COLUMBIA, S.C. - Rarely, if ever, do good big-man battles materialize.
On Thursday night at the Chick-fil-A Classic, one came to fruition. For those that witnessed the matchup, it was a December treat.
The two top juniors were clearly the highlight of day.
Walker, Gordon give memorable effort
Drew Gordon vs. Ty Walker. That was the matchup everyone in Columbia wanted to see. For the most part, the meeting lived up to the billing.
Walker's Wilmington (N.C.) New Hanover team defeated San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, 59-56. While the 7-footer didn't post big numbers offensively (10 points), he learned a little something about himself in this pairing.
Walker did what he does best – he was a force in the middle. He blocked eight shots and misdirected at least a half dozen others from Gordon.
Offensively, Walker shot over the top of the bouncy Gordon and showed a soft touch from the baseline. However, there were times when he fell asleep on defense - particularly on the help side - and didn't rotate to the right spot. Walker is clearly a prospect and a work in progress, but he showed flashes of the player he could become if he reaches his potential.
Walker said his recruitment is going well, with the likes of Wake Forest, North Carolina and N.C. State showing some early interest. "No one is really recruiting me right now," he said. That will certainly change.
Walker said he would like to hear from Florida and Connecticut. Kentucky will likely throw its big blue hat into the mix.
Make no mistake, Gordon was outstanding as well. The California native scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked six shots. The athletic Gordon tried to play bigger than his 6-foot-9 frame.
Whether he ends up in the ACC, SEC, Pac-10 or any power conference, Gordon will face players of Walker's length at the next level. Gordon will need to find ways to be effective in those big games on the big stage. Gordon played very hard on both ends of the floor.
Walker had help from guard James Beatty, who will probably have a bruise on his chest tomorrow because he likes to pound it after he drills three-pointers. He hit six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points.
Beatty said attending prep school is looking like a very strong option after the season.
Gordon had help from 6-foot-5 junior guard Colin Chieverton, who never showed any sense of defeat until the final buzzer. The good-looking prospect scored 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
Dunwoody wins Pride of the Peach State
Less than 20 miles separate Dunwoody and Meadowcreek in metro Atlanta. The semifinal matchup featuring those teams was played four hours away from Georgia, but bragging rights will still be valid.
Dunwoody relied on 20-point performances from three players – Delwan Graham, Zac Swansey and Pierre Jordan – to claim the 83-67 victory.
Swansey, Jordan and Bobby Perdue won the backcourt battle with Meadowcreek's Chris Allen and Teondre Williams. The trio from Dunwoody combined for 51 points and played good defense to earn the victory.
Swansey continues to come into his own as a scorer and game manager. He's patient, confident and rarely gets rattled. Jordan's defense on Allen was stellar He helped limit the future Michigan State guard to four shots in the first half. Allen finished with 18 points, but 12 of them came a little too late.
Williams played well on the offensive end, and future Navy big man Mark Veazy continues to look like a steal for the Midshipmen. Veazy scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Withey doesn't wither in double overtime
One of the biggest storylines coming into Thursday's action was San Diego (Calif.) Horizon center Jeff Withey against John Carroll's frontline, which features 7-foot-2 Jakub Kusmieruk.
Withey showed flashes of why Rick Pitino and his staff wanted to lock him up early. Withey went right at his taller counterpart, scoring inside, blocking shots and making good passes.
The future Louisville big man finished with a solid 12 points (4-for-6 from the floor), 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
It was a good outing from Withey despite foul trouble that eventually took him out of the double overtime win. All and all, he showed that he's still a work in progress (needs to work on strength). It appears there is a good, true center inside of his long, lanky frame.
Horizon's Marquis Carter came up big. He could be a good mid-major target for teams in the late signing period. Carter was the catalyst in the overtimes, converting on several key free throws en route to his game-high 26 points.
Milton Jennings was a force again for Pinewood Prep, this time as an interior defender. According to the stat sheet, the 6-foot-9 sophomore blocked eight shots. It appeared he got a piece of a few others, too. He added 23 points, with most of his buckets coming inside the paint.
