There is a 75 mile stretch on Interstate 75 in Georgia and Tennessee where recruiters are finding three Rivals100 big men. We caught all three in action over the weekend and learned a little something about each one of them as well as a three-star forward that had the best weekend of all.
Scenic City Showdown
Appalachian State and UMass played for the Division I-AA football championship in Chattanooga last Friday night but that wasn't what brought us up to the land of Ruby Falls and Rock City.
Instead it was a pairing of 6-foot-10, 250-pound Philip Jurick and 6-foot-10, 210-pound Carter McMasters that beckoned a trip to Tennessee. For the most part, the big man battle was worth the trip. Jurick's East Ridge team picked up a 59-43 victory against McMaster's Grace Academy club.
East Ridge's gym filled up quickly and the two big man both traded buckets early in the first quarter. Jurick acted first with a thundering dunk and looked McMasters down like he was a boxer coming out with his strong, but quick, jabs. McMasters counted with a beautiful three-point shot coming off a screen and sank it over an outstretched Jurick.
From there, the "battle" was about over. Neither player really dominated the other as guard play took over. But both showed interesting facets of their game and justified why Tennessee, Clemson and UT-Chattanooga was on hand.
Jurick finished with 11 points (5-11 FG, 1-2 FT), 11 rebounds and six blocks. The No. 27 ranked junior plays with a lot of fire and has a big body that high-majors would love to work with in the class of 2008. He's athletic, strong and not afraid to bang against bigger players.
But when it came down to actually showing offensive moves in the post, Jurick struggled. In the rare occasion when he was fed the ball in the post, Jurick didn't take advantage of the mismatch on the blocks and score easily over the shorter and weaker competition. There is a lot to work with and that is why he has a host of offers from high-majors.
McMasters finished with 14 points (5-18 FG, 2-10 from three, 2-2 FT), 11 rebounds and four blocks. The No. 90 ranked junior in the country has a little more meat on his bones these days and maybe that has helped with his aggressiveness and rebounding touch down low.
The four-star forward showed more inclination to crash the boards more than we've seen before as well as being a presence as a shot-blocker.
Offensively, he rushed several shots and probably took four or five too many three-point attempts but instead of being a catch and shoot big man, he's showing more moves to get himself open on the wing. A made midrange shot from the left elbow showed flashes of his effectiveness as a midrange shooter. If that part of his game can be developed, scary things could happen for the terrific shooting big man.
Graham cuts down Woods
With a minute left to play, Dunwoody (Ga.) forward Delwan Graham took a knee during a free throw and looked at his cheering section and said with a sigh, "Man, I'm tired."
He should be. The 6-foot-5 junior put in a big time effort in Dunwoody's 81-55 win over Rome.
Graham scored 19 points (9-14 FG, 1-1 FT), grabbed 19 rebounds, blocked four shots, passed out four assists and recorded three steals. Rome simply had no answer for the athletic forward. In the first half, Graham was a monster on the boards and used his high-energy motor to grab nine boards and created opportunities for Dunwoody to score around the cup.
"I probably wake up about 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon," Graham said half joking, half serious.
Graham played 30 minutes and made the most of it on every possession. If he wasn't rebounding, he was scoring on his own offensive rebounds. If he wasn't blocking or altering shots, he was frustrating Rome's 6-foot-10 center Tony Woods.
Graham was the most impressive producer that we saw over the weekend and outshined all three of the Rivals100 players from the class of 2008. Graham was outstanding from start to finish.
Woods, the No. 19 ranked player in the class of 2008, struggled on offense, scoring eight points (3-7 FG, 2-6 FT) while rebounding nine boards and blocking seven shots. As one of the few true centers in the class of 2008, Woods is being courted by a number of the big time programs and as a defender and post presence, it is easy to understand why.
With added weight and a better motor, Woods can be more of a force offensively. That part of his game is still very much a work in progress.
Clemson and Tulane were both in the house to see the action at Dunwoody.
Rivals.com hits the road this week for action from the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., and the Chick-Fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C.