UPPER MARLBORO, Md. -- Saturday was a gloomy day around the nation's capitol. It was cold, snow dropped from the low-hanging clouds and all four games were marred by the ever-present whistle from the referees. Those that stuck it out for the final quarter of the last game were able to see some fireworks on the first day of the DTLR National High School Hoops Festival at Wise High School.
THE MARSHALL PLAN
Down by as many as 14 points to Kinston (N.C.), the kids from Bishop O'Connell (Va.) needed to find some answers to climb back into the game and make it close. Joe Wooten's club leaned on a familiar starter to rally back and eventually claim the 71-64 win.
Bishop O'Connell relied on the steady play, pin-point passes and leadership from North Carolina bound junior Kendall Marshall.
Marshall scored 11 points (5-17 FG), handed out seven assists, grabbed seven rebounds and collected four steals. His defense on future teammate Reggie Bullock was the difference-maker down the stretch. Marshall did a great job of limiting the 6-foot-5 guard's touches and helped alter his attempts from the perimeter as well as his path to the basket.
Finding a star on Saturday was as tough to find an answer was as tough as finding an answer to whom the best team is in college football at the moment. Marshall, for all intents and purposes, was Saturday's top dog for his overall game.
Bullock hit his first shot attempt, a three, in the game but it took him nearly three quarters to hit his second field goal in the game. The five-star guard finished with 17 points (6-19 FG, 1-9 from 3). He never really found his rhythm, thanks mostly to the effort from Marshall. Bullock hit some buckets in the fourth quarter but by then Bishop O'Connell was already in the driver's seat and held on for the victory.
OTHER NOTABLES FROM SATURDAY
Pittsburgh is one of the best programs of finding players that fit the team's style of play. The Panthers have done it again.
Talib Zanna fits in perfectly at Pitt because of his motor and ability to go after rebounds. The 6-foot-8 big man from Maryland's Bishop McNamara always found the ball when it came off the rim and he protected the basket with great purpose against a team with a bigger and deeper frontline from Baltimore's St. Frances.
Zanna ripped down 13 rebounds to go with his 17 points (7-13 FG, 4-6 FT) while holding St. Frances's top two post players - Loyola Marymount bound Terrell Vinson and sophomore Greg Lewis - to just 14 interior points scored.
Zanna will be the perfect compliment on the other side of the blocks to Dante Taylor at Pitt. Taylor will be in action on Sunday here in Maryland.
Vinson finished with a quiet 13 points (5-15 FG, 1-5 from 3, 2-2 FT) and seven rebounds. Fouls handcuffed his output and as the lead grew bigger, his game floated out to the perimeter much more to try to get more points in less time. Overall, the Rivals150 prospect should be a contributor in the West Coast Conference in time.
Coming into Saturday's action Walbrook (Md.) junior Roscoe Smith was the premiere name that everyone wanted to see. The five-star prospect from Baltimore finished with 25 points (7-18 FG, 3-7 from 3, 6-8 FT), seven rebounds and three blocks in a loss. His team was bounced by a good Northeast Catholic club from Philadelphia.
Smith uses his long 6-foot-7 frame well on the offensive end of the floor, shooting over the top of defenders on the wing and playing above the rim in transition. His game was energized on the offensive end of the floor but his attention to defense was non-existent on Saturday.
From a pure prospect standpoint, Smith was clearly the top dog in the gym on Saturday but Smith admitted he didn't play his best game in the defeat.
His offer list is one of the biggest in the 2010 class as Connecticut, Florida, Florida State, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and Virginia Tech have tendered free rides.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Talk to any hardcore hoops guy from Philadelphia and they will all share the same opinion of 2011 big man Rakeem Christmas.
"The kid will be really good." The key with the 6-foot-9, broad-shouldered youngster is will be.
His coach, Mike McCarron, agrees.
"Look, he's 6-9, he has good hands and good feet, he runs the floor really well and he's a coachable kid. His potential is limitless," McCarron said. "He could be a really great player. It's scary."
Potential and time are two things working Christmas's favor. The native of St. Croix recorded 11 points and eight rebounds before fouling out of his team's win over Walbrook. However, there were those glimpses of what he'll be doing in a high-major uniform in three years.
Christmas rebounds with great force and he covers a lot of ground with his long arms. Offensively, Northeast Catholic kept it simple for the big man. All of his scores were at the rim and he was never asked to do anything outside of the tiny comfort zone around the basket.
As to who is recruiting him at the moment, Christmas said he just isn't paying attention to that at the moment.
"I don't know," he said to who is in the mix.
McCarron said: "Just about every team in the country is looking at him. He's young though. We are just trying to get him better and put the best people around him. That's the focus right now. That's the focus."
Larry Savage, a strong-bodied 6-foot-4 wing, scored 16 points and didn't miss a shot all game for Bishop O'Connell. The class of 2011 never ventured more than five feet from the basket and he scored all of his shots at point blank range. Savage was the only player on O'Connell's team that could reel in Marshall's brilliant passes and converted for scores.
The Baltimore area has put out some talent college prospects over the years and Lewis, the 6-foot-8 sophomore at St. Frances, could be a high-major guy over time. He was limited because of foul trouble, a common theme on Saturday, but showed some flashes of good things to come.
It doesn't surprise that the local high-major programs - Maryland, Georgetown, Virginia and Virginia Tech - have thrown a hat into the mix while Syracuse is staying in touch. So is Richmond, James Madison, George Mason and others.
Archbishop Carroll lost a tough one to Wise, the host school, in the first game of action but had a great 23-point performance from sophomore guard Kemy Osse in the defeat. The 5-foot-11 linebacker look-alike came off the bench and scored a heroic 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Osse defended with great purpose and hit some big three-pointers down the stretch. Odds are, he'll be a player that takes his game up a rung in the ladder this spring, too.
ALL EYES ON US
Roy Williams and assistant coach Joe Holladay rolled into Wise's amazing gymnasium to see Smith and the match-up of Marshall and Bullock. Tennessee's Bruce Pearl was on hand to see Smith, too.
Assistant coaches from Georgetown, Maryland, Memphis, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier were all spotted on Saturday throughout the day.
NEWS & NOTES
George Mason bound guard Rashaad Whack is a bouncy athlete with a strong frame and he loves to spot up and let the three-ball fly. The senior should be a solid contributor for the Patriots.
Dante Holmes, a long 6-foot-3 guard from St. Frances, is one to watch in 2010. He scored a modest six points in a blowout loss and grabbed an equal amount of rebounds. Holmes is a pure slasher that is on the radar for some high major schools.
Wise senior Philip Wood scored 19 points for his club in the opening game victory of the event. The 6-foot-4 guard is a good-looking unsigned senior. Low-major programs looking for an athletic slasher that can score would be best served to look at Wood.
Former temple star Mark Karcher is the head coach of St. Frances in Baltimore.
Kinston's roster boasts the two best names in the tournament: Mister Height and Mike Tyson. Neither player saw time on the floor, however.
Sunday, December 7 1 p.m. National Christian (MD) vs. St. Johns Catholic Prep (MD) 3 p.m. Roman Catholic (PA) vs. Paul VI (VA) 5 p.m. Hargrave (VA) vs. Patterson (NC) 7:00 p.m. DeMatha (MD) vs. Murrah (MS)