April 23, 2012

Champions crowned in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS - The Florida Rams wrapped up an impressive weekend in Vegas at the Adidas VIP Exclusive Run on Sunday. Program director Matt Ramker's crew left sin city with championship trophies in both the 17- and 16-and-under divisions as Kasey Hill and Lance Tejada earned respective MVP honors. In the 15-and-under division, high-scoring Hyron Edwards led Indiana Elite to a crown.

Rams dominate Vegas

When you bring two teams to town and both of them win every single game and walk away with titles in their respective divisions, well, then you have had a pretty good run. That's exactly what the Florida Rams did as they beat Garner Road to win the 17-and-under crown and took out Indiana Elite to win the 16-and-under title at the Adidas VIP Exclusive run.

For the 17-and-under squad, the story of the weekend was junior point guard Kasey Hill. The future Florida Gator was flat-out dominant at the point all weekend long. Recently elevated to No. 8 in the 2013 Rivals150, Hill played up to his ranking as he controlled the pace, scored, dished and basically did anything and everything he wanted to do.

But, he is far from a one-man team and the Rams feature some serious athleticism, speed and firepower.

As he'd done all weekend, Chris Walker played aggressively in the lane on defense. The extra-bouncy 6-foot-9 forward was contesting shots and made life difficult for fellow top 10 prospect Isaiah Hicks to get into a rhythm around the rim. Walker was also a finisher at the rim where he shows his elite athleticism. Afterwards, he rattled off a list that included Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Baylor, Louisville and others.

Also impressive on Sunday were wings Brannen Greene and DeMarcus Croaker. Greene is a physical wing with deep range and the Kansas-bound four-star found his stroke on Sunday. Croaker, on the other hand, is a big-time athlete and has blazing speed that he used to his advantage.

"I think it was a real good weekend for me and all of us," said Croaker. "We need to have more just like it."

On the school front, Croaker listed offers from Florida State, Miami, Central Florida, Marshall, Georgia and Virginia Tech. Also showing interest according in Croker are Florida, Ole Miss, Penn State, North Carolina, Michigan and Oklahoma.

For the Rams 16-and-under squad, the play of point guard -- and division MVP -- Lance Tejada set the pace. The 5-foot-11 sophomore from Miramar (Fla.) High played with toughness, was crafty with his decisions and seemed to get to the line for free tosses, set up a teammate or score a bucket whenever needed.

Tejada also received plenty of attention from 6-foot-5 wing Adonys Henriquez. The Orlando (Fla.) Christian Prep sophomore made shots, showed skill as a playmaker and was tough to handle.

"I like Vegas," said Henriquez of the weekend. "It was hot, but we won a lot of games and got off to a fun start."

According to Henriquez, he has already scored offers from USF, Central Florida, Murray State, Georgia Southern and High Point. Also involved with Henriquez are Florida State, Florida, Butler, Alabama, Georgia and Miami.

Hamilton goes off, again

Easily one of the biggest stories in Las Vegas was the play of Dream Vision's Isaac Hamilton. Ranked No. 11 nationally in the recently updated Rivals150 for the class of 2013, the junior more than backed up that status.

What's crazy is that he didn't even know he would be playing with Dream Vision until just a few days before the tournament.

"Yeah, I think it went pretty well," Hamilton told Rivals.com. "I'll definitely be back with them."

Sunday, the Atlanta Celtics were the final weekend victim of the skilled scorer's offensive assault.

Scoring at the rim, from mid-range and from deep, Hamilton played in a way that is similar to NBA-bound Brad Beal. While he isn't as athletic as Beal, Hamilton is similar in that he's a dangerous three-point shooter, clever with the dribble and very crafty around the rim.

According to Hamilton, he's looking to set up a visit to Arizona in the near future. He says that the Wildcats have offered and also mentioned offers from USC, UCLA, UConn, Louisville, Colorado, San Francisco, UNLV and San Diego State.

Impressive intro for Edwards

Class of 2015 point guard Hyron Edwards is already pretty well known in his home state of Indiana.

