FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The 35th running of the City of Palms tipped off on Tuesday night at Bishop Verot. The fireworks went off for St. Benedict's and they were missing for Greg Monroe.
St. Benedict's plays the bully
St. Benedict's was crowned the No. 1 team in the nation by USA Today on Monday and the Grey Bees certainly looked like a team to be reckoned with at the City of Palms in an 87-32 stomping of Gainesville High School.
St. Benedict's was balanced, big and played the role of the bully quite nicely in the final game of the day.
Echenique was outstanding on opening night, scoring with little trouble inside and grabbing rebounds as soon as the rubber came off the rim. The 6-foot-10 junior was too big, too long and too strong to stop inside and the four-star center went to work. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
Samuels scored a game-high 23 points on nine of 10 shooting from the floor and five of nine from the foul line in just 17 minutes of work.
Coming off a tremendous effort on national television, St. Benedict's point guard Tamir Jackson continued his great play against Gainesville High School. The junior was quick to the basket, smart with his passes. He finished with 11 points and four assists.
Since his game against Oak Hill on ESPN, Jackson said he has heard from Miami, Maryland, UAB, Rhode Island, St. John's, Clemson, South Carolina, NC State, Virginia Tech, Penn, Memphis and Kentucky.
Wanted: More Monroe
Simply put Greg Monroe, the nation's No. 1 player in the country, wasn't very fun to watch. And there was a good sized crowd on Tuesday afternoon to see Monroe and his Helen Cox team in action. For those that saw him for the first time, the first impression certainly wasn't the best impression.
Monroe scored a quiet seven points and grabbed six rebounds in a 53-41 win over John Carroll School. The Georgetown-bound big man shot just two of six from the floor and never seemed to try to get himself involved into the flow of the game.
As is the case for all of the elite players at the top of the rankings, the expectations are high for this incoming group of rookies. Guys like Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo and Kyle Singler raising the bar for rookies this year, Monroe can't have games like the one he had on Tuesday. The bar is too high for the kind of games that Monroe played on Tuesday.
Unsigned senior guard Jean Louisme, a 6-foot-4 prospect for Fort Myers, was an eye-catcher. He scored 19 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 from 3, 6-8 FT) and grabbed eight rebounds in a big overtime win on Tuesday night. He is an athletic guard with size and scored in traffic and attacked the glass.
Louisme, the younger brother of former Fort Myers star and Tulane junior Robinson Louisme, said Jacksonville and a couple of Division II programs are the most interested at this point. He added that Charleston Southern and Appalachian State were involved at one point and certainly his play warranted more interest from other low-major schools.
His teammate Josh Nicholas, a 6-foot-11 center, is one to watch in the class of 2009. He's incredibly raw, but showed a lot of promise with a flash here and a flash there. Nicholas is an interior presence because of his length as a shot-blocker and defender. Nicholas said his recruitment has taken on all kinds of shapes and sizes early on as Detroit, Central Florida and Tennessee have shown various ranges of interest.
Helen Cox isn't all about Monroe. Junior forward Taj Givens, a bouncy 6-foot-5 combo forward, was the sparkplug for his team in the opening game. He scored 17 points (6-11 FG, 2-2 from 3, 3-5 FT) and pulled down four rebounds as the team's sixth man. Givens said the only school he has heard from to date is McNeese State.
Teammate Trevon Flores, a skinny 6-foot-11 center, isn't much of a producer but he's a prospect for the low-majors. Flores said he has offers from Morgan State and Marist while Alcorn State, McNeese State and Nichols State are also interested in the Columbus, Ohio transplant.
News & Notes
John Carroll junior forward Isaiah Philmore had a big game in defeat against Helen Cox. The 6-foot-7 junior scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds but it was his defense on Greg Monroe that was impressive. Philmore's high-energy and physical play slowed down the nation's top player.
Karon Burton, a quick 5-foot-8 point guard from Chester (Pa.) High School, was impressive with his jets to the basket, no look passes and confident floater in the lane. Burton said he wanted to give the crowded house a show and a taste of what Philly basketball is about. Point proven. Burton was fun to watch in the blowout win for Chester.
Burton scored a game high 18 points and handed out seven assists. He said his recruitment is still rather quiet late in the game but mentioned that the Big Five are interested as he improves his work in the classroom.
Pittsburgh bound Nasir Robinson scored 13 points and was six of eight from the floor. It was a quiet game for the bull tough wing forward.
Shay Shine, a Florida Atlantic signee, picked the right school for himself. The 6-foot-2 combo guard does a little bit of everything. In the second half in a close game, he was finding his teammates with passes inside and scored at the rim. Despite his cold shooting (8-23 FG, 2-11 from 3), Shine scored 20 points, had 10 rebounds and eight assists by our count. He should be a fine addition for the Owls in the future.
Sophomore guard Tyler Portwood scored a game winner for Scott County in a close one against Fort Myers Dunbar 43-41. The 6-foot point guard sliced his way into the lane with four seconds left on the clock and laid in the bucket with little trouble. Portwood scored a team high 15 points in the victory. He and his teammates were tremendous in the first half defensively, allowing just seven first half points to Dunbar but saw the game draw even in the second half.
Bishop Verot, the host team, is the City of Palms version of the Washington Senators. The squad hasn't won a game at the City of Palms since 1979 and has gone 2-26 in the tournament since its inception.
All eyes on you
George Washington head coach Karl Hobbs was the only head coach in attendance on Tuesday. Assistant coaches from Central Florida, Charleston Southern, Connecticut, Florida, Jacksonville, Marist, Miami, South Florida and Stetson made it to Bishop Verot High School for the first day of action.
New Orleans Helen Cox (La.) 53, John Carroll (Md.) 41 Georgetown Scott County (Ky.) 43, Fort Myers Dunbar 41 Fort Myers (Fla.) 69, Arcadia DeSoto County (Fla.) 59 (OT) Chester (Pa.) 66, Fort Myers Bishop Verot (Fla.) 41 St. Benedict's (N.J.) 87, Gainesville (Fla.) 32
Wednesday, Dec. 19 3:45 p.m. - Dunbar (Fla.) vs. John Carroll (Md.) 5:30 p.m. - Miami Monsignor Pace (Fla.) vs. Flushing Holy Cross (N.Y.) 7:15 p.m. - Woodland Hills Taft (Calif.) vs. Punta Gorda Charlotte (Fla.) 9:15 p.m. - Columbus New Hope (Miss.) vs. Plantation American Heritage (Fla.) 11:00 p.m. - Chicago Hales Franciscan (Ill.) vs. Scott County (Ky.)