ATLANTA -- The rims were properly tested on Saturday at the Wallace Prather Memorial Classic at Georgia Tech. Athletes and hard-workers prevailed in the second day of action.
Prime time battle
At half of the entry ways of the Alexander Memorial Coliseum signs that read "Hard hats beyond this point." Delwan Graham of the Atlanta Celtics/ Dunwoody (Ga.) High School not only brought his hard hat, he brought a thermos full of energy and a time card that works best on overtime. Graham was a sparkplug in the lineup for the Celtics in a highly anticipated match-up against Louisiana Select.
The 6-foot-6 power forward has enjoyed an extremely productive spring and fruits of his labors are starting to show on the recruiting front. Tulane, Tennessee, Florida State and Georgia Tech have all inquired and/or turned up the heat after the evaluation event. Graham said he has offers from Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Tulane and Charlotte has an offer on the way.
Five-star Derrick Favors scored a modest nine points in the match-up and had some big time moments. Not bad for a 15-year-old kid against the nation's top prospect Greg Monroe.
Favors was brilliant on the defensive side of the ball, limiting Monroe's touches and kept the nation's top junior from scoring a bucket from the floor in the final 16 minutes of the game.
Offensively, Favors had one play that had everyone talking. The 6-foot-8 sophomore missed on a good looking left-handed hook shot and when he sensed where the ball was coming off the back rim on the miss, he grabbed the rebound and in an instant, Favors slammed home the ball over Monroe.
In a game that featured a number of Rivals150 prospects, it was the hot shooting of Dexter Ellington that proved to be the difference maker in the match-up. The 5-foot-11 point guard connected on a pair of three-pointers under a minute to play and finished with eight of his 14 scores in the clutch.
Ellington, an attractive mid-major prospect, said he is hearing the most from College of Charleston, Florida State, Colgate and Appalachian State.
Another highly regarded Celtic is sophomore wing Noel Johnson. The 6-foot-7 Fayette County product came out firing, knocking down a pair of three-pointers from the top of the key. Johnson is a smooth operator with the ball and does good things with the ball in his hands.
Johnson has also been a popular player to see for the head coaches. Johnson said Sidney Lowe, Tom Izzo, Paul Hewitt and Thad Matta have been by his school to see him this spring as have assistants from Tennessee, Louisville, Memphis and Texas.
Despite scoring a team high 14 points, Monroe didn't look like the player he was in the spring. In fact, that has been the theme here in Atlanta for the weekend. The versatile forward had a chance to tie the game against the Celtics with eight seconds to play. He started at the top of the key and dribbled into the towering frontline of the Celtics. Instead of passing off to his open teammate on the wing, Monroe forced a bad shot as he fell to his right and missed the attempt.
The Celtics threw every inch of every big man at him and frustrated Monroe. The Louisiana big man did do a fine job of getting to the foul line because he is a difficult player to defend because of his length and versatility from the top of the key.
The rims were properly tested for flexibility in the Team Truth-Worldwide Renegades Black team. In a game with the tournament's most athletic players, the contest was played well above the rim with dunks, blocks and big time rebounds. For those that love to be entertained in a basketball game, this was the one to be at.
If there is damage to any of the rims, the bill probably should be sent to Dequan Jones. The 6-foot-6 wing from Wheeler High School made a number of athletic plays that very few players can match. He soared to the basket for big time dunks and made a number of big blocks at the rim.
His pull up jumper, always a work in progress, looked good in this game. As a rebounder, Jones might have been the best glass cleaner in the contest. He finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks by our count.
Jones said he has been offered by Oregon, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Clemson, DePaul, Florida State and Florida.
Sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown has brought in the high-major schools in large part because he can be a major threat as a point guard. But he's as talented off the ball as well.
The 6-foot-3 guard is smooth with the ball and does a great job of finding teammates in transition. Brown is his team's best shooter and a fine athlete himself. As is the case with all young players, Brown will control his own fate. Right now, he's on the radar for a number of top flight programs.
The athleticism gene didn't escape Teondre Williams. His exploits above the rim have been well documented. In this contest, the 6-foot-4 guard from Meadowcreek had a couple of memorable drives and dunks that had Alexander Memorial Coliseum buzzing.
