FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two of the best prospects in the City of Palms locked horns on Friday and the finals are set after a long day of action at Bishop Verot High School.
Battle of the best
'Tis the season for match-ups. Last week it was Jrue Holiday and Demar Derozan in one of the best match-ups of the year at the Ocean View Tournament of Champions.
It doesn't get any better than this on the high school circuit. The two highest rated players headed to the Big East in the class of 2008 locked horns in the premiere match-up of the City of Palms.
Monroe, the nation's top player, had one of the best games of the year nationally the day before, and Samuels and his St. Benedict's team are riding the biggest high in the nation. Momentum was on both players' side.
To make the match-up even more interesting is, historically speaking, the match-up of incoming Big East players was a preview of two of highest ranked players to ever ink with the schools within the conference within in the same year.
The first half belonged to, well, no one. Monroe put six points on the board from three of nine from the floor with eight rebounds. Samuels wasn't much better. He scored six points on three of 10 shooting from the floor and had four rebounds. St. Benedict's led at the break 23-20.
The second half was a different story. That is when Samuels turned it on. The Louisville bound big man scored 19 of his 25 points and only missed two shots in the final 16 minutes of play. Samuels shot 12 of 21 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and had five blocks.
Needless to say, his play was inspired and proved to be the difference in the match-up as St. Benedict's won 64-50 to move onto the tournament championship game.
Monroe finished with 11 points (5-17 FG), 15 rebounds and three assists in the game. St. Benedict's size with Samuels and Greg Echenique was too much to handle for the nation's number one player.
Echenique was impressive, too. He scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. It has been a great week of work for the four-star junior and he's clearly establishing himself as one of the elite centers in the class of 2009.
Chester moves on
Chester (Pa.) relied on balance, boards and a fourth quarter run to move onto the City of Palms championship with a 62-53 win over Holy Cross (N.Y.) in a game that went back and forth for three and a half quarters.
The Philadelphia area team just had too much for the Big Apple boys in the semi-finals. Rahlir Jefferson led the way for the Clippers with 18 points (8-13 FG) and pulled down nine rebounds.
Pittsburgh bound Nasir Robinson pitched in with 12 points (5-11 FG) and 12 rebounds while unsigned senior Russell Johnson added 11 points and 12 rebounds. Karon Burton, the catalyst all week for the Clippers, was cold from the floor but had a team high 16 points.
Jefferson, a 6-foot-6 junior, has quietly put together a nice tournament. He's a grinder inside, knows what his strengths are and plays within himself. The Atlantic 10 is on him now, he says, and it wouldn't surprise many if a number of Big East schools turn up the heat this season.
Future Ducks impress
Matthew Humphrey must be a morning guy. After two games that were long past sundown at the City of Palms, Humphrey showed his stuff in a noon game on Friday morning.
The future Oregon Duck paced his Hales Franciscan squad to a 72-70 win over American Heritage team with a team high 26 points. Humphrey scored it with his strength knocking down shots on the perimeter and going hard to the basket with the dribble drive.
In the first half, he was ready for this game in a big way and seemed to play with an extra punch of motivation. He scored 21 of his 26 points in the first 16 minutes of the contest.
Teammate and fellow Oregon signee Josh Crittle used his big body and strong frame to muscle inside. He didn't miss a shot in the first half. American Heritage just didn't have the man power to put on the 250-pound monster down low.
Crittle's passing out of the low block was impressive. He found cutting teammates out of a double team and gave his team a boost with his vision from the post. Crittle finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists but also had 10 turnovers.
Sunshine Series sizzles
Orlando Olympia (Fla.) is only playing one game at the City of Palms in the Sunshine Series and it looked like William Green wanted to give the fans a show in his brief appearance. The 6-foot-6 junior showed off all parts of his game against Fayette County (Ga.) and helped his team claim a big two-point win.
Green was great in the post and did all of his damage inside the paint. The three-star junior finished with 22 points (11-17 FG), 13 rebounds and seven blocks. His length and agility will be a major asset to a good mid-major school at the end of the day.
Olympia has a well-balanced team, especially in the backcourt. Dexter Fields, a bull tough guard for Olympia, and Martell Buie, a jet quick junior, teamed together on the AAU circuit and had great success with the Showtime Ballers.
On Friday, the two combined for 43 points and hit six three-pointers between the two. The duo will both be courted by the mid-majors. They have a great feel for the game and moreover, they know how to win when it matters.
Noel Johnson of Fayette County shot seven of 10 to start the game and put up 21 points in the first half. He was dominant on the offensive end of the floor. His legs ran out of gas in the second half and he finished with 31 points (11-23 FG, 2-8 from 3, 7-7 FT).
His offense isn't just about hitting threes anymore. Johnson did more off the bounce, scored more by creating for himself and went to the rim for buckets. He's one of the top pure scorers in his class and showed why on Friday.
