HAMPTON, Va. - And they are off. The 2007 grassroots season is off to a hot start as the Boo Williams Invitational tournament tipped off on Friday night. Rivals.com was on hand to see a number of the top prospects in the country, including a matchup of top 10 prospects in the opening game.
Big win, big decision for Roe
Six of the top 10 players in the class of 2008 are in the Boo Williams Invitational. We started the event off with a look at two of them. Tyreke Evans and Delvon Roe, five and six on the Rivals150 respectively, tangled up in the tournament's opening game.
It didn't take long for Roe's King of the Court club to pull off the victory as too much size and too much fire power put away Evans and his Team Final crew 82-60.
Roe, a left-handed mismatch problem, is showing off a better ability to attack from the wing and get inside the paint for some unguardable shots when he gets into the lane. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 18 points in the victory.
Roe did most of his damage with foul trouble and kept himself away from the men in stripes despite his aggressiveness. His offensive repertoire wasn't defined by a lot of moves in the post but his herky-jerky style made it difficult to slow him down.
Roe said he will announce his college decision on Thursday at his St. Edward's High School in Cleveland. The five-star forward will decide between Michigan State and North Carolina.
It didn't come as a surprise that Evans scored 24 points in the defeat as the 6-foot-4 Philadelphia product is one of the best pure scorers in the country. His 24 points, however, came on roughly 24 shots.
Some observers noted that they appreciated the fact that Evans makes tough shots. That is true, however, many times he puts himself into a position to take a tough shot rather than slow down and think about the play a little further.
Evans did score nine straight points for his club and put the team within 10 points in a late second half run. However, King of the Court's size was too much in the end. Evans put in the highlight of the night when he dunked on 6-foot-7 Damian Eargle in the open floor on a transition break.
Monroe, Aminu have opposite nights
Greg Monroe, the number one player in the country according to Rivals.com, had a little dust on his game on opening night but when the game mattered in overtime against the South Carolina Ravens, Monroe stepped up.
The lefty scored a key and-one bucket to open the overtime period, made a big steal and converted a pair of key free throws to help his Louisiana Select club hang on to an 82-78 win in overtime.
Monroe seemed to do a lot more floating on the wing than he's used to and it showed with a bad air ball miss from three late in the game and poor decision making in the clutch.
He did turn it up with key plays around the basket, where he is so dangerous. There wasn't a question on whether or not Monroe had double-digit rebounds in the overtime win. The question was whether or not he topped 20. Monroe was a beast on the boards, particularly on the offensive end. He is slippery to the basket and the Ravens had a hard time of finding him to get a good box out on him.
Monroe flirted a little too much on the wing but he did show a flash here and there to remind opponents on what he can do. Defending him isn't an easy task.
The following game, Al-Farouq Aminu took to the floor with his Georgia Stars club. Aminu didn't quite have the same experience that Monroe had. The No. 3 overall prospect struggled, as did the rest of the Stars, against Chicago's Mean Streets club.
The Stars dropped a tough one to a scrappy Mean Streets. Aminu had a difficult time doing anything well. His shots weren't falling. He had a hard time scoring at the rim. The only thing that seemed to be going well was grabbing tough offensive boards. Not a good night for the five-star forward.
Getting it done
Monroe didn't do it all on his own. He had help from forward Storm Warren. The 6-foot-7 Louisiana native was a constant force around the basket with his quick spring legs and power plays at the rim. If the ball was up for grabs, he grabbed it and knew what to do with it. He is one to keep an eye on this spring. The Louisiana Select director said Warren reminds him a lot of a former player that is doing well for himself these days – Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap. Warren may be a better offensive player and not quite the expert on cleaning glass like Millsap is.
Warren said he is hearing from Texas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU and Connecticut.
Down by three points with six seconds to play, Eddren McCain was fouled on a three-point attempt. He calmly stepped to the foul line and converted all three freebies to tie the game at 70 and eventually went to overtime. The 5-foot-11 point guard from Reserve Christian calmly sank free throws in the extra period to help seal the victory.
Xavier landed a big one last week when Kenny Frease committed to Sean Miller's program. And we mean big. The Ohio native is a legit 7-footer with a lot of size that is spread out over his frame. Not only should he help the Atlantic 10 school right away, there isn't a player in the conference that can match up with his mammoth size inside the paint.
Frease scored 11 points and still showed a need for refining his post skills. On a couple different possessions, the big man didn't seem to know what to do with the rock when he was one-on-one on the block. That will come in time. His best strength is knocking down the face up jumper and clearing out the lane for rebounds.
