HAMPTON, VA - The first night of the 2006 Boo Williams Invitational is in the books and guys like Nick Calathes got the party started off on the right foot. The future Florida guard kept up the good basketball karma for the Gator faithful. He was one of standouts on opening night.
Life for Nick Calathes is pretty good right now. He was just named Mr. Florida Basketball. A couple days later, the Florida commitment watched his future Gator teammates claim a national championship. So far, his showing at the Boo Williams is keeping up with the trend of good basketball karma for the 6-foot-4 guard.
Calathes scored 55 points in a pair of opening night victories for Team Florida. And as impressive as he was on the scoring end, the four-star prospect was even more impressive with his passing skills. His court vision is incredible, finding guys behind the defense, or dropping off an assist on the break to a wing man for three.
His shot is still a little forced from his chest but he doesn't lean too much towards the basket. Defensively, he was much improved, moving his feet and keeping up with the athletic guards that came his way.
On one possession, Calathes got an open court steal, dribbled down the floor and around his back to escape three defenders and laid it up for the and one foul and score all by himself on the offensive end of the floor. It was one of the many impressive plays by the future Gator.
Calathes said he is just trying to enjoy the moments as they come along. The early whispers of him being a potential McDonald's All-American have already begun.
"I always play to have fun and try to have my team in a position to win games," Calathes said. "If that means I am being considered for that, then that's even better. I'd love to be a McDonald's All-American. That game has the top 25 players in the country. I'd love to be a part of that."
With the momentum he is rolling with so far, the early whispers of any post season all-star games this time next year don't seem so far off.
2008 prospects come up big
One of the highlights of this year's field is the talent in the class of 2008 in the tournament field.
Leading the way is Philadelphia guard Tyreke Evans. The 6-foot-4 guard suited up for Team Final and quietly had a good outing to the tune of 20 points against Memphis YOMCA.
Evans has more jump on his jumper and has no problems whatsoever knifing through the lane with his big strides for scores at the bucket. He plays with a confidence that the good ones have but always seems to play within himself. Don't be surprised to see him name quite a bit from this weekend. The star power isn't nearly as deep as it has been here at the Boo but Evans could change that.
New Orleans Panthers big man Greg Monroe took a little while to get going, rather get the ball tossed to him in the post. When he got it, he knew what to do with it.
The 6-foot-9 forward is a long and rangy forward with a soft touch around the basket. He showed off a couple of nice pivot moves in the post and dropped in a couple of scores with that. On another possession, he buried a turn around jumper from the baseline.
Monroe will show flashes of greatness and helped lead his team out of a sizable deficit in the first half but then his teammates continued to jack up bad shots and limited his touches inside and eventually lost 77-75 to Team Texas.
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The Boo Williams tournament is notorious for putting guys on the national radar. This year is no different. It would be hard not to start with John Flowers. The 6-foot-7 wing forward from St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md., was the biggest surprise of the first day of action.
He showed off an array of offensive moves both on the blocks and on the wing. He dribbled in from the wing, kissed a shot of the glass from the baseline. Flowers buried three threes by our count. He handled the ball very well, went by his man with the dribble and was active on both ends of the floor. The book had him tallied for 17 points in a tough loss to Team Florida but we had him for 20.
Flowers said his recruitment is going well with interest from West Virginia, Virginia Tech, St. John's, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland and LaSalle.
Team Texas pulled out a surprise in the form of 2008 combo guard Rotnei Clarke. After averaging 34 points a game this year at Vertigris High School in Claremore, Okla., the sharpshooter connected on 12 made three-pointers on Friday night.
The small town kid said he is ready for the big city lights and big college eyes on the AAU circuit.
"Oh yes sir, I am ready for this month," Clarke said. "This is big to get out here and play in these tournaments in front of college coaches. I thought I played really well tonight. I just want to keep playing good."
No worries there. His first game of action, he tallied 25 points against Team Florida and reportedly had 21 points in the first half against the Portland Legends.
Clarke said he is hearing from Michigan State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa early on.
Odds & Ends
Upon arriving at Hampton High School, we learned that Kyle Singler and Willie Warren did not show up for the tournament. The two were supposed square off in the opening game of the tournament but Singler's Portland Elite team arrived to Virginia a little later than expected because of a flight issue and Warren, a high-major 2008 guard, was nowhere to be found on the Team Texas bench.
With Tyreke Evans getting a lot of hype and attention on the Team Final squad, and rightfully so, someone else stepped up and took the spotlight at the Apprentice School.
Matthew-Bryan Amaning looked like a completely different player than what we saw of him during the high school season with South Kent Prep. The England native played with a lot of pizzazz against a lost looking Memphis YOMCA team. Amaning scored 14 points and did it with a couple face up jumpers, attacked with the dribble from the wing and had a couple of just mind-boggling dunks on defenders.
Amaning said he recently trimmed his school list to 10. The finalists include Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Pitt, Washington, Texas, Duke, UConn, Georgetown, Villanova and Virginia Tech. He said all but Duke and UConn have offered.
Team Texas point guard G.J. Vilarino is a confident class of 2009 prospect. He loves to make the pass and probably had upwards of eight assists in the tournament opening game. He'll be fun to watch grow up. Vilarino is 150 pounds dripping wet.
Montverde (Fla.) Academy big men Solomon Alabi and Joseph Katuka weren't big factors in the high school ranks this year for Kevin Sutton's squad but the twin towers made their presence felt on Friday night.
On one possession, Alibi blocked four straight shots against the D.C. Blue Devils. He finished with seven blocks by our count and at least five other "maybe I shouldn't go in there" shots as well. The 7-foot-1 center said he is hearing from the Florida schools and Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona have recently jumped into the race, he said.
Katuka is a better offensive player than Alibi, showing off a couple of nice turnaround bank shots. The lefty is integrating a hook into his offensive skill set and it was working quite well for him on opening night.
Talented youth resides in Oklahoma
Athletes First from Oklahoma will be a team to keep an eye out for over the next three years on the AAU circuit. Gary Vick's club is loaded with talent in the 2008 and 2009 classes.
Xavier Henry's name will ring a bell to most recruitniks. He played well at the Nike All-American camp last year and after being named the MVP of the Oklahoma state tournament as a freshman, the good looking 6-foot-5 guard lived up to his billing on Friday night in a 67-53 losing effort to Team Florida.
Henry scored a game high 23 points and put on an offensive show with his perimeter game and steady ball handling on the perimeter. His father played at Kansas and his older brother, C.J., was a Jayhawk basketball commit before pursuing major league baseball.
Henry isn't the only talented freshman on the roster. Daniel Orton, a long bodied 6-foot-9 big man from McGuiness High School in Oklahoma City, showed why he'll be a high-major prospect from the class of 2009. He buried a pair of 15 foot jumpers and wasn't afraid to mix it up inside the paint. Kyle Hardrick, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Lawton Ike High School, is a big bodied banger that runs the floor well and showed spurts of high-major ability.
Setting the tone for the Oklahoma team was Blake Griffin, this year's version of Shane Battier on the AAU circuit. He is on go mode 100 percent of the time and showed a lot more bounce in his step and even looks as if he added an inch on his big frame since last summer. He's an athletic blue collar guy that will certainly shine this year in the big men thin class of 2007.