December 29, 2004

Low Down Classic: Green, Rush battle

HOUSTON, Texas - It was the game that everyone has been waiting to see as Gerald Green and Brandon Rush, two of the top athletes in the class of 2005, went after it at the Low Down Classic at Lutheran Southern Academy on Tuesday night. While two of the top four players in the senior class battled it out in front of a number of NBA teams, two juniors - Thaddeus Young and Damion James - also gave a great show to the packed house.

NBA ready?

The class of 2005 is like their predecessors. There just isn't a sure fire preps-to-pros kind of guy in it. Two of the top candidates tried to make their case that they are ready for the jump. Gerald Green, the No. 1 player in the class of 2005 by Rivals.com, did his thing which is jumping out of the gym, handling the rock and shooting the perimeter shot.

While his money maker - his silent but deadly three point range - wasn't falling on Tuesday night but he was creating off the dribble and pulling up on defenders for the shot. Athletically, he fit's the mold of the type of player that goes high in the draft. On the last field goal of the game, Green threw down one for the ages. The 6-foot-8 prospect windmill concoction and brought the crowd onto the floor. It was a 10 if grades were being handed out.

Green was the primary ball handler on several occasions and he doesn't have any problems with the roundball in his paws. He rebounded fairly well with five unofficial boards. Finishing with a modest 18 points, Green and his Gulfshores team did just enough to beat Mt. Zion 59-45.

Brandon Rush matched Green for points, with 17 and did it similar fashion. Probably not as good as a freak athlete, Rush is still going to be a guy that gets above the iron for some good amateur video highlights. He had one, as expected, against Gulf Shores.

Rush rarely matched up with Green. Six-foot-11 Shawn Taggart usually got that call. The future Iowa State Cyclone had a solid game with 15 points.

In the two games at the Low Down Classic, Rush showed off an improved perimeter game, good passing skills and smarter play. Still not a guy that can earn a living as a shooter, Rush is still one of the top athletes in prep ball and in a thin 2005 high school draft pool. Tuesday didn¡¯t help but it also didn't hurt according to a couple of NBA people after the game.

So the million dollar question - literally - remains. Are Green and Rush ready for the NBA? The consensus from those drafting is still "We'll see." Tick tock. Tick tock.

Fewer hype, better game

Sure Green and Rush get the pub, and rightfully so. They're the upperclassmen. But the real game was the match up between Damion James of Nacogdoches (Texas) and Thaddeus Young of Memphis Mitchell.

Mitchell won handedly thanks in large part to the dazzling play of Young. The 6-foot-8 small forward picked up where he left off on Monday night. He finished with 29 points on 13 of 20 shooting from the floor. He works hard inside and is a better interior offensive force than expected.

All and all, Young played like you'd expect him to play as the No. 7 ranked player in the country and so far, he's been the best player in Houston all week.

The team manager for Nacogdoches is going to need to wash James' jersey twice tonight because the 6-foot-8 small forward busted his tail in the ugly defeat. James is always going to play hard and empty his tank and he did just that, fighting hard inside against a physical and equally tough Mitchell team.

When James plays inside early in the game, he becomes a much more effective player on the perimeter in the latter part of the game. James has great size to rebound but also does a great job by scoring facing the basket on the wing. When he starts the contest on the wing first, he doesn't exert himself enough inside.

James, who has always been up front with us about his desire to go pro straight out of high school, didn't wow those that make dreams come true with his athleticism but he did show a lot with everything else about his game.

Don't forget about us

Go ahead and write it down. North Side High School from Lafayette, La. is one of the best high school teams in the country. The team is now 19-1 thanks to a 78-57 whipping over Heritage Christian.

Perry Stevenson, a eerily thin 6-foot-9 center, had 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists by our count in the win. His points didn't come just around the cup either. The big man extended his range out with a soft jumper and decent face up skills.

He and Michael Washington, who finished with 16 points and five fouls, went at it inside. Washington looked better on Tuesday but still struggled with the men in stripes.

Northside also has a backcourt for the future. Randell Daigle, a 5-foot-11 strong combo guard, is a guy that should see his recruitment bolster before the busy AAU season gets here. He can pour in the points from deep and he can get the bucket with the dribble. He's strong, smart and quietly confident.

Sophomore point guard Warren Fuseller had 25 points and 11 assists against D.J. Augustine and you can see why just by watching the 5-foot-11 young fella. He has great court awareness and is very unselfish with the ball.

Odds & ends

Brandon Powell solidified himself as a legitimate high-major prospect during his time spent in Houston. The 6-foot-3 junior from Mitchell High School shot the ball extremely well in the two games Mitchell had and played great defense on the other end. When teams come to see Young play, they get a treat in Powell.

Andre Thornton, a 6-foot-7 forward at Mitchell, has a great work ethic, loves to be the garbage man inside and on top of that he's a guy with great grades. Schools that are looking for kids with 1,000 SAT scores of better, here's a guy that gets it done in the paint and in the classroom.

Jovan Adams didn't have the kind of game he's known to have. He scored just 12 points against Mt. Zion and forced too many shots that should have been passes. A pass first mentality was not present either. We've seen better from him.

Tracy Smith, a 6-foot-7 big forward from Mt. Zion, is no longer in the class of 2006 according to his coach. The Detroit native is now a class of 2007 prospect.


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