Getting in on the action at rim level (and above) was 6-foot-8 forward Toby Veal of Savannah (Ga.) Johnson High School. Veal started the game strong with five dunks and five rebounds within the first seven minutes of the game.
Veal has added some bulk to his frame and that has helped him become more of an enforcer down low. He tries to dunk with power, much like former Georgia prep star Gani Lawal, and his antics are meant to send a message.
Veal's message is that he's every bit the high-major big man in this big men heavy class. His recruitment certainly validates that. Veal said he is hearing from Villanova, Florida State, Clemson, Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn, Illinois and Georgia and claims offers from all of the schools, excluding Villanova.
Young and talented
Tournament organizers were banking on a big time match-up with Team Breakdown and the Worldwide Renegades 16 and under programs. The game certainly proved to be what it was expected to be.
And the difference maker was the youngest player on the court. Freshman Brandon Knight scored 27 points in the victory over the Peach State power program. The 6-foot-4 combo guard did a tremendous job of getting to the free throw line, converting on 14 freebies.
On Friday night, he struggled with his shot and missed badly with his jumpers. On the first shot attempt of the Saturday game, Knight sank a pull up three-pointer from the top of the key and didn't look back.
While it's pointless to compare the best of the best in the class of 2010 at this point, Knight has constructed a dandy collection of work this spring and has justified his already hot recruitment. Knight said the Florida schools - Miami, Florida State and Florida - are on him the hardest for the moment.
Knight had plenty of help from his post players. David Loubeau is doing a fine job of establishing himself as a big time prospect as a power forward. His 13 points against the Renegades may seem modest but his play was perfect inside. The 6-foot-8 big man from Westlake High School in Ft. Lauderdale goes hard after the ball for rebounds and finds a way to get loose balls out of his area. Certainly a strong contender for top 50 status in the class of 2009, Loubeau has a number of big-timers hot on his trail already. The soon to be four-star forward said Pittsburgh, UCLA, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Florida are on his list at the moment.
Post mate Keith Clanton may never really pass the pretty test for his play inside but he's a producer. The 6-foot-8 junkyard dog makes things happen because he's long, plays well above his head, keeps the ball high, and has a nose for offensive rebounds and tip ins. The Orlando Christian player said he has heard from Clemson, Florida, South Carolina and Winthrop to date.
Breakdown did a nice job of neutralizing Worldwide's top dog Richard Howell. The 6-foot-7 wing forward was held to 11 points and limited him both inside and out. Always the rebounder, Howell had a difficult time finding spots against a taller Breakdown frontline.
Worldwide did have a strong performance from Ari Stewart, who continues to really shine as a high-major prospect. The 6-foot-7 wing forward just oozes potential. Stewart came out strong, knocking down a pair of three pointers from each corner. He later attacked the basket for a thundering dunk. He was as intriguing as any player that took to the main court all day. Stewart is every bit a high-major prospect.
When it comes to pure hustle, high energy and brute force inside, sophomore forward Terrance Shannon is one of the better big men in the class of 2009. The 6-foot6 power forward from Mary Persons High School in middle Georgia, has earned the respect of his peers with his non-stop motor and attention to doing the dirty work inside for the Atlanta Celtics 16 and under team. Shannon went to work in the morning game on the main court, grabbing double digit rebounds and stepping up as the enforcer inside the paint. After a productive April and a successful showing during the evaluation period, Shannon said he is hearing from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida early in the process.
Georgia's 2009 class is stocked deep with prospects and programs from all levels will certainly raid the state for prospects. One player that will be a commodity over the next couple of years is Dacula's big man Brian Cole. The 6-foot-8 post has a great feel for his position inside the paint and steadily improved over the last couple of years. He showed a keen ability to play off the glass for the Atlanta Celtics 16 and under team and is proving to be a difficult player to move off the blocks. Georgia and Tennessee have made an early impression on him, as both schools have been into see him at Dacula, he said.
