MEMPHIS- Many of the first day games were lopsided affairs at the Battle at the Bluff, with the intriguing match ups slated for day two. The Arkansas Hawks, however, need a big effort from Oklahoma State commitment Fred Gulley to survive in overtime.
Facing a local team loaded with energy, Gulley slithered his way into the paint for a game high 25 points. Several of those points were clutch free throws in overtime. The No. 24 ranked point guard did a solid job running his team and then producing points when needed.
Gulley also had his hands busy defending scoring guard Russell Hill, who pumped in 19 points for the undersized but scrappy TGAND Express.
Teammate Clarence Trent added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. The ultra-athletic power forward got his points in the lane in front of Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey.
Trent is presently listing Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, California, Washington and UNLV as his top schools. He claims that all are equal at this point and that he will take his official visits before making a decision.
Another top duo at the event Kentucky commitment Jon Hood and promising 2010 prospect Casey Prather had an easier go about it in the Nashville Celtics first round match up. In a 40 point win, Hood only scored ten points on 4-13 shooting, but he handed out an impressive seven assists and grabbed eight rebounds. Happy to finally be healthy, Hood has the tools to impact the game in a number of ways.
Prather was a more efficient 6-8 from the field for 14 points with most of those buckets coming on slashing assaults on the rim. A developing perimeter player, Prather had several impressive coast to coast runs at the basket where he deftly worked his way through traffic. He also registered six rebounds and an assist without committing a turnover.
Another prospect on the Nashville Celtics Jordan Swing is beginning to make some recruiting noise with his strong play on the circuit, most notably at the recent It Takes 5IVE Classic. At 6-foot-6 Swing is a hybrid forward who surprises with his athleticism, continuously comes up with the ball and makes solid plays with the ball in his hands.
Oregon State has recently inquired, and Swing holds offers from MTSU and Belmont.
The most entertaining game of day one came in the 16-under bracket when the Jackson Panthers defeated Memphis Select. In a game marked by athleticism no player stood out more than Panthers' guard Dundrecous Nelson who shook up the house with a couple thunderous dunks in traffic. Nelson also mixed in a three-pointer and dropped off several nice assist passes on the break. He finished with 15 points.
Nelson does need to tighten his handle and refine his shot, but he has the upside to work his way into four-star status in the 2010 class. He already claims offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss and UAB and is getting interest from Oklahoma and Clemson. Arkansas presently sits at the top of his list.
Four-star point guard Andre Stringer, who normally runs with the Jackson Tigers but is with the Panthers at this tournament, might not have the athletic upside of Nelson, but when it comes to making plays right now, Stringer gets it done. He gets great elevation on his confident jumper and has the upper body strength to make plays in the lane. He scored 12 points in the win and made a number of impressive interior passes on the drive.
Stringer is getting the heaviest interest from Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Florida State.
Holding down the middle for the Panthers is power forward Jalen Courtney, who scored 13 points. Courtney has a top four of Arkansas (offer), Missouri, Ole Miss and Oklahoma. He favors Missouri because of the speed and intensity of their style of play.
Leading the Panthers in scoring was left handed shooting guard Desmond Haymon who fired in 21 points with four three-pointers and some crafty drives to the basket.
For Memphis Select 2011 prospect Cedrick McAfee is a prospect to keep an eye on. A strong athlete who can also shoot the ball, McAfee dropped in 17 points.