December always provides opportunities to see great match-ups in holiday tournaments. Derrick Favors of South Atlanta (Ga.) High School paired up with the nation's top ranked sophomore DeMarcus Cousins at the Peach State Classic. Unfortunately, the game was anti-climatic but Favors learned a little something about himself and what it takes to be the nation's best player in his class.
Favors scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots and anchored South Atlanta in an ugly 39-31 win against Cousins' Erwin High School out of Birmingham, Ala.
"I didn't like the outcome of the score. It was an ugly game," he said. "But, I thought I pretty good."
Pretty good is a pretty good way of putting it. He was more than pretty good on defense against Cousins, who shot a dismal three of 16 from the floor to the tune of seven points. He added eight rebounds and seven blocks.
Outside of a pair of dunks you'd expect to see from a 6-foot-8 forward, Favors saved the excitement for the defensive end of the floor. He was a force inside the paint. If he wasn't blocking a shot, he was altering it.
"Defense is one of those things that you have to have a lot of pride in," he said. "You have to take it personal. That's what I try to do the whole game. I learned that a long time ago in rec ball. I'd never get the ball so I decided that I'd just block everyone else's."
Despite the sloppy play, lack of energy in the game and a match-up that never really lived up to it's billing, the No. 3 ranked player in the class of 2009 made a strong impression against the nation's top player. Landing at the No. 1 ranking in the sophomore class is something Favors thinks about, he said.
"I'm doing everything I can to be the number one player. I'd love to be there and I'll keep working for it because I know those kinds of things don't come easy," Favors said. "Maybe I can get there. I know I'm going to always work hard and always try to get better."
Favors is averaging 24 points, 16 rebounds, eight blocks and three steals per game and has helped put his South Atlanta team into a position to make the postseason. Getting to where he is now is not an overnight success either.
He splashed onto the scene as a freshman last season after averaging 16 rebounds a game as a rookie in one of the toughest, most physical regions in the Southeast. From there, he continued his strong play on the AAU circuit with the Atlanta Celtics. He admits he grew up as a player since last year.
"I learned that I need to get a little stronger and be more of a leader," Favors said. "We had a lot of seniors on last year's team and I've had to step up and be the leader."
Some have even tabbed him as the second coming of Dwight Howard. Whether fair or not, Favors is doing himself a favor and putting in the work to be one of the most sought after players in his class nationally.
Arkansas, Clemson, Connecticut, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Memphis and a good majority of the SEC have been out to see Favors this year. Dennis Felton, Paul Hewitt and John Calipari top the list of the head coaches that made the trip see Favors in action at South Atlanta.
The work is being done to justify the early interest as well as the top spot. Favors said his next stop is only as far as his next game.
It is a step-by-step process. Lately, those steps are looking more like strides.