April 7, 2007

U.S. Impressive at NIKE Hoop Summit

Memphis, TN -- If the 2007 McDonald's All-American Game and the Roundball Classic played last Tuesday night in Chicago was your first glimpse of the top players in the Class of 2007, you might not be able to tell just how talented the group really is. Although the play in those two all-stars games was sloppy at times as is the case in most prep basketball all-star games, the participants did show flashes of teamwork and of course the talent level was very high.

Although the class doesn't have that one franchise pivot player like Greg Oden last year, the Class of 2007 is loaded with great lead guards and some talented power forwards. Some of the elite in the class were on display Saturday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis and making a concerted effort to play an unselfish style only magnified the individual talent on the 10-man U.S. Men's Junior National Team as they beat the World Select team, 100-80.

With its 20-point win, the U.S. team has now won the NIKE Hoop Summit four consecutive years and leads the overall series 8-2. Many of the games since the event's inception in 1995 have been competitive, but the U.S. squad dominated this one from the outset as they took a quick 7-0 lead on a three-point bucket by EA SPORTS National Player of the Year candidate Kevin Love (Lake Oswego, OR).

The U.S. team's starting lineup consisted of Love, Derrick Rose (Simeon, Chicago, IL), Michael Beasley (Notre Dame Prep, MA via Washington, D.C.), Kyle Singler (South Medford, Medford, OR) and O.J. Mayo (Huntington, WV). With the starting unit on the floor, the U.S. team had the advantage in nearly every aspect of the game as the World team was passive offensively, over passing the ball and not making nor taking many three-point shots, which was the team's perceived strength coming into the contest.

The U.S. squad then went ahead 13-5 midway through the first quarter despite the lackluster play of Beasley. The prep school standout was the MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game in Louisville and has as much pure talent as any player in the group, but he's inconsistent in his play. He relies too much on his natural ability instead of boxing out for rebounds and is prone to taking ill-advised shots, which he was doing against the World team. In his defense, he might be distracted by and worried about his immediate future since the abrupt departure (after only one season) of Bob Huggins from Kansas State to West Virginia, Huggins' alma mater. Beasley inked a letter of intent to play for the Wildcats and stated on Saturday that he's still committed to Kansas State but, "According to what the new coach (Frank Martin) might do, his style of play and where he wants me to play that might change."

Towards the end of the first quarter, Patrick Patterson (Huntington, WV) of the U.S. club came up with a huge block where he pinned the ball on the glass. He then raced down to the other end and scored on his own offensive rebound put back to give the U.S. team a 24-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. The U.S. second unit consisted of Patterson, Jerryd Bayless (St. Mary's, Phoenix, AZ), Jonny Flynn (Niagara Falls, NY), Donte Green (Towson Catholic, Baltimore, MD) and Nolan Smith (Oak Hill Academy, VA via Washington, D.C.).

The U.S. second unit was not as impressive overall as the starters were and the World team scored more easily and played more confidently when U.S. coach Pat Fitterer (Eisenhower, Yakima, WA) has his subs in the game. With the starting unit back in the contest, the score was 32-13 after a tip-in bucket by Beasley and the U.S. went on a 17-0 run that was highlighted by back-to-back steals and dunks by Mayo and Rose that gave the Americans a 40-13 lead.

The World team finally made the game somewhat competitive at the end of the second quarter when the U.S. second unit returned to the floor. Highlighting the foreigners' mini-run was forward Omri Casspi (Hapoel Galil Elyon, Israel), one of the few aggressive players on the World team. He scored nine points during the second period and the U.S. team's lead was trimmed to 46-29 at halftime after it ballooned to a high of 27 points.

Although the 29 points was the lowest halftime total ever accumulated by an international team, they continued to play well at the start of the third period against the U.S. second unit. They cut the U.S. lead to as low as ten points (61-51) and the score was 56-44 when Fitterer made his line change. Mayo immediately hit a three-pointer upon re-entering the contest and despite making a few too many turnovers while making a concerted effort to get teammates involved, he was the U.S. scoring leader with 20 points.

Another Mayo dunk followed by a three-pointer by the national player of the year candidate on the next U.S. possession and all of a sudden the Americans led 68-51 with 2:24 remaining in the third period. The score was 72-55 entering the fourth quarter and the U.S. club continued to play with high intensity on the defensive end until the game's closing moments.

The U.S. took a 88-63 lead on a follow-up dunk by Love and after Mayo tipped an errant pass that caromed off the backboard, Love hit him with one of his signature 80-foot outlet passes for a dunk that gave the U.S. a 94-66 lead. In addition to Mayo, four other U.S. players hit double figures including Love (13 points), Bayless (15 points), Green (10 points) and Patterson (12 points, six rebounds, 6-8 fg).

6-foot-8 forward Nicholas Batum (Le Mans, France) scored a game-high 23 points for the World team in a losing cause. Another player who stood out was Flynn. After leading the second unit during practice to earn a starting spot at the McDonald's game, the Niagara Falls standout sparked his team to victory at the Roundball Classic by again leading a unit off the bench with 13 assists. In Saturday's game, he again was a sparkplug with 10 assists, which tied a U.S. team record at the NIKE Hoop Summit first set by current Duke University point guard Greg Paulus in 2005.

The last time the World team beat the U.S. Men's Junior National Team occurred in 1998 when they posted a 104-99 win. Dirk Nowitzki led the World team to victory that year with a Hoops Summit record 33 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Nowitzki is currently a perennial all-star forward with the Dallas Mavericks and probably the leading candidate to be named NBA MVP this season.

Note: We hope you enjoyed this free feature on StudentSportsBasketball.com. Check back on the site next week for a complete scouting report on all the players who participated in the McDonald's game and Roundball Classic. Basketball season never really ends for our readers, so if you haven't already now would be a great time to join our team.


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