After dropping a 30-spot in the championship game of the 15-and-under division to lead Indiana Elite to a win over Dream Vision, Edwards has gone to work on building a fine national reputation.

Both quick and skilled with the ball, the 5-foot-10 floor general out of East Chicago (Ind.) Central played with a level of poise that is beyond his years. Pretty physical at the point, he barreled his way to the rim, shot floaters, hit from deep and rarely missed open teammates in what was an outstanding all-around performance.

"I'm quick, I get to the rim," said Edwards. "I thought I played well and I'm glad we won."

Already, Edwards is getting hit up on the college front and mentioned that he already has offers.

"Indiana offered me and so did Purdue," Edwards told Rivals.com. "I've also heard from Northwestern, Michigan and Xavier."

Quarterman emerges

The April evaluation period is all about kids taking an opportunity to excel in front of coaches. In Las Vegas, Atlanta Celtics wing Tim Quarterman did as good a job of doing that as anybody in the event.

A long and thin 6-foot-6 junior from Savannah (Ga.) Johnson, Quarterman played the point, the two and even at small forward and impressed on both ends of the floor.

"I wanted to come out here and show what I could do," said Quarterman. "It feels good to get off to a good start in front of coaches."

On Sunday, Quarterman again handled the ball and made several plays for himself and others off of the dribble. He also shot the ball well and when Dream Vision's Isaac Hamilton was lighting his squad up, he switched over and at least made things a bit tougher on the 2013 five-star guard.

The three-star wing's reputation is now on the rise and he was watched closely by coaches -- George Mason's Paul Hewitt was a fixture at his games -- all weekend long.

"I've heard from George Mason, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Oklahoma, Florida State, Florida, Wake Forest and more," said Quarterman. "George Mason and Oklahoma have offered."

Quick hitters

Solomon Poole went down late in the Atlanta Celtics final game against Dream Vision with what appeared to be an ankle injury. The game was called after the 6-foot-1 five-star point guard was taken away by medics. Reports late Sunday night were that Poole's x-rays were negative so hopefully he'll be back on the floor soon.

Dream Vision's 15 and under trio of Kendall Small, Stephen Thompson and Jeremy Hemsley were again impressive during the finals of the 15U tournament. Small is a quick and aggressive point who can knock down an open shot, Thompson is a big-time shooter with deep range and Hemsley is a creator off the dribble and rim to mid-range scorer.

Louisville has got a good one on the way in 6-foot-4 off guard Anton Gill. The junior from North Carolina was strong all weekend long for Garner Road and is a pretty complete offensive player who scores at the rim, off the dribble and increasingly more with the deep jumper.

A potential sleeper prospect for Garner Road is junior combo forward Isaac Copeland from Raleigh (N.C.) Ravenscroft. Likely closer to 6-foot-8 than his listed 6-foot-10, Copeland is a fluid and smooth athlete who can make some shots between 12 and 17 feet. He runs the floor, has quickness and great balance. As he adds weight and confidence, Copeland could see his stock trending up.

One of the most physical players in all of Las Vegas was Dream Vision's 6-foot-6 power forward Jamal Aytes. The chiseled 225-pounder is a bouncy athlete who competes with ferocity on glass. West Coast mid-majors will be heating him up and hoping that bigger schools don't take a flyer on his rebounding and toughness.

A pair of sophomores finished the weekend strong for the New England Playaz. Karem Kanter the younger brother of Utah Jazz big man Enes Kanter is a crafty and tough 6-foot-7 power forward who attends the MacDuffie School. He has a pretty good skill level and motor. Also impressing from the class of 2014 was Dwayne Foreman. Long and athletic, Foreman had the motor running and was all over the glass and going to the rim in transition. About 6-8 with willingness to play physically, Foreman also has the ability to drive the basketball against other power forwards.

Rhode Island and UMass were among the schools tracking Jalen Jenkins over the weekend. A 6-foot-7 forward from Cardinal Hayes high school, the athletic forward is considering doing a fifth year at a prep school. If he decides to sign now, he will provide somebody with a versatile guy who makes plays around the rim and runs the floor.

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