May 30, 2008

Top surprises at the TOC

MORE: TOC Top 2010 Performers: Part I | TOC Top 2009 Performers | Hoops Tour

With so many players and so many games to watch, finding sleepers in the 17 and under field was not a difficult task at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. National Basketball Recruiting writer Justin Young looks at the top surprises from last weekend's loaded event.

Tournament of Champions Top Surprises
James Padgett, PF, Juice All-Stars
TOC stats: 10.8 points per game

On the opening night of the tournament, there wasn't a player that shined brighter for a victorious team than the 6-foot-7 forward from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln High School.

Padgett's energy and relentlessness was one of the key reasons why Juice held off W.P.C. Elite and its star players Terrell Vinson and Isaiah Armwood. In fact, Padgett won the one versus two battle down low and made it look easy. Padgett scored 26 points in the win.

He finished with both hands down low and all of his made buckets came off of sheer want-to and high-level energy. He out-manned everyone on the floor. Padgett wouldn't be denied in that matchup. As high-major schools look deeper and deeper into the power forward talent pool, Padgett will be a must-see player come July for those looking to fill the position in 2009.

Jordan Hulls, PG, Indiana Elite One
TOC stats: 14.4 points per game

Okay, so he's probably not a new name on the circuit but this was the first time's national team had a chance to see him live and in person. Hulls didn't disappoint.

His role with Indiana Elite One, one of the true elite teams in the country, is simple: hit threes, run the point and direct the offense. Hulls had little trouble in all three areas. He hit 14 three-pointers over the weekend and moved the ball around the floor with little trouble.

The Bloomington, Indiana native clearly grew up in the Tom Coverdale era and if Hulls' career at IU goes down the similar route, consider it a very successful one. Hulls isn't the quickest player on the floor and his defensive presence still needs work but overall, his scrappiness will be hard to keep him off the floor.

Andre Malone, SG, Atlanta Celtics
TOC stats: 14 points per game

His play at the Tournament of Champions was one of the reasons why the Atlanta Celtics won the whole tournament. He was shooting the ball well, attacked the basket with his athleticism and strength, asserted himself offensively and got after it on the defensive end.

Seeing the kind of production Malone had after a junior campaign that he would admit was less than stellar, it is very encouraging. His confidence is at an all-time high and playing like a sure-fire top 100 player.

He hit nine three-pointers and hit every free throw he attempted. When he attacks the basket, Malone is a tough player to defend because of his shooting ability. Malone is playing at a high level at the moment and is poised for a big July.

Sam Dower, PF/C, Net Gain Sports
TOC stats: 15 points per game

Looking at Dower in the same light as Padgett, Dower could very well become a highly sought-after player in the July evaluation period.

The big man knocked down the foul shots with ease and regularity. His hands aren't bad and he ran the floor pretty well. Dower, a lefty, has some moves in the post and there is a sneaking suspicion that he is just now scratching the surface to how good he can be down the road.

He's still rather thin for his size and defending the post is still an area of improvement but there was enough shown at the TOC to justify his placement in the Rivals150.

Leek Leek, SF, Blessed IJN
TOC stats: 15 points per game

The wiry 6-foot-6 wing was great on the offensive end of the floor in North Carolina. He scored the ball at a high rate and helped his Blessed IJN make it Sunday in the winner's bracket before running into the Atlanta Celtics buzzsaw.

Nevertheless, Leek showed some flair and flavor with his game. He was on fire from the perimeter, connecting on 14 three-pointers over the weekend and was a strong foul shooter to boot. If he can continue to work on his ball-handling, his ability to create and stay focused on the defensive end of the floor, Leek could turn out to be a nice player at the high-major level.

He's moved to the Patterson School in North Carolina and has re-classified into the 2010 group.

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