The 2004 Reebok Tournament of Champions got underway Friday night at several gymnasiums across the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. As the teams took to the courts, several players played like national prospects. One of those players was Monta Ellis of the Magnolia Stars. The future Mississippi State Bulldog was unstoppable.
New England Playaz vs. New Heights NYC Warriors
The game certainly wasn't a beauty pageant but there were a handful of players that shined in game one of the 2004 Tournament of Champions. Travis George, a 6-foot-8 well-built forward from Notre Dame Prep, showed flashes of why several Big East schools have taken a peek at him. He's a bull inside and loves to play around the rim and muscle through opponents for rebounds. He still needs refining and most improve his hands if he wants to become a high-major. Physically, he's there but overall, give him time to improve.
Also playing well for the victors was 6-foot-7 small forward Colin McIntosh. The Boston native from Northfield Mount Herman has solid handles and understands the game. He made sure he was always in position to make a play on both sides of the ball. The rising senior did a good job of attacking the basket off the dribble but didn't display much of an outside touch. He's a mid-major with room to grow.
As a rising junior, New Heights small forward Lance Thomas played like a seasoned veteran, scoring 26 points in the loss. The Scotch-Plains wing attacked the basket like a man possessed, getting to the line 23 times. High-majors are all over the No. 29 player on the class of 2006 Rivals150 for a number of reasons: 1. He's a scorer. 2. He knows how to play in tight situations. 3. His upside is huge. 4. At 6-foot-8, he has ideal size for a small forward. The list goes on and on. Expect to hear a lot of Thomas over the next two years.
Houston Select vs. Tallahassee Wildcats
In a see-saw battle, the slingers from Texas rallied in the second half to pull off a strong victory over a well-balanced Wildcats team. Leading the way for the Houston Select squad was Al Reynolds, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard from Houston Nimitz High School. Reynolds scored 18 points in the win. He loves to get out on the fast break and lead the transition game. If a play was being made, odds are Reynolds was somewhere to be found in the course of the play. He listed TCU, Rice and UT-Arlington as some of his suitors.
6-foot-7 wing C.J. Clark also had a strong game, scoring 15 points in the win. Foul trouble kept him from doing much more. When he did score, it was in an array of moves around the basket and a solid mid-range game. Henry Dugat, Obi Ikeakor and Peter Stein all played strong in spurts.
Magnolia Stars vs. Michigan Mustangs
Know this: Monta Ellis will put up some points. The Mississippi State-bound guard wore the nets thin on Friday night with his amazing offensive output. The 6-foot-1 guard scored an effortless 37 points in the win over the Mustangs. Ellis is consistent from three, he loves to attack the basket and he knows when to take the shot. Mississippi State landed one of the top two-guards in the nation and didn't have to look too far to find him.
Don't let the points fool you though. Ellis also found his teammates - including Courtney Fells who is playing with the Stars for the TOC. Fells scored 16 in the win and displayed his beautiful jumper, perhaps one of the prettiest in the class of 2005. The Shannon, Miss., native has a great step back three point shot somewhat reminiscent of 2004 stud J.R. Smith.
Once Ellis has moved onto greener pastures at the college and pro level, remember this name from Lanier High School: Al Graham. The 6-foot-3 point guard is a solid class of 2007 prospect. He rattled off a number of high majors after the game. He's learning from one of the best in Ellis.
Rodney Alexander was one of the bright spots for the Mustangs, scoring a team-high 22 points in the loss. The 6-foot-6 forward from Benton Harbor (Mich.) High School was active around the bucket, playing well as an undersized power player but also took his game out to the perimeter and knocked down a couple of jumpers. He's a mid-major player with good skills and a promising future if he can string a couple of strong tournaments together.
Salt Lake Metro vs. Southeast Elite
The roster for Salt Lake Metro was completely different than it had been in during the spring. Headliner Brayden Bell didn't make the trip and neither did 85% of the usual suspects. That didn't matter though. Nathan Miller and Mike Larson combined for 31 points and helped the Metro squad bring home a well-earned 78-55 victory.
Tyler Smith, the 6-foot-7 small forward, had a game high 28 points and displayed an all-around game. The Giles Co. (Tenn.) High School star played nearly every position on the floor. His jumper didn't shine but his overall offensive attack was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing game for the Elite.
Spiece Indy Heat vs. DC Select
With the NBA Draft less than a month away, one would assume scouts are bouncing all over the globe trying to find the best players and prospects there are in hopes of landing the right player on draft night. They were doing that at the TOC but not for this year's draft. No, they were at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night looking at a potential No. 1 pick Greg Oden. At least three scouts were in the building watching the 7-foot class of 2006 superstar go to work against a much smaller team.
Oden can do very little wrong inside the paint. He scores nearly every time he touches the ball and doesn't blink twice when he sends a shot into a neighboring zip code or rattles the rafters with a thundering dunk. Same emotion on every possession.
Duke-bound Josh McRoberts gave the Cameron Crazies a taste of what is to expect with a couple of strong dunks of his on. The 6-foot-11 big man is a smart player that finds Oden whenever and however he can inside. Defensively, his newfound weight has given him confidence inside and loves to bull through defenders for the score.
For DC Select, Virginia Tech-bound Deron Washington looked fantastic above the rim in the losing effort. He skied for dunks and had a number of blocked shots high above the rest of the field. Athletically, there may have not been a better player on the floor than that of Washington on Friday night.
Dallas Mustangs vs. Team Richmond
Booker Woodfox put on a shooting clinic, knocking down seven three-pointers en route to his 23 points in the nightcap victory over a well-disciplined team from Richmond. The Lewisville (Texas) High School product connected on nearly every long ball he shot on the night.
Bryon Eaton did a great job of controlling the pace of the game and helped the Mustangs ride their success from last weekend's tournament victory at the St. Louis Eagles Invitational. Eaton scored, passed, played defense and even handed out towels on the bench. Yes, he did everything.
Speedy left-hander Tyreese Rice had a solid 21-point performance in the loss for Team Richmond. He is a tough match-up because of his great handles and ability to blow by defenders with the dribble. He did all he could do but Dallas was too big and too talented to stop.
Rivals.com will be scattered about the Tournament of Champions all day Saturday. Stay logged on for the latest updates and recaps from North Carolina.