TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The old adage of big players win big games rang true on Sunday when Nolan Smith did his damage for his D.C. Assault squad against Team Breakdown in the championship game at the Big Bend Shootout. The class of 2007 guard put it all together in the 84-66 victory to claim the tournament on the campus of Florida State University.
Smith was every bit of the five-star player he is on Sunday, scoring a game high 22 points on crisp shooting, strong drives to the basket and creating his own offense. The class of 2007 prospect didn't do it all on his own. His talented teammates helped him out quite a bit, too.
With a number of elite high-major guys on the roster, it was the play of point guard Raymond Brewer that opened things up for Smith and others. Brewer had a great tournament with his steady leadership and efficient game management. His direction positioned Smith into the right places to score. Only 5-foot-10 on a good day, Brewer has the tools to be a good point man at a mid-major program.
When Austin Freeman wants to get to the basket, he gets to the basket. His best trait is his dribble penetration and he'll make it work for him each time out. Freeman scored 18 points in the championship game, shooting very well from deep and showing some nice athleticism along the way. Freeman put in 14 points against the Atlanta Celtics in the semi-finals.
Rattled with foul trouble, Michael Beasley spent most of the game sitting on the bench playing cheerleader. After having 27 points in the semi-final game against the Atlanta Celtics, Beasley picked up his third and fourth foul in a matter of 10 seconds and never returned to the action. He finished with 11 points in the final.
With the exception of the final game, Beasley was his normal dominant self, wowing everyone in attendance with his tenacity, versatility and domination around the rim. There is a reason why so many have him pegged as one of the top five players in the class of 2007.
Team Breakdown's big dogs didn't have big games but Dwayne Collins did have some big moments. Using his abnormally long arms to his advantage, the future Miami Hurricane extended high above the rim for some big time dunks. But his dunks weren't enough to overcome a powerful D.C. offensive assault. Collins finished with six points.
Edwin Rios did not have a great weekend at FSU partly because he's still not at 100 percent from an injured ankle. When he's open on the wing, he knows how to bury the long ball. There's never been a question about that. His ability to attack off the dribble, though, has not been what's he's capable of.
Breakdown did get a team high 16 points from Jonathan Hall in the finals. Hall, a talkative small forward from Miami Senior High, found a way to get points and did a solid job cleaning the offensive glass to create points for himself. His next stop is the NBA Players Association camp.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament was South Florida bound Dante Curry. From start to finish, the future Bull was the most consistent player for Team Breakdown. He's very athletic, a saavy scorer and a nice defender. The compliments flowed for the Sunshine State native all weekend.
Celtics play on
Still playing with heavy hearts with the passing of program stalwart Wallace Prather, the Atlanta Celtics stayed strong and advanced to the semi-finals against D.C. Assault.
Senario Hillman helped the Celtics keep the game close for the majority of the game before losing to the Assault 81-72. The 6-foot-2 jumping jack finished with 21 points and had his customary trio of aerial antics. The dunk machine also extended his game by knocking down a couple of perimeter jumpers along the way.
With Javaris Crittenton at home in Atlanta resting up for the NBA Players Association camp, other guys have been able to step into bigger roles this weekend at FSU. Wesley Matthews may have benefited the most of all.
The 6-foot-3 guard from South Cobb High School has stepped into a scorer's role and sharing time at the point guard spot. He's scoring from the wing, penetrating to the basket and utilizing his great length for points in traffic.
A great student, his recruitment has included several mid-major academic schools like Wofford but if Matthews has the same kind of impact in July as he's had so far this summer, the ACC and SEC schools will look a little longer.
In his debut with the Celtics, Solomon Tat showed the he can score with the best of them. The 6-foot-5 guard uses his cut from granite body to get into the lane and challenges defenders to stop his shot. He's improved his handle and is starting to show he's more than a physical freak.
Home team gets to semis
The Tallahassee Wildcats overcame a number of injuries, a late night at the emergency room and foul trouble to advance to the semi-finals at the Big Bend Shootout.
Big man Maresse Speights spent the majority of Saturday night at the local hospital getting 20 stitches in his upper lip and didn't suit up against Team Breakdown in the semi-finals. His presence inside was missed. The future Florida Gator is an intriguing prospect that should only get better when he gets to Hargrave Military Academy next year.
Aaron Holmes saved his best for last. The future Florida State Seminole put ups some numbers here at the Big Bend but he struggled with his shot selection at times and didn't bring it on the defensive end from start to finish. That all changed against Breakdown. Holmes was flat out feeling it to the tune of 24 points as he shot the ball very well and did a good job of creating offense and playing with something to prove.
Chad Gray doesn't get a lot of pub but he should. The soft-spoken South Carolina native came out of the blocks with a bang against Team Breakdown, scoring on a pair of three-pointers and finished the game with a couple of rim-rattling dunks. The future USC Gamecock had 22 points despite foul trouble. He had a very good weekend for the Wildcats.
Erick Nsangou is a guy that should play his self into the attention of a number of coaches in July. The Cameroon native played shutdown defense on Rios in the semis and he does a great job of getting into the lane and uses a nice floater to score over bigger defenders.
X's and O's
Oak Hill Academy is adding another sensational duo to the Kevin Durant-Tywon Lawson machine. D.C. Assault mates Nolan Smith and Michael Beasley will suit up for Steve Smith next year.
Julian Vaughn strung together the best five minutes of the weekend against the South Florida Heat. The long 6-foot-10 forward dominated the defensive end against Florida State bound John Kreft, blocking his shot on three straight possessions. Then on the offensive end of the floor, used his incredibly long frame to score over Kreft's reach.
Kreft must improve his game on the left side of the bucket. He's very comfortable with his right and tries to make all of his offense come from that side. Offensively, he's a very good center but still needs to round out his game to be one of the top pivot men in the nation.
Class of 2009 prospect Kenny Boyton, Jr. played a lot older than 13-years-old. Playing up with the 17 and 16 year old teams, this kid gained a lot of respect with his composed play. He's going to be a good one.
Keyon Carter, a 6-foot-8 forward from Dwyer High School, is an intriguing player to watch over the course of the summer. Carter is a bouncy forward with a body ready for 25 more pounds and a desire to become a high-major guy. You have to respect his given effort and raw package that he is. Carter will be at the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals in Orlando in July.
Every tournament needs a team like the Tampa Bay Ballers. They'll backdoor cut you until it hurts. They shoot lights out. They'll dive on the floor for loose balls and they'll simply empty the tank every time out.
The squad has a couple of guys worth watching this summer in Corey Gadinski, a 6-foot-7 small forward from East Ridge High School, is a great shooter with length and Taylor Young, a 6-foot-1 point from First Academy, is a gritty shooter that gets things done. The Ballers will play at the Main Event in Las Vegas in July.
South Florida Heat has some headliners in Kreft and Zach Peacock, but it was the play of Damian Hollis that impressed. He's a skinny 6-foot-6 small forward that can stroke it but also put it on the floor and gets to the bucket. He's got the skills now he just needs some weight to put on his body before any high-major looks long and hard.