Future Ohio State point guard Anthony Crater is running the show for the talented King of the Court squad here at the Boo Williams Invitational. The five-star floor general didn't necessarily blow anyone away with his play. Come Sunday, though, that could change. He ran a couple of pick and roll plays with Roe and made quick friends with a pinpoint pass that translated into two easy points.
Sead SeHovic is over from Bosnia for April and playing with King of the Court. The 6-foot-5 guard only scored six points but the scores came off two good looking perimeter shots. He can put the rock in the net and really knew how to play. He called out for screens to run pick and rolls and despite his minimal English, he spoke the universal language of hoop by directing his short term teammates to spots on the floor. SeHovic said he will play in the United States for the month before returning home to play pro ball in Europe.
It is hard to pinpoint the top prospects on the Mean Streets club because they all played well in the organized chaos that was the present in their game against the Georgia Stars. Perhaps an argument could be made for big man Michael Dunigan, who is shaping up to be a fine looking center prospect. He's long, active and plays a solid all-around game inside the paint. There is no flash or frills with him. He is all business.
The 6-foot-10 big man has a great wingspan and played every bit of his size against a very big frontline. Dunigan didn't put up crazy numbers but he stepped up to the challenger, particularly in the second half. He blocked a shot here and there and showed a nice soft kiss off the glass when he needed to score. Dunigan will be tested here this weekend with other big men. So far, so good.
Matthew Humphrey is known for his shooting ability but he looked good as a passer. Certainly conscious of what was working (great guard play and overall team speed), the 6-foot-5 wing looked to push the ball whenever he could and found slashers in the process.
Marvin Thigpen and Carl Richard a pair of 6-foot-5 prospects, will be guys that we will want to see more of. Thigpen, a teammate of Dunigan's at Farragut Academy, was Mr. Energy inside. Richard did the little things. Both players certainly bought into a team first, team success mentality.
News & Notes
While Aminu was struggling for the Georgia Stars, he did have help from Tanner Smith, who was solid in the first half, and Wesley Witherspoon, who was solid in the second half.
Smith, a scrappy 6-foot-5 guard, hit tough shots against a defense that was as pesky as he was on offense. Smith is quicker on the offensive end of the floor than people realize. He made some gritty shots.
Witherspoon, a 6-foot-8 flat out prospect, gave the team good energy and tough buckets in which he converted foul shots for and one scores. Witherspoon is one of the top pure prospects out there. He is quietly figuring out what kind of player he can become. Despite an ugly loss, he stepped up and played well when the rest of his team was struggling.
Murphy Holloway didn't seem too phased with matching up with Monroe, the nation's top player. Holloway, a gritty 6-foot-6 forward was great on the defensive end of the floor and gave Monroe trouble with his physical, in-your-face style. Holloway came up with a huge steal on an in-bounds pass when he jumped high to snatch Monroe's entry pass. The Ravens turned the ball over and then the game but Holloway had his good moments in the defeat.
Charlotte (N.C.) Christian guard Damier Pitts joined the Ravens for the weekend and he was Mr. Clutch at the foul stripe. That shouldn't come as a big surprise. He's always been clutch on the big stage. Pitts could have a big week here in Virginia because there is an opportunity to run a good team and do what he does best – score the rock.
Some marriages just work. You can't explain why they do but they do. That can be said about Nasir Robinson. The Pittsburgh commitment doesn't play particularly pretty, but he is sure effective. Outside of Evans, Robinson was the only other productive player for Team Final. His style of play fits in perfectly and should be a great union with the way Jamie Dixon instructs his tough, defensive-minded players. Robinson was a master of grabbing the offensive rebound and getting to the line.
Notes from the notepad
Storm Warren had the best motor we saw of any player on Friday night. He certainly lived up to his name…Aminu has a great set of hands…South Carolina guard LeShay Page did a great job of knocking down midrange pull up jumpers… The South Carolina Ravens have five quality, and speedy but small, combo guards…Team Final's Dalton Pepper is just a sophomore but he is starting to really put on the muscle and fill out…We heard good things about Chicago combo guard Dion Dixon. The junior scored 23 points in a close win over Nike Team Florida and converted 12 of 13 free throws.
Saturday is the longest day of the event as the action tips off at 8 a.m. and the last game starts at 10:15 p.m. Teams will play a minimum of two games on Saturday, all with the goal of winning the pool and landing in the top tournament bracket.