Alshaun Jefferies, a long-armed combo guard for the South Carolina Ravens, is one to watch from the class of 2009. The Calhoun County High School prospect has become a steady producer for Dion Bethea's club. He's a slashing guard that is showing a knack for getting things done on both ends of the floor. Jeffries said he is hearing from Florida, South Carolina, Clemson, Kentucky and Tennessee. He said he'll be playing at the Nike Hoop Jamboree next month.
After an outstanding April, five-star prospect Kenny Boynton really struggled against the Ravens in a morning game. Held to 12 points, generally 18 points below his norm, Boynton could not find the bottom of the net. He fired away 21 shots but only converted on four makes. The Team Breakdown star said it might have been his worst game of the spring afterwards.
News & Notes
When it comes to putting the ball through the cylinder, few in the Southeast do a better job of it than Dante Anderson . The 6-foot-4 scorer supreme is a sprinter with a ball in his hands. He knived his way through the defense of the Birmingham Raptors for 29 points.
He also sunk a pair of free throws with less than a second to play to help his Jacksonville Lee Bulls claim a 70-68 win. Anderson said he is hearing the most from Georgia, Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest, Florida State, Missouri and Ole Miss.
Teammate Shaquille Johnson said he is holding offers from Jacksonville, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton, Ole Miss, Cincinnati and Missouri.
Jamychal Green, a five-star forward, said Alabama, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Virginia remain hot in the race for the big man while Indiana and North Carolina have shown interest after the spring.
Teammate Corey Smith, an intriguing post player, said Ole Miss, Miami and Western Kentucky have all offered while Purdue and Alabama have shown interest.
Prep school bound combo guard Malcolm Armstead enjoyed a strong performance against the Columbus Titans. He scored at will in the first half and did most of his damage with a dribble penetration. Armstead Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Georgia will recruit him during his prep year.
Rivals150 wing guard Andrew Steele said Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Ole Miss and North Carolina are his heaviest recruiters at the moment. All but Missouri and North Carolina have offered free rides.
Don't be quick to judge Marcus Goode. The mammoth big man for the South Carolina Ravens is a monster inside at 6-foot-8, 280-pounds but he's quick on his feet, nimble down the floor and understands how to use his giant frame around the cup. Much more nimble than he looks, Goode has really improved his lift off of the floor. Paired in a good match-up against fellow Rivals150 prospect Eloy Vargas, Goode scored 19 points and proved to be the difference maker inside. The big man also grabbed double digit rebounds in the victory. Goode said Georgetown, Nebraska, Georgia, Memphis, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are hot on his trail.
What position Murphy Holloway plays at the next level will be a question that will be asked probably half way through his college career but no one will ever question his determination for maximizing his out put and production. The athletic 6-foot-7 forward scored 15 points against a tough Team Breakdown and whether he was cleaning up on the glass or slashing to the basket for scores, Holloway just produced. He's a classic tweener but also a classic mismatch problem.
Ravens point guard Sam Grooms has long been a steady player at the point for the club and the prep school lead guard continues to carve out a spot for himself at the mid-major level. Grooms scored 13 points against a guard strong Breakdown club. He said he is hearing from Nevada and Nebraska.
Quietly, Eloy Vargas may have pushed the limits for a triple double against the South Carolina Ravens. He scored 12 points, according to the book, and by our count he had 12 rebounds and nine blocks. As Vargas has added strength to his long frame, he's becoming much more aggressive inside as a scorer, defender and rebounder.
Walk into any gym where the Columbus Titans are playing and it is quick to point out big man Rashanti Harris. The 6-foot-9 forward is long, and that might not even be the best way to describe him.
Harris isn't the quickest big man out there but he's a raw big man that could put it all together and make for a nice surprise when he gets to the big stage.
Chris Branch, a 6-foot-8 big man from Starkville (Miss.) High School, came to town with the Birmingham Raptors and while he didn't produce much in the game we saw, he's a guy worth watching. Branch said he has introductory interest from the likes of Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech.
The highly anticipated match-up between Tyreke Evans and J'Covan Brown never transpired. Brown and his Port Arthur Heat team were missing in action.
Rivals.com will not be on hand for the championship rounds of the tournament.
Justin Young is the National Basketball Recruiting senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.