Drew, Taft take care of business
Future North Carolina point guard Larry Drew is showing all of the parts of his game for Taft High School. Drew played like a consummate point guard and found his teammates, defended well and piloted his team to a hard-fought victory.
Drew finished with 19 points (7-16 FG, 5-8 FT), eight rebounds, seven assists (by our count) and three steals. His play was within the framework of the game and he never forced the issue.
For teams looking for a shooter with grades, Bryce Smith of Taft (Calif.) might be the answer. The 6-foot-4 senior has been consistent all week long from beyond the arc. He has been the beneficiary of great passing from Larry Drew. Smith said despite interest from a number of schools in the Ivy League, West Coast Conference, Big West and Mountain West, he doesn't have any offers to date. He should. He's certainly proven that here.
Notes from Friday's action
The City of Palms has been all about the big men. And rightfully so. The towers have stood tall here. Unfortunately, the big men have been so good, they have cast a huge shadow over Sylven Landesberg.
The future Virginia Cavalier has been tremendous with his play. On Thursday night, he was amazing against Taft (31 points, 11 rebounds). On Friday night, he was cold from the floor, shooting eight of 23 but had a game high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
If Landesberg keeps playing like the way he is, the Yankees might try to sign him. He's equivalent to a five-tool player on the diamond. The four-star guard just does it all. His scoring and shooting has never been a question mark. However, his rebounding, passing and ball-handling have been on another level in Fort Myers.
It took 32 shot attempts for Kenny Boynton 30 points against Hales Franciscan. The five-star junior was cold from the floor. He was 10 of 32 and four of 18 from three in the game.
His shot selection came in bulk and the hole he shot himself into only got deeper as the game went along.
The story of the Scott County-New Hope game was guard Tyler Portwood. The 6-foot-5 senior guard pumped in 29 points (11-18 FG, 3-8 from 3, 4-4 FT). The unsigned player has been one of the nice surprises in the event so far. He has a tremendous touch from behind the arc, good size and understands the game.
Foul trouble sidelined Rashanti Harris on Friday, as he was "held" to nine points (4-7 FG) and 15 rebounds in 20 minutes of work. His New Hope team lost to Scott County 71-60.
Teammate Dale Hughes continued his scoring tear on the tournament, scoring 21 points in the defeat.
Ray Shipman led Miami Pace with 20 points as his team claimed a 69-50 win over Fort Myers Dunbar in the morning game on Friday. The future Gator had help from Rakeem Buckles. The emerging high-major prospect put in 15 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
All eyes on you
A full Duke staff of Mike Krzyzewski, Johnny Dawkins and Chris Collins made the trip down to Fort Myers for the noon game on Friday after the Blue Devils played Pittsburgh in New York. The reason? To see Kenny Boynton, Jr. and Greg Echenique. Jacksonville head coach Cliff Warren was also in attendance to take in the action.
Assistant coaches from Auburn, Colorado, Florida Atlantic, Florida, Georgia Tech, Houston, Liberty, Louisville, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall were also in the gym throughout the day.
News & Notes
Future Virginia Commonwealth big man Terrence Saintil was a monster on the boards in the morning game. The 6-foot-8 muscular forward snatched up 17 rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
Future Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin of Fayette County (Ga.) won the dunk contest, showing off his big time hops for a 5-foot-10 player.
Florida commitment Eloy Vargas sat out with an ankle injury on Friday morning against Hales Franciscan (Ill.).
Miami Pace (Fla.) 69, Fort Myers Dunbar (Fla.) 50
Hales Franciscan (Ill.) 72, American Heritage (Fla.) 70
Scott County (Ky.) 71, New Hope (Miss.) 60
Taft (Calif.) 63, Kinston (N.C.) 55
Orlando Olympia (Fla.) 81, Fayette County (Ga.) 79
St. Benedict's (N.J.) 64, Helen Cox (La.) 50
Chester (Pa.) 62, Holy Cross (N.Y.) 53
Gainesville (Fla.) vs. Charlotte (Fla.)
Saturday, December 22
8:30 a.m. American Heritage (Fla.) vs. Fort Myers Dunbar (Fla.)
10:15 a.m. - New Hope (Miss.) vs. Kinston (N.C.)
12 noon - Bishop Verot (Fla.) vs. John Carroll (Md.)
1:45 p.m. - Consolation championship: Miami Pace (Fla.) vs. Hales Franciscan (Ill.)
3:30 p.m. - Fifth-place final: Scott County (Ky.) vs. Taft (Calif.)
5:15 p.m. - Third-place final: Helen Cox (La.) vs. Holy Cross (N.Y.)
7:00 p.m. - Boca Raton (Fla.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.)
8:45 p.m. - Championship game: St. Benedict's (N.J.) vs. Chester (Pa.)