BARRINGTON, R.I. - Saturday at the National Prep School Tip-Off Showcase was the day that all eyes wanted to see as five-star prospects Paul Harris and Davon Jefferson faced off in one of the most anticipated match-ups of the year. As usual, the match-up never fully materialized but several other players helped fill the void in the second day of action from the Ocean State.
Anytime you have two of the top players in the country getting after it, you better believe the eyes from the highest level will be on hand for the game. At least four NBA teams were represented and probably more were hidden in the packed house.
Even with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and a major helpmate to Notre Dame's 88-85 victory over the Patterson School, Paul Harris didn't play like a guy that is making a loud noise on the NBA draft radar. The Syracuse signee played his usual high-energy game, doing just about everything the team needed but his 4-14 shooting from the floor (two of which were three-pointers) was just enough to get the victory and had the NBA scouts putting their mental notes a couple of years back.
Here's the bottom line with Harris: he's going to be a great college player because of the difficulties teams will have trying to defend him. He's the world's toughest guy to try and stop anywhere on the floor. He wins games and competes like he's trying to win a National Championship. However, sometimes that doesn't pan out to a long NBA career.
Harris rarely matched up with Davon Jefferson, the super freak athlete from California, who didn't play like a guy trying to make a big impression on guys at the highest level. Other than a couple of mind-boggling athletic moments, Jefferson struggled with anything other than transition buckets or scorers at the rim. He finished with 10 points (3-13 FG) and nine rebounds in the defeat.
Even with a bad statline game, Jefferson is one of the few players that plays with that "wow factor" that guys like J.R. Smith, Gerald Green and Josh Smith had when they played. Jefferson will test out well in the athletic testing but he'll need to put it all together to hear his name from David Stern.
Hayward, Maze spark the Notre Dame-Patterson game
Marquette signee Lazar Hayward is definitely one of the best scorers in the country and has lived up to that billing in Rhode Island this weekend with his team high 23 points and six assists. Hayward can and will light it up from the wing but he's becoming a much better scorer in traffic now that he's starting to really muscle up his frame.
Patterson's resident Allen Iverson look-alike Bobby Maze was a major backcourt spark for Chris Chaney's club. The D.C. native had 20 points and utilized his blazing speed to get into the lane and score with a floater. He's opening some eyes with his ability to score and his quickness that usually leave defenders looking back wondering how he got by them with such little effort.
On paper, Derrick Caracter looked like the guy to have the better game against Patterson but his six points six rebound performance was overshadowed by a stellar game from Memphis signee Hashim Bailey. The 6-foot-10 mammoth of a forward looked very impressive with his 17 points and seven rebounds. The guy they call "Big City" was running the floor and doing things you wouldn't expect a 275-pound forward doing. He has a soft touch around the bucket and went to work on the blocks. John Calipari, one of the few head coaches that made it out to the NPT, and the pair of Memphis assistants had to be happy with what they saw.
Checking in with the 2006 commits
Our Savior New American needed guard play in the worst way on Saturday after their disappointing Friday performance. They were able to get it against Boys to Men Academy (Ill.) on Saturday in a 104-93 victory.
Boston College commitment Daye Kaba was able to overcome an 0 for 6 shooting performance on Friday to the tune of 10 of 17 for 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists on Saturday in winning fashion. It wasn't the prettiest of near triple doubles but it was certainly effective. The Eagles were on hand to see Kaba in action.
Connecticut fans made it out to see Ben Eaves and Jonathan Mandeldove, two future Huskies battle against each other and they will travel home wanting more. It wasn't the basketball feast they were hoping for in November.
Eaves, a 6-foot-7 small forward from England, is a high-level athlete but didn't show the small forward skills that he apparently has. He finished with a quiet eight points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in defeat to Hargrave. His first impression wasn't the best impression so we, along with many others, are hoping to see a different player on Sunday. Saturday was Eaves's first official game on American soil this year.
Mandeldove was simply non-existent on the offensive end but managed to block three shots and pull down five rebounds. He's still missing his mean streak and needs to add more mass to his stretched out body to be an effective guy in the rough and tough Big East.
Georgetown's prized recruit Vernon Macklin had another great day at the office. The high-flyer put in 19 points and 13 rebounds (although it seemed like he had 23 boards) in a convincing 72-51 victory over Worcester Academy.
Wake Forest was able to secure Chas McFarland in the last week of the early signing period and it looks like Skip Prosser and company landed one of the top sleeper big men in the nation. The Ill. native did a respectable job against Hargrave, who has the biggest and baddest frontline at the National Prep School Tip-Off. McFarland 13 points and 11 rebounds and showed off a nice ability to score facing the basket, kissing it off the glass or skying for a rebound put back dunk.
Getting attention in the 16-team Big East conference is tough to day unless you are guy like Paul Harris or Stanley Robinson. That's why it's important to note the play of future St. John's forward Qa'rraan Calhoun. The 6-foot-7 small forward epitomizes the inside-out definition. He has really proven himself as a three-point shooter all the wile being a guy that can rebound and defend on inside the paint. Calhoun has very good handles for a guy his size and does a good job of taking his smaller defender to the paint and goes right to work on them. Norm Roberts and his crew have a good one in Calhoun folks.
