PHILADELPHIA - The separation from the good and the great is already easy to spot at the Rbk U camp. On the first night of action, a couple of California kids went back and forth while the rest of the camp is picking their spots to shine.
It made sense that Brandon Jennings and Malcolm Lee went at it on Sunday night. They will be doing that in a couple of years when Jennings is running the show at Arizona and Lee is one of the many dazzling guards at UCLA. Their match-up was certainly worthy of a Pac-10 Sunday night game on Fox Sports Net.
Jennings told SLAM magazine at the NBPA Top 100 camp that "I don't respect West Coast point guards; they're too Hollywood for me. I'm more of an East Coast, flashy-type point guard." Lee must have read the statement because the match-up had a lot of back-and-forth, look-what-I-can-do type of banter.
Dunks? The game had them. Impressive pull-up jumpers? Check. The battle came down to Jennings sinking a pair of free throws and Lee missing a pair with less than 11 to play, the game was cemented and Jennings watched his team win 84-80.
Jennings finished with 21 points on six of 13 shooting from the floor. He hit for three three-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds, handed out three assists and turned it over three times. Lee was impressive as well, going for 20 of his own. Lee scored on eight of 12 from the floor and was hot from deep as he hit four of five attempts. Four rebounds, three assists and four turnovers rounded out his stat line.
Not to fall too far out of the spotlight, Renardo Sidney did his damage. The big man scored 20 points and benefited from Jennings's passes and speed. Lee saw his AAU teammate open eyes with sniper shooting from the wing. The strong-bodied class of 2009 wing scored 16 points, including four three-pointers.
Ashaolu keeps the motor running
No one will ever sayd Olu Ashaolu didn't bring it in a game. The 6-foot-7 Rutgers bound forward plays at a couple of levels above the rest of the field and on Sunday night, he was certainly exerting himself harder than the rest of the nine players on the floor.
Showing more concentration to sticking to his strength of muscling people over inside the paint, the Toronto native used his power, quick bounce and long arms to play above the rim and above the heads of those that tried to throw a body at him. He knocked down a pretty step back three-pointer on one possession and in the next half, Ashaolu barreled down the lane with a herky-jerky coast-to-coast drive, score and foul. The big guy scored 26 points on 12 of 15 shooting from the floor.
Ashaolu has shined in the individual camp settings this summer and has a backpack full of momentum going into the rest of the month.
Georgia forward Richard Howell doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve so if you saw him after his Sunday night game and talked to him for a second, you'd never know he just put together the most proficient game of the camp. The 6-foot-7 forward from the famed Wheeler High School program went 10 for 10 from the floor (including a three-pointer) and a perfect two for two from the charity stripe. Howell also grabbed six rebounds. His ten attempts weren't transition buckets where the five defenders are standing on the other side of the floor either. Howell had it rolling in his team's 92-73 blow out win.
When Howell was on the bench, his teammate William Buford took over. The Ohio State bound guard quietly put in 23 points on eight of 15 shooting. He's a smooth operator and does his damage like a sniper. Until you see the numbers, his overall dominance is sneaky and incredibly damaging to another team.
On the opposing team, Brendan Montario continues to shine as a come-out-of-nowhere player. The Waterbury (Conn.) Crosby prospect uses his 6-foot-5 frame well on the wing and attacks the rim with a smooth power. Montario scored 21 points on 10 of 14 from the floor. He also grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots. The class of 2008 prospect is a solid Atlantic 10 prospect and could be going home with high-major chasers.
The kids are alright
There are only two players from the class of 2011 in the camp. And if you watched the camp closely, you'd probably have a hard time identifying one of them at face value and pure production. Dallas, Texas native LeBryan Nash, a muscular 6-foot-7 rising freshman, didn't play like a kid that has yet to step foot onto the floor as a varsity player.
Nash scored an impressive nine points, including a step back three pointer where he lifted high off the floor for a good looking jumper. He also crashed the boards, collecting 10 rebounds. He earned his spot in the camp with a top five performance at the Reebok Underclassmen Camp. He is earning a lot of respect already here in Philadelphia by doing what he does best.
Notes from the notepad
Point guard Darryl Bryant has enjoyed a strong spring and summer. He is quietly putting in work at the right times and the right places, too. The St. Raymond's (N.Y.) floor general has been steady here, showing he can score, defend and crash the boards. He's certainly carving out a spot for himself with the good mid-majors and could possibly hook up with a Big East program by the summer's end. St. John's has been watching him closely.
The same kinds of things can be said about Pittsburgh area guard Mike Shanahan. The 6-foot-5 guard has good size, a good feel for the game and a knack for being at the right place at the right time. He scored 13 points on Sunday night. He's also a high-major football prospect as a wide receiver. A host of low to mid-majors would love to have him for his basketball skills, too. He said he has yet to make a decision on what direction he'll go in college.
Continuing the trend of break out guys, a couple of players that are under the radar caught the eyes of observers with their play on Sunday night.
Coaches will certainly be keeping an eye on Dallas (Texas) Kimball guard David Kyles this week. His 16 points, quick burst of speed, ability to create with the dribble and pull up three-pointer was a good first impression. Strictly a good mid-major prospect right now, a number of Big 12 schools are taking notice. So are we. We'll be watching him even closer throughout the camp.
"I'm interested in?"
Playing in his home town, Philadelphia Neumann-Goretti wing Jamal Wilson is trying to earn offers from the high-majors here this week. Don't count out the likes of Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. Both programs are hot on his trail, he says, while West Virginia, Boston College and Kansas State are also looking.
Chicago area big man Josh Crittle is high on Marquette and Indiana while Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa are in the race for the 6-foot-8, 240-pound man child.
Delvon Roe has a year left at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward. He'll hand the reigns over to class of 2010 point guard Pe'Shon Howard when he leaves. The program is in good hands. Howard is already making a name for himself as a high-major prospect. He rattled off a list of Indiana, Arizona, Ohio State and UCLA.
Michigan State, Wake Forest, Georgia, Clemson, Florida, Arizona, Texas and Georgetown have Richard Howell on their respective class of 2009 recruiting wish list.
Odds & Ends
Marquette head coach Tom Crean wins the award for most creativity. His t-shirt read "Marquette Road Trip" in bold gold letters. On the back it read "Wanted: Winners."
Philadelphia University, the host of Rbk U, is home to one of the top Division II coaches in the country. Herb Magee has collected 833 wins in his 43 years of coaching. The gym where the games are played for camp boasts Magee's accomplishments with a banner honoring his 800 wins. He is also the all-time leading scorer in school history.