FAYETTEVILLE, ARK - The Illinois Warriors put it all together on Sunday at the Real Deal on the Hill and knocked off the loaded D.C. Assault squad to claim the 2006 tournament title. The Warriors had a balanced effort all weekend long, finding different players to step up in different games. On Sunday, all of the pieces were working from the get go.
Illinois Warriors win Real Deal 73-70 over D.C. Assault
With a roster filled with high-major prospects, everyone in Fayetteville thought D.C. Assault should have no problems winning the Real Deal. Someone forgot to tell the Illinois Warriors that.
A balanced offensive attack help Larry Butler's squad crawl back from a 15-point first half deficit to claim the victory.
Two weeks ago, Brandon McGee was a little known combo forward from Crane High School in Chicago. After his play at the Real Deal on the Hill and the Boo Williams Invitational, the 6-foot-7 class of 2007 prospect is a guy that will certainly walk away from April with offers from high-majors.
He said his current school options include Illinois, Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Seton Hall and Iowa. His showing at the Real Deal will likely transform his list to a Big Ten/Big 12 heavy list.
McGee spent the season playing alongside McDonald's All American Sherron Collins at Crane and watched the speedy guard put up big senior numbers. Now that the high school season is over, McGee went to work and has started his last go round on the AAU circuit with a lot of promise.
"I really don't know if I've had a better two weeks," McGee said after the championship game. "I knew that I wanted to come out here and play like one of the best players in the country. I think I was able to do that."
He has been one of the toughest players to defend in this class because he can burn teams with versatility on the blocks as a scorer and rebounder but can step out to the wing and attack with the dribble or bury a three pointer.
Considering his sluggish start in the 8 a.m. game against the Long Island Lightning, McGee rebounded nicely against the Atlanta Celtics in the semis and against the Assault for the title.
McGee was solid in the victory but he wasn't the only player to make a difference. That was the story all weekend for the Warriors.
Manual Cass DePaul commitment is moving to the 2007 class and will spend next year at Boys to Men Academy. He's still a strong above the rim wing but he's improving his perimeter touch and buried a couple of threes in the championship game. He and McGee proved to be the two best college prospects on the roster.
Justin Dehm hit key shots for the Warriors all weekend but he was in a zone on Sunday against the Atlanta Celtics and in the championship game against D.C. Assault.
Dehm is dead eye shooter and not the kind of shooter that can burn you here and there. Dehm is a dead eye shooter that hits the shots in the post season and is replayed on every sports channel on television. The 6-foot-1 shooter from Peoria Richwoods has one of the prettiest shots on the circuit.
Demond Watt, a 6-foot-8 forward from T.F. North High School in Calumet, Ill., made a difference inside the paint with 16 points and eight rebounds. The 6-foot-7 forward has a good touch around the cup, good bounce and seemed to always make the right plays. Watt said he is holding offers from Ball State and Indiana State with interest from Missouri, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
Tournament MVP Aaron Johnson is the smallest player on the Warriors but he has the biggest burst of speed of anyone on his squad. The 5-foot-9 speedster from Chicago Hubbard blew by anyone that tried to match-up with him on the defensive end of the floor.
Johnson said he has an offer from Wisconsin-Green Bay while Loyola, George Washington, Marquette and Ball State are showing an interest.
After a big win over the Worldwide Renegades in the semi-finals, D.C. Assault looked like they were on pace to another big win. Up 15 points in the first half, things were clicking for the team. Austin Freeman continued to knock down every shot he put up, Michael Beasley was going to work inside and Nolan Smith was connecting on his perimeter shots.
Then came a three minute stretch were Beasley sat out with a turned ankle and the Warriors were able to take advantage of the absence. That small stretch was the difference maker.
Make no mistake about it though, the Assault just assaulted the field. Freeman, who is headed to Georgetown after his 2007 senior year, looked as good as he ever has but had a quiet 14 points in the defeat. Smith had his best offensive output in the game with a team high 18 points.
Smith, a Duke commitment, was knocking down threes, scored at the rim (with the exception of a key miss under a minute to play) and sunk a 12 foot jumper. He played under control and was the team's best defensive player all weekend.
Indiana Elite claims the 16U title
Get ready to read a lot about the Indiana Elite 16 and under team this year on the AAU circuit. Mark Adams has a good looking team this year. In the championship game, the team looked very much like the best team in their age group.
Indiana Elite took a 20-point lead into the half against the Arkansas Kings and finished the game 64-49.
Emmanuel Negedu was named the 16U Most Valuable Player and earned the award in convincing fashion. The 6-foot-7 sophomore from Brewster Academy (N.H.) was a monster on the glass and just over powered the undermatched Kings squad.
He'll be a high-major guy in the 2008 class because of his good body, non-stop motor, athleticism and overall raw potential. There couldn't have been too many players in the 16U field that could have matched up with him. He toyed with people on Sunday, scoring 20 points in the final.
Adams said Negedu is holding offers from Arizona, UNLV, Iowa, Indiana and Tennessee.
Former Ole Miss commitment Jeremy Robinson looked good in the final, using his long 6-foot-8 frame to put in easy scores around the cup and collected offensive rebounds for put backs. Robinson finished with 13 points in the win.
Marcus Sturghiss, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Terre Haute (Ind.) South High School, and Matt Roth, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Peoria (Ill.) High School were the perimeter punches and buried anything that came their way with an open look.
Overall, the high-majors have a lot to like with his Indiana Elite bunch this year.