Staying with the no respect in the Big East theme, Pitt has themselves a big-timer coming to town next year in Gilbert Brown. He had an important 11 points in South Kent's 79-59 victory over Fork Union on Saturday. He's picking up from where he left off this summer as a perimeter scorer, which was one of his biggest weaknesses. He's a pogo stick athlete that is now a must-defend guy on the wing. He should be ready to make an immediate impact when he gets to the Big East.
South Florida's transition to the Big East will be made a little easier next year when Rob Thomas makes his way to Tampa. The 6-foot-6 forward has utilized his bigger body as more of a banger and did it very effectively for South Kent in a winning fashion. He went off for 19 points and seven rebounds and muscled his way through the paint for all of his scores.
Rhode Island is brining in one heck of class in 2006. Leading the way is Delroy James, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward now at Laurinburg (N.C.). He's a difficult guy to defend because of his great size at the wing and his ability to explode to the basket for buckets. He put in 16 points and seven boards in an 80-68 victory against St. Thomas More.
Without sounding like a broken record, Siena has a good one in Edwin Ubiles. The 6-foot-5 forward had another solid day at the office against Laurinburg. He had 18 points and 13 boards against the North Carolina prep school.
Unsigned seniors shining at NPT
The big men talent in this stage in the game is few and far between so when a guy like 6-foot-10 Phil Jones plays like a high-major guy, things can get interesting. The Brooklyn native is the lone effective post player for Laurinburg (N.C.) this eason and he played like a guy ready for the big time. With his showing on Saturday night, he just became the most sought after unsigned big in the tournament, and perhaps one of the most wanted bigs in the country.
Jones rattled off a list of Georgetown, George Washington, St. John's, Tennessee, Miami and Connecticut. Jones said all but UConn have offered.
Tyler Smith played better on Saturday, more importantly his shot selection was much improved. He's playing with more intent and confidence on the defensive end of the floor.
Laurinburg's Kiwan Smith always does enough to flirt with high-major teams and his 23 points and 13 boards had the major power conference coaches trying to figure out how the long time prep star can help their team. He's certainly athletic enough, a capable scorer and a much-improved rebounder. Smith gave a list of Tennessee, Cincinnati, Memphis, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Purdue and Iowa. All that being said, Smith says: "I'm totally wide open right now."
Lamonte Ulmer, a bouncy 6-foot-6 forward from Notre Dame Prep, had another strong outing on Saturday with his 16 points (7-8 FG) in 18 minutes of work against the Patterson School. He didn't spend the summer on the AAU trail. Instead, he was working at an senior living center. Ulmer has caught the attention of several high-majors and he answered a lot of questions on Saturday when he sunk home a number of three pointers, proving he's more than just a high-level athlete. For a guy that entered the tournament with interest from Rhode Island, Maine and St. Bonaventure.
Built like a high-level tailback, Timothy Ambrose played liked a guy on the gridiron. The 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists Ambrose says he's "wide open" but rattled off a list that consists of Central Connecticut, Farleigh Dickinson, Hartford, LaSalle, St. John's, Stony Brook and Villanova.
Thijin Moses showed more in the first three minutes of Saturday's game than he did all last week at the NEAA NIT. The 6-foot-8 forward with a feathery touch from deep, showed off his soft scoring touch and ability to handle the rock with ease. Still on the mid-major side of things, Moses will be a guy that teams spend a lot of their time watching this season.
Put Darrion Pellum on the list of guys to watch for the late signing period. The Hampton, Va., native is now at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va., and playing like a guy that can catch on with a high-major minus level school. He's athletic, crafty with the ball, a good rebounder and fundamentally sound.
Bridgton Academy's Tyrone Hanson had another strong day of work. The New York native had 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 87-72 win over Massanutten Academy. He said he's holding offers from Rhode Island, Providence and interest from South Florida and Farleigh Dickinson.
Unsigned guard Jeremi Booth has been a nice surprise. The 6-foot-5 native of Alta Vista, Va., has been the go-to guy for Fletcher Arritt's squad this weekend. He'll be a good get for a mid-major program. He had 19 against South Kent on Saturday.
Don't look past these 2007 studs
Boys to Men started off strong against Our Savior New American thanks in large part to the play of the ever-improving big man Craig Brackins, who finished with 26 points and eight rebounds in defeat.
The California native is one of the best in the class of 2007 with using his left hand around the basket. Athletically, he's got the interior game to match his overall skill set above the rim. Since playing well last week at the NEAA NIT, Brackins has become a guy that the high-majors are looking longer and harder at. So far, they haven't been disappointed.
Our Savior American's most intriguing prospect has been 6-foot-10 junior forward Teeng Akol. The Sudanese native defines long and versatile. Akol scored a majority of his 21 points around the rim but also has the ability to be a perimeter scorer. He pulled up from deep and sunk home a three-pointer and utilized a two dribble move to the lane for a pull up 12 and 15-foot jumper. On the defensive end, he came up with some big blocks to help OSNA secure the victory. Akol is still very raw but he's certainly a guy to watch closer this season.
On tap for Sunday
9:30 a.m. – Brewster Academy (N.H.) vs. Massanutten Military Institute (Va.)
11:10 – New Hampton (N.H.) vs. Patterson School (N.C.)
12:50 – South Kent (Conn.) vs. Boys to Men (Ill.)
2:30 – Worcester Academy (Mass.) vs. Champlain St. Lambert (Montreal, Canada)
4:10 – St. Andrew's (R.I.) vs. Laurinburg Institute (N.C.)
5:50 – Winchendon School (Mass.) vs. Philadelphia Lutheran Christian (Pa.)