December 21, 2005

Instant Classic

FORT MYERS, FLA. - After watching Kevin Love doing a spit shine on the glass on Monday night, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez needed to pick up a win in the worst way. The Dons don't lose two games in a row very often. But Lake Howell (Fla.) guard Nick Calathes wanted to make that happen. Mix it all together and you have yourself an instant classic.

Calathes dropped a cool career-high 50 points on the California power but it wasn't enough to get by. Future Cal Bear Patrick Christopher connected on a game-winning tip-in with 1.7 seconds to play to give the Dons 91-89.

Christopher was calm and collected even when Dominguez was down by nine with three minutes to play. His 21 second half points were the catalyst that the Cali kids needed. Known primarily as a perimeter scorer, Christopher got it done inside. A majority of his points came from being at the right spot at the right time. He's a better rebounder than people give him credit for (16 boards - 9 offensive).

Brandon Jennings, the highly touted sophomore for the Dons, has his bright moments as you'd expect a guy like him to have. He's played at the biggest stage before, evident by his great week in Vegas back in July. After a quiet first half and four turnovers in 14 minutes, it looked like Jennings was having the kind of game you'd expect to see from a 15-year-old.

Jennings responded with poised play and turned up his scoring efforts, finishing with 19 points and only one turnover in the second half. Most of his points came off penetration to the basket.

The Dons were able to get a hot hand from junior Quinton Watkins, who connected on five of eight long balls en route to 22 points. The 6-foot-3 lefty was showing off his ability to stop, pop and let the shot drop to the bottom of the net all game long.

Watkins is an attractive prospect for the Pac-10. His style is a nice fit for the conference and it comes as no surprise that he said UCLA and USC are on his list. Oklahoma State rounds out his top three, he said.

As good as the Dominguez trio was, the real story of the game was the play of Calathes. Did we mention he had 50 points? It was a pretty 50, too. He did it in every way possible. He did it on the break, which helped his 14 of 17 shooting from two. He did it from beyond the arc, going four of seven from deep. He did it at the line, putting home 10 of 14. 50 points. No one was expecting that.

Looking at Calathes at face value, you'll tell yourself he's not an elite high-major player. Dominguez thought that.

"I saw them come in the gym and I was like, 'Man, we got this.' But that changed pretty quick," Watkins said.

Calathes isn't a speedster. He's not athletic. His jumper is a little unorthodox. He doesn't have the athleticism to defend the guard spots very well. He's not blah, blah, blah.

What he is is a player that has a great feel for the game, sees the entire floor very well, great on the break and a guy that makes the other four guys around him better.

The future Florida guard has an incredible basketball IQ and court vision. When he gets into the open court and he has options, it's fun to watch him work his magic. Calathes had seven assists and five steals to compliment his 50 points. That's the thing that makes him so attractive in Florida's system.

His 50-point performance was pushing the effort put in by Kevin Love on Monday night as the best individual game of the event. Calathes even came close to former Florida guard Teddy Dupay's 56 points, a City of Palms tournament record.

After starting off strong against Episcopal Academy on Tuesday night, 6-foot-8 junior forward Chandler Parsons had a hard time getting things going against Dominguez, who obviously did a great job of getting the scouting report on the sharpshooter.

That was the main question regarding Parsons after his sensational night against Episcopal Academy the night before. Can he get his shot off against high-energy athletic guys? EA has those but didn't have Wayne Ellington or Gerald Henderson guarding him.

Joey Rodriguez, a starter since his freshman season at Lake Howell, is looking more and more like a seasoned veteran despite being a class of 2007 prospect.

Rodriguez is a cool customer that does a great job of controlling the tempo for the Silver Hawks. He used his jets to get by Jennings, one of the fastest kids in the country at will. That allowed him to score at the rim amongst the trees but has the wherewithal to deliver a laser pass to Calathes or Parsons on the wing.

What level Rodriguez (19 points, 8 assists) shines at is still in question because of his size (5-10) but he's proving that size may not matter.

More Rivals.com coverage from the City of Palms tournament is coming later Wednesday night.



 

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