'Tis the season for holiday hoops. This weekend kicks off three weeks of top notch tournaments from coast to coast. The City of Palms is one of the staples on the high school tournament circuit but there are a number of other events that college coaches will be stopping by over the weekend to get a look at their commitments and future prospects. In this week's edition of Fastbreak Friday, we look at some of the best showcases around.
Have you made your holiday tournament list and checked it twice? College coaches are. A number of college coaching staffs are trying to figure out what events to attend in the next two weeks and how many days to spend at each one.
"It's crazy," says one ACC assistant. "I guess it's just par for the course these days. I know I'll be in Florida for two tournaments and then after Christmas I'll probably be at three other events. That's a lot of places for the high school season in that short amount of time."
Such is life for recruiters.
Those programs with charter planes are smiling. No long lines at airports. No overloaded security checkpoints. December 16 to December 30 is the high school season equivalent of the final week of July, bouncing between Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles.
With without further adieu
City of Palms ready to roll
The biggest pre-Dec. 25 tournament is the City of Palms at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Meyers, Fla. For coaches, scouts, teams, players and fans, this is a must-see event for a number of reasons.
The talent is always exceptional. That's a given. This year's event is headlined by Wayne Ellington (UNC) and Gerald Henderson (Duke) of Philly's Episcopal Academy, Brandan Wright (UNC) of Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy, Damion James (Oklahoma) from Nacogdoches (Texas) High School and Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School's Kevin Love, all five-star prospects.
Mix in the great food, great weather and the charm of a sold out 2,400-seat high school gym. The City of Palms is hard to beat in the crazy holiday hoops circuit.
Donnie Wilkie has been the organizer of the event for the last 21 years and each year he tries to establish his event with the nation's best, he says.
"I build the field by looking at the chemistry of all of the teams and try to project a good balance of big city teams and schools from little places," Wilkie said. "But I also try to find the well-known seniors and the talented freshmen."
This year's event showcases some of the top freshmen and sophomores in the country. Compton (Calif.) Dominguez High School is home to 2008 point guard Brandon Jennings and Aaron Moore, a promising 2009 wing player.
After making a huge splash at the ABCD camp, Lance Stephenson is one of the many talented players for Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln. Piney Woods (Miss.) High School is home to Renardo Sidney, one of the top five players in the class of 2008, but the future five-star player has been ruled indelible by the state of Mississippi.
Rivals.com will be on hand for the City of Palms beginning on Mon., Dec. 19.
One of the best and under appreciated events in the country is the Chick-Fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, S.C. This year's field might be the best tournament organizer Gary Fulmer has ever brought in to the Palmetto State.
Leading the way is Norcross (Ga.) High School. The Peach State power is headlined by Jodie Meeks (Kentucky), Gani Lawal, Tony Neysmith and Brenton Butler (Fordham). Eddie Martin has one of the best teams in the country and says one of the reasons why the Blue Devils lost in the state title game was because of his team's inexperience against top-notch teams on consecutive days.
Also in the field from Georgia is Dunwoody High School, the reigning 3A state champs. Leading the way is Charlotte signee An'juan Wilderness. He's backed up by a tremendous guard corps led by talented junior Zac Swansey, Wesley Mency (Gardner-Webb), Kierre Jordan and Pierre Jordan.
Making it's way down from New Jersey is the famed St. Anthony's team. Bob Hurley has a young bunch, led by junior guard Miles Beatty, senior David Bullock and talented sophomore Travon Woodall.
Two of South Carolina's best seniors will also be in the field. Mike Jones, a Syracuse recruit, was outstanding in the tournament last year and helped his team win their bracket championship. Same goes for Richland Northeast, the host team who is headlined by Lucas Hargrove, an Auburn signee. They claimed their bracket title last year.
Shelton Brown of South Carolina's Bethune-Bowman High School is sure to give the crowd something to remember.
Memphis is always one of top areas in the country for high school talent and one of the top teams is Hamilton High School this season. The team is lead by two talented seniors in Jay Watkins (San Francisco) and Jeremy Williams (Colorado).
Looking to rebound from a mediocre summer is Winter Park (Fla.) point guard Jeremiah Rivers. The future Georgetown Hoya is at his best at the high school level.
Ocala, Fla., isn't necessarily a familiar name for hoops but this year at the Great Florida Shootout, college coaches will make their way to the North Florida town near Gainesville.
The field is solid this season with a number of talented teams in the mix.
Coming down from New York is Our Savior New American, who is led by Daye Kaba, a Boston College recruit. OSNA also boasts a pair of talented uncommitted guards in Timothy Ambrose and Tyvon Williams. Also on the team is Teeng Akol, a 6-foot-10 junior with high-major potential.
Kevin Sutton and his Montverde Academy crew is one of the most talented teams in the tourney. Led by Wake Forest signee L.D. Williams and Jacksonville signee Szymon Lukasiak, Montverde balances it out with a talented and big front line led by top 50 prospect Solomon Alabi, a 7-footer.
Westfield High School from the Houston area is one of the top 25 teams in the nation, according to USA Today. Chris Hagan, a 5-foot-9 point guard, is fun to watch.
South Gwinnett (Ga.) is bringing Alabama bound Avery Jukes and Delano Howard, a sparkplug guard headed to Georgia State next year, to Florida.
Georgia Tech bound forward Zach Peacock leads the way for Lawton Williams and his Norland squad. Dr. Krop High School is one of the top teams in South Florida and led by a decorated coach in Shaky Rodriguez. Orane Chin, a four-star junior, leads the way for the team.
The was some scuttlebutt about Davon Jefferson, the top unsigned senior in the country, going to Georgetown this week. Patterson head coach Chris Chaney said Jefferson, the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2006 according to Rivals.com, has not committed to the Hoyas but is interested in the Big East school.
"He likes them and they are recruiting him," Chaney said. "But he hasn't committed to them."
In fact, Jefferson isn't even at Patterson right now. He left school earlier than his teammates and returned home to California. Never one to be an astute student, Jefferson's reason for an earlier return was academically related, says Chaney.
If Jefferson does decide on the college route instead of testing the proverbial waters of the NBA draft, Georgetown looks to be a player along with Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Sorry Hoya fans, the class of 2006 is going to have to wait for it's third five-star player. For now, at least.
In next week's edition of Fastbreak Friday, we'll take a deeper look at the post-Christmas events across the country.