ORLANDO, Fla. - There is just something about cities with too much to do, heat, overpriced everything and summer basketball. As the three major tournaments go deep into the night in Las Vegas, the 17 and under AAU Super Showcase kicked off on Friday at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Georgia's Lewis Clinch started the event off with a bang.
Clinch, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound muscular shooting guard, put on an offensive clinic in his Georgia Hawks' two games of action. The Crisp Co. (Ga.) High School product helped everyone at the scorers table on their toes by pouring in a career day. In a barn-storming 96-88 loss to the New Hampshire players, Clinch poured in 46 points, with eight three-point buckets.
The game, which displayed very little defense, was actually in the Playaz's pockets but Clinch rallied his team with his fearless, and often-times trigger happy, shooting. He's a chiseled specimen that excels in a high-octane offense. In an earlier game, he put in 27 points in a 30-point victory.
High-majors have been flocking over the country to see Clinch, a player who will debut high in the top 150 coming soon. He said Kansas, Wake Forest, NC State, Arkansas and Tennessee have recently offered a scholarship while Auburn, Georgia and Georgia Tech remain high on his list. Needless to say, Clinch has clearly established himself as an elite high-major player in July, even without the luxury of an All-American camp.
While Clinch was putting in nearly four dozen points, the New Hampshire Playaz took advantage of the non-existent defense played by the Georgia Hawks. Class of 2005 prospect Corey Hassan, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Merrimack (N.H.) High School, was automatic from deep, putting in 29 points of his own.
Hassan is, and probably will remain, a mid-major player. His AAU coach Matt Defosses said Hassan has had interest from a number of American East conference schools while a handful of Atlantic-10 programs are inquiring. Syracuse has even sent a questionnaire at one point, Defosses said.
The Playaz weren't a one-man show either. Class of 2006 prospect Tyler Roche, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound shooting guard from Central (N.H.) High School also put in 29 points. His came off keen shooting and rewards for his smart play and movement away from the ball. He's always finding seams to cut and his intelligent teammates always knew who, and when, to find in the offense. Roche was usually the prime target.
Much like Hassan, Roche, just a rising junior, has early looks from a number of Atlantic-10 schools but he has the potential for some possible Big East programs as well.
Battle of the best bigs
Day one not only provided an offensive show in the backcourts, but two of the top frontcourt players squared up in a heavy-weight battle. Tyler Hansbrough, who is coming off a strong showing at the Peach Jam, was pinned against Andrew Bynum, the 6-foot-11, 280-pound behemoth of a center from New Jersey.
Hansbrough took a while to warm up. If Bynum wasn't a challenge in and of itself, he also had 7-foot rising junior Brian Zoubek breathing down his neck. Hansbrough was able to find his range on his jumper, enough to step out and connect on a three-pointer. He warmed up in the second half and finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals in his St. Louis Eagles' 85-73 victory over the New Jersey All-Stars.
Bynum had a solid showing, putting in 13 points and pulling down seven rebounds. He's still developing offensively, but the 16-year-old has made strides since April. Colleges are chomping at the bit to get his John Hancock in November. Or will it be later than that?
"I could even wait until after the high school season (to sign)," Bynum said. He's considering North Carolina, UConn, Rutgers, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Virginia Tech.
Zoubek added nine in the loss. Like Bynum, Zoubek is getting better as the summer goes on. He's taking his recruitment in stride and with practice against Bynum all summer, he'll be one of the best true centers in the nation next year.
Keeping up with the Joneses
The South Carolina Ravens have been without the services of their top small forward Casaan Breeden at the major tournaments. In his absence, rising junior Mike Jones, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound athlete from Lower Richland High School, has taken the spotlight and made it his own.
In an afternoon game against Nike Team Florida, there were plenty of headliners (S.C.'s Devan Downey and Florida's Keith Brumbaugh, Walter Hodge and Jeremiah Rivers), but Jones came to play. He was a force on the defensive end and put in 19 hard-earned points. Ravens head coach Dion Bethea said Jones recently received scholarship offers from Maryland, Georgetown and South Carolina. He's got the potential to become a big-timer.
Downey, who had a team high 21 points in the 72-62 win, continues to eat apart defenses. He is simply unguardable in one on one situations. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound guard sees a spot on the floor and he gets there in a blink of an eye. He can score from the wing, or he can penetrate and kiss it high off the glass for an and-one bucket.
Brumbaugh had a game high 25 points while showing off his solid handles and always solid mid-range game. Hodge and Rivers were non-factors for Team Florida.
In other news
The Illinois Wolves have made it a habit to send their 16 and under squad to Orlando for the Super Showcase. Their point guard Willie Walker wanted to make a statement from the get go. The 5-foot-10 rising junior threw down a nasty two-handed dunk over The Family's Ramar Smith.
Smith, another talented class of 2006 point guard, listed Cincinnati and Georgetown as his top two schools at the moment.
Keeping with the trend of talented young floor generals, Louisiana Select's Demond Carter started off strong against All-Ohio Red, by pouring in 21 of his team's 31 points in the first half. He ended with 28 while in the loss.
Even though Jamelle Cornley is a 6-foot-4 power forward, he comes to play each and every game. He is a bruiser and if he chooses to play at the mid-major level, he could have a nice college career.
Team Minnesota's Ross Forman had the nice outside stroke all day. The 6-foot-7 rising senior from Patrick Henry High School popped the net with his high-arcing shot and has a world of potential on the wing.
Head coaches hard to find
With the majority of head coaches in Las Vegas, finding the most public college faces were not hard to find. Leading the way was Tubby Smith who was on-hand to see Tyler Hansbrough...Illinois' Dave Weber came to watch his top priority Julian Wright, as did DePaul's Dave Leitao.
South Carolina's Dave Odom watched Devan Downey closely while Virginia Tech head man Seth Greenburg was everywhere. Dayton's Brian Gregory watched Team Minnesota's Brandon Smith, Ray Brown and the host of others.
Dennis Felton continues to be on the baseline for his future stars Louis Williams and Mike Mercer. He also watched Lewis Clinch light up the scoreboard.
Assistants from Kansas, Michigan State, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Cal, Iowa, NC State, Villanova, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Marquette, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgetown, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio State, Cincinnati and several other mid and low majors were also in attendance. 95% of the coaches made red-eye flights from Vegas and raved about the thought of staying in beautiful (and air-conditioned) Milk House on the World Wide of Sports campus.
Stay logged onto Rivals.com for more coverage from Orlando and Las Vegas throughout the weekend.