With South Carolina head coach Dave Odom watching behind his bench, Jennings went to work inside. He made eight of 14 shots and six of eight from the foul line en route to 23 points.
The sophomore has played all but two minutes in his first two tournament games. Jennings simply ran out of gas at the end of the game. From an evaluation standpoint, the sophomore has shown a wide variety of skills this week in Columbia.
From a recruiting perspective, Jennings said his unofficial top three is South Carolina, Clemson and North Carolina. Kansas, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are also in the picture.
You have to love guards that rebound the basketball. Pinewood Prep sophomore Kenny Manigault does that really well. The 6-foot-3 Manigault grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds while passing out eight assists. Manigault said his recruitment is at the very infant stages and few, if any, schools are looking at him. That should change. He has a chance to play at the highest level.
Odds & Ends
Seth Curry is carrying on the family tradition. His father, Dell Curry, was a nice scorer in his 16 NBA seasons. Stephen Curry – Seth's brother – is playing well as a freshman at Davidson.
With Stephen averaging more than 20 points per game early in his college career, Seth Curry is a guy to keep an eye on in the class of 2008. He's a smart player who has confidence at the point guard position. He knows how to play. Curry had 14 points and five assists in the victory.
We first saw freshman guard Josh Selby in San Diego at the adidas Phenom150 camp and came away impressed with him as a prospect. Now in his first season of high school ball, Selby is learning a little bit about himself as a player.
Selby is good at getting the ball up the floor in a hurry and would shine in an up-tempo style of play - which he did at the adidas camp this summer. On the AAU circuit, he'll look like one of the better players in his class because of his ability to play in the open floor. His high school team is more patient. It runs a motion offense with the hope of getting one good shot.
Selby should only benefit from playing two gears slower than he'd like. Decision making, ballhandling and good shot selection will only make him grow as a prospect. He'll have big games as a rookie for John Carroll, including big scoring games (he poured in 22 points against Horizon). But he'll need to improve his shooting (he shot 8-for-23), offense distribution (one assist) and defensive pressure (one rebound and zero steals).
When a 6-foot-3 guard is the team's best ballhandler, rebounder and shot-blocker, people notice. That is the case for the Hammond School's Daniel Bailey. The junior is a long guard that uses his frame to block shots, and he gets in the paint for rebounds. A good majority of his boards came on the offensive end.
After shining on Wednesday night, Isaiah Philmore started slow against Horizon and looked frustrated against Withey's imposing 7-foot frame. But as the game went along, the sophomore's play improved. Philmore finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
All eyes on you
Coaches from Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, Marquette, Navy, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth, and Wofford were in attendance.
Head coaches were few and far between, but Dave Odom made a stop to see sophomore Milton Jennings and Alabama's Mark Gottfried took a gander Teondre Williams of Meadowcreek.
Ridge View (S.C.) 76, Hammond (S.C.) 52
Irmo (S.C.) 62, Ribault (Fla.) 46
Sumter (S.C.) 64, Lower Richland 59 (OT)
Pinewood Prep 63 (S.C.), Keenan (S.C.) 57
Horizon (Calif.) 57, John Carroll (Md.) 55 (2 OT)
Charlotte Christian (N.C.) 64, Richland Northeast (S.C.) 42
Dunwoody (Ga.) 83, Meadowcreek (Ga.) 67
New Hanover (N.C.) 59, Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) 56
FRI., DEC 22
9:30 a.m. – Hammond (S.C.) vs. Keenan (S.C.)
11:00 a.m. – Lower Richland (S.C.) vs. Ribault (Fla.)
12:30 p.m. – Sumter (S.C.) vs. Irmo (S.C.)
2:00 p.m. – Ridgeview (S.C.) vs. Pinewood Prep (S.C.)
3:30 p.m. – John Carroll (Md.) vs. Richland Northeast (S.C.)
5:00 p.m. Meadowcreek (Ga.) vs. Archbishop Mitty (Calif.)
6:30 p.m – Horizon (Calif.) vs. Charlotte Christian (N.C.) – Classic II Championship
8:00 p.m. – Dunwoody (Ga.) vs. New Hanover (N.C.) Classic I Championship