N. AUGUSTA, S.C. - There was a southern showdown, a northeastern rumble and a handful of good individual games on Thursday morning at the Nike Peach Jam at Riverview Park. Georgia guard Mike Mercer had all of the answers while New York native Jessie Sapp continues to make believers with his always-solid play. Read on for more inside the Ultimate Ticket...
Thursday Morning Matinee: Georgia Stars vs. S.C. Ravens
A SEC game broke out in the first game of the day when the boys from the Peach and Palmetto states squared off and what a good one it was. The Ravens, who were down as many as 15 points, rallied back thanks to the inspired play of super point guard Devan Downey (27 points) and the work horse effort of fifth-year prep Josh Dollard (21 points and 10 rebounds).
Downey used his lighting quick speed to get to the bucket and scored with bodies around him. He also dialed in from deep, scoring nine points in a three-minute span. Dollard cleaned the glass and scored at key moments to help keep it close.
It seemed like each time Downey and Dollard would convert on a bucket, Georgia-bound guard Mike Mercer came back with a trey of his own. He played in control and didn't shy away from taking, and making, big shots. Mercer finished with 18 points and also dropped off five assists. He continues to polish off his offensive skills and does it with a commanding win each time.
His backcourt mate Louis Williams only scored 13 points. And if you are aware of Williams' scoring ability, one would think the 6-foot-1 guard from Snellville, Ga., had a bad game. Think again. Williams knew his shot was not falling and did his part by sharing the ball with crafty passes and smart feeds. He ended the game with six assists and four rebounds. If he can continue to hone his point guard skills, all at the same time of maintaining his deadly scoring touch, he'll be as complete as they get.
Small forward Jay Brown had a nice workmen's effort in the win. The Stars don't have much depth inside but they do have a couple of players that bust their tail inside for rebounds. Brown is one of them. He has long arms and a nice frame, which helps him control the paint but his future is on the wing. He's made strides as a small forward and he's attacking the basket more with the dribble.
Outside of Downey and Dollard, the Ravens had a nice game from rising junior Mike Jones. The 6-foot-5 prospect from Lower Richland (S.C.) High School had a great first half but he didn't have the momentum in the second half. He is always around the basket for loose balls and offensive rebounds. SEC programs have taken an interest to him and we'll watch him closely over the next two weeks. He's a potential high-major player with a good skill set to build upon.
The Northeastern Showdown
Players from both the New York Gauchos and BABC roamed the halls of the Riverview Park and laughed at the accents of some of the Southern workers. "Thank ya, darlin," one Gaucho said in his Brooklyn accent, mocking a concession worker. Another BABC player tried his own style of twang, even with his Boston ahrs (translation = the letter R), but it didn't sound good enough. What did sound good, however, was the two teams playing each other. The Gauchos wanted to speak the loudest.
Gaucho guard Jessie Sapp looked fantastic with his 25 points in the 80-67 win over BABC. He scores in some many ways. His perimeter game is deadly but so his overall strength with the ball. Coaches have heard about his stellar play at the Nike Memorial Day Classic and wanted to see for themselves what he was all about. Sapp showed them on Thursday morning. Don't underestimate his passing ability either.
Arriving late last night, Levance Fields showed no effect of jet lag as he led the offense with six assists and 26 points. He's a strong, thick bodied point that muscles through and around defenders. Sometimes it isn't pretty but it's effective.
BABC had a tremendous game from 6-foot-6 combo forward Jeff Adrian, who might just be the most underrated player in the tournament. The rising senior had 18 points and eight hard fought rebounds. He also did a good job on the defensive end, holding down Antonio Pena, who played limited minutes because of foul trouble.
Class of 2006 prospect Anthony Gurley also had a nice game, scoring 17 points. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard from Newton North (Mass.) High School is a nice young player with a good future ahead of him. He's active and has a number of moves with the dribble.
Lawson Leads D.C. Blue Devils
Rising junior point guard Tywon Lawson came into the Peach Jam with a solid repuation. He could leave with a number of high-major scholarship offers in tow. The 6-foot floor general is a great combination of vision, speed, toughness and scoring from the backcourt. He sets his teammates up nicely and he knows how to run an offense. There isn't much he doesn't do. He proved that against a guard-heavy Miami Tropics team. Lawson has a dandy little pull-up jumper, too.
His talented teammate, Kevin Durant, has his fair share of elite coaches watching his every move. A number of ACC, Big East and SEC schools having been keep tabs of his progress. Against the Tropics, he had his moments but admitted it wasn't his best showing.
Dave Neal isn't a super athlete, in fact, he's not very athletic at all but the 6-foot-6 power forward from Bishop O'Connell (D.C.) High School is a hard-working, blue-collard kid that loves to rebound and set picks. He'll make a mid-major coach very happy and his teammates made for practicing so hard everyday.
That's very fast in Spanish. And it also describes the way Denis Clemente plays. The 6-foot-1 point guard does a great job of getting from baseline to baseline and scores in traffic with little trouble. He's got a nice feel for the game and doesn't force the issue too terribly much.
His teammate David Huertas had a good day of work against the D.C. Blue Devils. In fact, it was one of his better games of the year. He scored from the wing, showed he's pretty athletic with some nice dunks and played solid defense.
Around the gym
The Jon Brockman that the country knows and loves came to play after a disappointing night on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 power forward had 29 points and nine rebounds against the Tennessee Travelers. As one ACC assistant said, "He treated them like they stole something from him." 'Nuff said...Brockman's teammate Micah Downs struggled, going scoreless against a weaker team...Rising junior center Spencer Hawes has opened the eyes of big time programs with his play.
Tennessee Travelers forward Daniel Puckett takes home the award for the "Tell me more about him" kid. Coaches have inquired for information about the 6-foot-7 rising senior but he's having a hard time putting good games together.
Florida guard Walter Hodge kept the scorekeeper busy against the St. Louis Eagles this morning, pouring in a tournament high 33 points before fouling out Tyler Hansbrough continues to have a nice showing, scoring 24.
No matter where Byron Eaton plays, the Texas point guard will make sure he finds the right people to score the points. As mainstay with the Dallas Mustangs, Eaton put on the Team Texas red jersey for the Peach Jam. He had eight assists against Albany City Rocks...Terrel Harris had 17 while C.J. Miles had his biggest offensive output so far with 16 points...Darrell Arthur, a talented class of 2006 big man, had 15 points and seven rebounds.
Albany City Rocks is missing their top gun Tiki Mayben but Greg Nero is shouldering the loaded and put the yoke around his neck, carrying the New York state squad. The 6-foot-7 forward had a double-double against Team Texas, scoring 21 while pulling down 10 rebounds.