The Georgia Stars claimed the 2004 Boo Williams Invitational tournament last year by riding the strong guard play of Louis Williams and Mike Mercer. The team's run in Hampton, Virginia pushed them to several other major tournament victories. Now that Stars backcourt is gone, Norman Parker's group is looking from production from a new group of guys. They hope to start the 2005 AAU schedule strong this weekend.
Like last year, the Stars will travel to the Chesapeake Bay area with a perfect 16-0 record. After winning three local tournaments, Parker and his 17 and under head coach Troy Vincent believe their group is ready for the challenge of defending their title amongst the best of the best but also look to the tournament to get an idea on just how talented this group really is.
"You just don't know how good you are going to be until you play the Friends of Hoop's, The Family's and the Gaucho's of the world. That's what you get at Boo Williams," Parker said. "I think the guys are ready to play. It's really the best time to see how good you are."
Williams and Mercer and the rest of the 2004 team rode the success of the Boo Williams tournament to a 58-4 record and claimed the title at the loaded Kingwood Classic and the AAU National Championship.
Parker knows that this year's team will see everybody's best game all spring and summer long.
"It's getting bigger this year. I know a lot of teams want to play us and they'll be trying to get some revenge and looking for a lot of payback," Parker said. "That's okay. I know I'd rather be the hunted instead of the hunter."
Vincent, the head coach of this year's team, is looking forward to putting his talented team on the floor.
"We've got more depth this year than what we had last year and I think we're harder to defend," Vincent said. "With Louis and Mike, you'll have 50 points between the two of them. Now we've got six guys that can score in double figures. They don't mind sharing the spotlight. Like I said, I think we'll be hard to defend."
The Stars will look to Maryland-bound Landon Milbourne, the No. 55 ranked player in the class of 2006, and Avery Jukes, the No. 119 ranked player in 2006. The duo will serve as the team's captains but also the bookends inside the paint.
"We expect a lot from Avery and Landon. They are our leaders," Parker said. "I think that goes without saying."
Tatum, the No. 113 ranked junior in the nation, had a sensation junior campaign and led his team, a squad that wasn't even picked to finish in the top five of their region, to the state championship game. At 6-foot-5, 190-pounds, Tatum is a long wing player with incredible athleticism and a nice looking perimeter jumper.
Ironically, it was the play of Florence, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound scoring point guard, that pushed Williams and Mercer out of the state playoffs. Florence really emerged as a high-major prospect. He can flat out shoot the ball and has shined early on with the Stars as the team's point guard.
Jones is the real gem of the group. At 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, Jones can play three positions. A number of high-majors have caught wind of his potential and jumped on early. Jones must play up to his potential this month at the key events to prove that he's not only one of the best in the Peach State but also the nation.
The Stars will play Friends of Hoop, The Family and the St. Louis Eagles in pool play.
Rivals.com will be at the Boo Williams Invitational from start to finish April 8-10 in Hampton, Va. Stay logged on for more previews on the spring's kick off event.