CINCINNATI With bracket play being a two and out format, the It Takes 5ive Classic saw several big time games played on Monday. After losing in controversial fashion to Indiana Elite, Seattle Rotary Select was paired against the Atlanta Celtics. That set the stage for one of the bet big man battles of summer.
Big Man Battle takes center stage
The Atlanta Celtics and Seattle Rotary Select were involved in several close games, some resulting in wins, some in losses, and the way that the bracket ended up shaking down matched the two teams up. That of course meant that the premier big man in the 2009 class, Derrick Favors, would match up with the premier center in the 2010 class, Josh Smith.
Sometimes match ups like this one tend to be disappointments because the two players don't guard each other, the referees get one or both of them in foul trouble, or someone just lays an egg. Fortunately for those who got to watch the game none of those things happened on Monday evening.
The game really started with both players going at each other. Smith especially was strong early on. He was able to use his massive 265 pound frame to pin Favors and convert inside. The key for Smith was his quick feet, despite looking thick through his trunk and lower body, Smith possesses extremely nimble feet and beats defenders to spots creating good angles for scoring.
After Smith scored on his first three attempts, Favors then was able to get some work of his own done. He ran the court, used his athleticism, and converted on the offensive glass to go on a quick run of eight points.
For the remainder of the half things were about even between the two with Favors finishing with eight points and Smith countering with 11 of his own.
The second half is when things really got going. After sitting out for the last few minutes for the first half, Favors came out with energy and really went to work. He hit a face up jumper, blocked a shot, and also scored on a couple up and under moves that were very impressive.
Smith would not be outdone. He was able to get to the foul line, hit a 17 foot jumper, and was a dominant force on the defensive end.
At the end of the game it was the Atlanta Celtics that were celebrating, but Smith more than cemented himself as an elite big man by slightly outplaying Favors. Smith finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds while Favors countered with 21 points and 10 rebounds, with some of those points coming once the game was decided late.
Big time showdown is brewing
Throughout the summer the two best 16 and under teams in the country have been D.C. Assault and All-Ohio Red. D.C. Assault is the only team to beat All-Ohio this year, and they did so in the finals at the Pitt Jam Fest in April, but now things are working toward a potential showdown in the finals in Cincinnati.
All-Ohio did their part by dispatching of Team Impact out of California. The game started out close, and at the half there was still some doubt about whether All-Ohio or Team Impact would win, but then All-Ohio put on their classic run to put the game away fairly early in the second half.
As always with All-Ohio, it was Jared Sullinger that got things really going. There might not be a player at the 16 and under level that can truly control him down low, and every time he touched the ball on Monday he scored. Sullinger combined strong moves with smart positioning to score at will, and force Impact to sag down on him.
When it wasn't Sullinger, Jordan Sibert, J.D. Weatherspoon, and Adreian Payne did their thing. Sibert continued his strong play from yesterday with several athletic dunks, some deep threes, and a quick ability to change direction in the open floor that makes him very tough to guard.
Weatherspoon and Payne are the athleticism down low. Despite being slightly undersized, Weatherspoon is extremely explosive and powerful. He finishes well in traffic, and isn't afraid to go right at taller defenders. At 6-foot-6, Weatherspoon is working extremely hard on his perimeter game, and had one crossover and finish from 12 feet away that gives a hint as to what kind of potential he could have if he figures it out. Payne plays in spurts, but when he is going good he is special. At times against Team Impact he was able to finish down low and from the mid-range along with being a game changer on the defensive end.
D.C. Assault also did their part with a dominating win over the Atlanta Celtics. Even though five star forward Joshua Hairston struggled at times, his teammates picked him up and Assault was able to cruise home with a relatively easy victory.
Now D.C. Assault and All-Ohio are each one win from a very highly anticipated re-match.
From the notepad
A lot has been written about class of 2011 stud Anthony Wroten, and on Monday he showed that all of it is true. In an overtime loss to Indiana Elite, Wroten scored 23 points and was the best player on the floor. At 6-foot-4, Wroten is able to get to the rim at will, and once he does his unreal athleticism comes into play. At one point on a fast break it actually looked like Wroten waited for an Indiana Elite defender to get down the floor so that he could dunk on someone. Once Wroten gets consistent with his three point shot he will be impossible to guard.
Both Jon Hood and Casey Prather had their moments for the Nashville Celtics in their morning game. Hood showed that he is capable of doing a lot of things well beyond just shoot, but for whatever reason he wasn't extremely aggressive. Prather hit a three and took off from well outside the lane to attempt a dunk while getting fouled showing off his athleticism, but those flashes needed to be more consistent.
Recent Ohio State de-commitment Trae Golden looks like a different player when he plays off the ball as opposed to on the ball. When Golden runs the offense he seems tentative and lacks confidence in his ability. In turn, when he is off the ball Golden is a confident scoring machine. If Golden is able to transfer that confidence to the point guard position he will greatly improve his stock.
The Queen City Prophets won two games on Monday with buzzer beaters. Once it was a shot by Allen Payne in the lane, and then in the evening they won on the strength of a pair of Payne free throws.
An under the radar big man is Atanga Yannick. The 6-foot-6 Yannick plays his AAU ball with Team Impact and combines his high energy style with extremely long arms to make plays and to be productive in the post, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith and Wroten are attracting huge crowds in Cincinnati. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, UCLA boss Ben Howland, Washington's Lorenzo Romar, and Tennessee head man Bruce Pearl all made it a point to track Seattle Rotary. Not to be outdone, schools like Louisville, Memphis, and nearly every school on the west coast dispatched assistants to track them.
Indiana head coach Tom Crean made sure to follow Indiana Elite around all day long. Crean already has commitments from Jordan Hulls and Bobby Capobianco, but now he has to decide if he will issue an offer to Stephan Van Treese as well.
All-Ohio Red might have attracted the biggest crowd of the day in their game. Tennessee, Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati, Memphis, Kentucky, Louisville, Dayton, Purdue, Notre Dame, and a host of mid-majors were there to see the game.
There is no doubt that Hairston is in the final stages of his recruitment. Duke, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, and Virginia were all very prominent when it comes to sending coaches to watch him.
Prather has offers from Virginia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Southern Illinois, Alabama, and Akron. Also he is hearing from Florida, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
Weatherspoon has offers from Xavier and Akron with interest coming hot and heavy from Syracuse, West Virginia, Auburn, Wisconsin, and Georgetown.
Ray McCallum had a solid day on Monday and has interest from Kansas, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Duke.
Yannick mentioned that he has received interest from USC, UCLA, and San Diego.