Stars.