NORTH AUGUSTA, GA - Things are supposed to get rolling in Las Vegas next week but the main event was played on Thursday night at the Nike Peach Jam. Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon's Mean Streets Express team took Tyreke Evans and Team Final into overtime. And everyone that was in the standing room only gym left buzzing.
July at its best
It was the match-up that no one wanted to miss. Three top 10 guards in one game. Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon, the best backcourt the AAU circuit has seen this year, teamed up for Mean Streets Express. Uber-talented guard Tyreke Evans was ready to lead the charge for Team Final.
Head coaches wrapped around the perimeter of the gym. Fans from all over the country lined up on the walkway above the gym to get a glimpse. Families and supporters from Chicago, Philly and everywhere in between packed the bleachers. Heck, even the referees accumulated in the corners. No one wanted to miss this one.
What a game it was. With the game tied at 77 and with 18 seconds on the clock in overtime, Rose took the ball from the top of the key and powered his way to the basket to score the game winning shot right as the buzzer sounded. Someone had to make the last shot. No one was missing. It was one of those games.
Rose, who finished with 20 points and upwards of seven assists, came alive late in the second half and answered the punches that Evans was throwing at the rim. As good as Evans was, he just couldn't overcome the 1-2 punch that the Mean Streets had.
Evans had his moments. He missed a three-pointer at the end of regulation but come out firing in the overtime period, scoring on a ridiculous cross-over move against Rose. On the next possession, Rose scored a tough basket inside the paint. An offensive foul called with 18 seconds to play on Evans in the open court swung the momentum to the Chicago based team.
That is when Rose and Gordon took over.
As one coach put it, Gordon is just "wired to score." So true. He's a master of scoring in the paint and a genius at getting to the foul line. Gordon had the full assault going, leading the game with 29 points.
Despite the loss and the questionable call against him in crunch time, Evans had an outstanding game. The class of 2008 stud finished with 24 points. Like Gordon, he put in points all over the floor. His rainbow threes are swiping the dust off the ceiling lights and barely touching the nets when gravity takes over.
Evans has certainly lived up to any hype that follows him around so far at the Peach Jam. He has risen to the challenge that has come before him and has fun while doing it.
All three players played incredible and the coaches convention that broke out during the game was certainly impressed with the trio. Take a look at the head coaches in the house for this one: Jerry Wainwright (DePaul), Bill Self (Kansas), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Bruce Weber (Illinois), John Calipari (Memphis), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Skip Prosser (Wake Forest), Rick Barnes (Texas). Assistants from UConn, Villanova, Notre Dame, Indiana, Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette also made it to the game.
No answer for Calathes
It seems like every elite level guy at the Peach Jam has put his stamp on the outstanding event. Not only did Nick Calathes lay down his stamp, he stomped on it just to make sure people knew how good he is at this level.
Scoring 29 points in the first half against The Family, a team known for its defensive abilities certainly helped. Calathes finished with 36 and more importantly, he picked up a much needed 90-84 win on Thursday night.
The Family tried six different defenders to try and slow Calathes down. Starting with Manny Harris, a terrific defender, The Family went through the starting lineup and even dipped into the bench before resorting to a trap defense that slowed Calathes from scoring. The future Florida guard then did what he does best - he passed the rock and could have pushed the double digit mark in assists.
Playing well for The Family is sleeper Jordan Crawford. The 6-foot-3 guard is having a strong outing at the Peach Jam, picking his moments to score the ball and make plays. He knocked down a bunch of threes and made plays to keep the game close. Durrell Summers also played well, scoring a majority of his buckets on offensive rebounds.
Other top performers from Thursday
No one is talking about the tourney Blake Griffin is having. Yesterday he had a triple double. On Thursday morning, the Oklahoma bound big man scored 24 points, pulled down six rebounds and three assists. The cut from granite forward is handling the ball a little more than usual this week and showing off keen passing skills.
The Miami Tropics didn't have an answer for what Griffin was doing both inside and out. It almost wasn't fair for the Tropics because their biggest man was certainly no match for Griffin. He was just too strong, too mobile and too good in the post.
The beneficiary from Griffin's passing skills is fellow OU commitment Cade Davis. Davis did a little bit of everything, too, scoring 21 points while securing eight rebounds and dishing out three assists. Davis isn't a sexy commitment for the Sooners but he is an efficient player that plays well with other elite level players. That is what they needed with the great incoming class that Jeff Capel is putting together.
Here is a name that the high-majors need to keep an eye on. Xavier Alexander. The 6-foot-5 wing has a good frame with good muscle on his bones. Alexander had an efficient game of 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He said he is holding offers from Wichita State, Arkansas State, Nevada and Nebraska while Iowa State and Tennessee are showing interest.
Xavier Henry, one of the top 2009 prospects in the country, had a strong 14 points game in front of a crowd that included Roy Williams, Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith.
Getting a good point guard is always a priority for programs. So when a guy like Javi Gonzalez goes out and scores 17 points and grabs 10 assists, coaches take notice and start scribbling notes in their packets. Gonzalez had a good Nike camp performance and hasn't let up here at the Peach Jam. He'll over dribble at times but he has a good feel for the game and finds his shooters. Is he a high-major guy? He certainly played like one on Thursday morning.
Future Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal looked like the guy that won a 5A state title in the Peach State last year. When he is playing inside the paint and looking to score at the rim, he's hard to stop. There aren't a lot of guys that stand 6-foot-8 or taller that run the floor like he does. When Lawal gets there, he knows what to do with it. Against Friends of Hoops-Seattle, Lawal scored a very strong 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was one of the best games of the summer.
Chris Barnes has been one of the top rebounders in the tourney, hitting the double digit mark in nearly all of his games. Against Friends of Hoop, he ripped down 15 rebounds and scored 14 points.
Friends of Hoop got 24 points and nine rebounds from West Coast sleeper Terrell Smith and 22 points and four rebounds from Isaiah Thomas.
The SEC is getting to know the name Brandon Crawford. He scored 20 points in a great game against the South Carolina Ravens. Crawford, a 6-foot-5 guard from Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala., has the size, scoring skills and production at the right time working for him.
Scott Suggs doesn't know how good he can become. The 6-foot-5 wing/guard/Josh Childress look-alike has a world of talent and has moments with his St. Louis Eagles 16U team that have drawn in the high-major majors out early in the process. Suggs scored 16 points in a 65-56 win against Team Melo.
Inside the numbers
Eric Gordon kept the scorekeeper busy against Team Florida. The five-star guard poured in 38 points. A lot of points came from the foul line. However he got 'em, 38 points has been the biggest scoring output so far in the tourney. Teammate Tim Flowers had a typical Tim Flowers game with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Another day, another big game from Chandler Parsons. He scored 23 points against Mean Streets Express. Nick Calathes had 21 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Portland Legends forward Clarence Trent worked the glass and snatched 15 boards against the Charlotte Royals. E'Twaun Moore was the all around catalyst for the SYF Players in a 71-40 spanking over the Metro Hawks. He scored 22 points, pulled seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning had the game he is capable of having with 20 points and 12 rebounds against the Alabama Lasers. Jeff Robinson, a Memphis commitment, continues to play well. He poured in 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The next Memphis stud is 2009 prospect Leslie McDonald. The 6-foot-4 guard scored 20 points in a heart breaking loss to The Family. You will hear plenty from him over the next three years.
And over the next four years, the name Markell Starks of Washington D.C. is going to pop up even more. The class of 2010 guard for the D.C. Blue Devils scored 17 points in a horrible 74-45 stomping his team suffered. Starks is a mature guard that is showing that his game is certainly worthy of high-major interest early on.