AKRON, OHIO - The somewhat lethargic month of AAU basketball is looking like it will close out with a bang. The stars came out to play in a big way at the inaugural King James Shooting Stars Classic and set the tone for the weekend at the University of Akron.
Wow. That hasn't been said a lot this year on the spring AAU circuit. In a matter of three games, wow has been thrown out a number of times. The kids are bringing it on the opening night of this strong event. The tone setters came out to play on Friday night.
Finding the best overall player is tough because so many players brought it. Five big-timer performers in four games isn't too shabby.
Herb Pope – The five-star forward from Pittsburgh was named the MVP of the Jam Fest last weekend and he started the King James off like a big-timer. The 6-foot-8 forward did just about everything expect shoot the perimeter shot in a big win for the JOTS against the Michigan Hurricanes.
Pope is a fun kid to watch. He's vocal with his teammates, refs, coaches, fans, janitors, whoever. He's even funner to watch when he's dishing the rock. Pope is a wizard passer for a player of his size.
He was only tallied with 16 points in the win. The numbers may have shorted him with a couple of buckets. Quite simply, Pope didn't miss. He was down right divine. His double digit rebounds weren't too shabby either. A handful of blocks went straight to JOTS buckets. But those passess…wow.
Pope said he is open in his recruitment, listening to all comers. He said he will sit down at the end of the summer and evaluate things. Expect Kansas State to be somewhere in the mix, despite his close to vest answers regarding the schools he is looking at.
Jeff Jones – The 6-foot-3 guard scored at will for Triple Threat in a big 78-74 win over a guard-strong Family squad from Detroit. Jones poured in a game high 21 points. The 21 points were awfully pretty, too.
Jones went to work on a couple of excellent defenders – Manny Harris and Paul Williams – scoring on a tough high-arching shot on the baseline over a pair of defenders. Jones is a pure shooter from deep, going left with the dribble to score with a floater and when he is juking defenders with his jab step dribble, you can forget it. He'll step back and drain a jumper. Jones had it going on opening night in a big way.
Jones said he is still solid with Maryland despite the recent news of Rob Moxley, Jones's recruiter for the Terps, leaving the ACC school to return back to UNC Charlotte as the new associate head coach. Jones and his father said it is now just a matter of developing relationships with the other coaches. It will be interesting to see this one play out.
Derrick Rose – If the five-star guard sees a spot on the floor, he will get to it with little trouble. The Windy City superstar picked apart the Wolrdwide Renegades defense, slicing through the lane at will and uses his hesitation dribble as a deadly weapon. On one occasion, Rose put two defenders right on their seats and went right to the basket when he saw his opponents watching from below.
Rose is incredibly fast and plays fast but somehow manages to play under control despite the speed of the game.
A loud crowd follows Rose wherever he goes. Chicago is raising "Pooh" to be a superstar. So far, he is living up to his billing. Once his jump shot becomes refined…
J.J. Hickson – The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Georgia native put on an offensive clinic in the post against a vertically challenged Mean Streets Express team. Hickson His three-point attempt could have gone without happening. He is still refining his game and that is a scary, scary thought. Hickson is still open and the deadline is creepy closer for his trim down date. Expect 10 of the nation's top programs to make the cut. There are few big men prospects that mix production with potential quite like him in this class.
Kalin Lucas – The future Michigan State guard found the easy button in the second half for the Family. Lucas was fairly quiet in the first half against Triple Threat and struggled to find his jump shot. Then came the second half. He buried three threes and scored 14 of his 19 points in the last 16 minutes of play. He's crafty with the ball and perfectly content with being an assist first guy but when the team needed buckets, he provided buckets.
Lucas has a quick pair of hands of the defensive end and will pick pocket you looking or sneak up on you and snatch your stuff and turn it into two points for The Family. Lucas did just about everything right in the second half.
There might not be a better player in the country that uses hang time to his advantage quite like Durrell Summers. The Michigan State bound guard scored 19 points in a defeat but he makes things happen when he is in the air. He almost floats because A. he jumps so high and B. he has great body control. Summers was knocking down the open three-pointer and made a big block in crunch time on the defensive end. Even in defeat, Summers looked very impressive.
Corperryale Harris may have just tallied six points but look beyond the box score with him. Know this much about the Redford (Mich.) High School product: He will rebound and he will challenge anyone that walks into the gym. Even with a very thin 6-foot-4 frame, Harris will make plays at the rim. There is a reason why he's such a hot prospect right now.
It was a strong night for a number of class of 2008 prospects.
Chris Braswell – The DeMatha forward for Triple Threat scored 14 impressive points, particularly from the high block and working his way in to the bucket. However, his defense and rebounding skills left for more to be desired. Braswell has it in him and even his coach was disappointed by the youngster's lack of attention to the little things away from the offensive end of the floor and pulled him from the game.
Even with those areas to work on, there is a lot of game in Braswell. He has good instincts and always stays alert on the offensive side of the ball. He is a solid passer in the post and reacts well to the defenses.
Braswell said Texas, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland and Providence are high on his list early on.
Terrelle Pryor – It's Herb Pope's show with the JOTS and Pryor is okay with that. "I know this is Herb's team. I'm younger than him. I'll do what I can, when I can."
Pryor did a lot when he needed to. He scored 17 points in the victory. He's a quiet killer. Don't sleep on this kid. He'll put a game winner in on you or make a play that will.
Like Pope, Pryor said he is opening his recruitment up from Pitt. He said he rushed his decision and wants to take his time a second time around. His dream school? North Carolina.
Anthony Crater – For starters, he might have the best nicknames in the country. Try on "Noopy." The story on that will come out later. Names aside, the guard for the Michigan Hurricanes looked very well on opening night. With Alex Legion not in town because of a track meet, Crater was able to get a lot of looks from the backcourt. He certainly took advantage, sinking five three-pointers and scoring 17 points.
Paul Williams – He scored 14 points, including a pair of three pointers with less than two minutes to play for The Family against Triple Threat. He's a big bodied guard that blends power and finesse well. The lefty is an aggressive defender and will grind it out inside the paint. He's in role player mode with Summers, Lucas and Harris doing their thing. Needless to say, Williams is one heck of a role player for Speedy Walker's club.
Word from the Pittsburgh Jam Fest last weekend was simple: Dejuan Blair was a beast. While he didn't have quite that beast-like effort against the Michigan Hurricanes, you can see the talent there in the big fella. Maybe that is why Miami, Indiana, Xavier, Pitt and others are getting involved with the brute forward.
Adrian Bowie of Triple Threat had a good night in a big win against The Family. His 21 points and defensive presence at the end of the game helped his squad pick up with the win. The D.C. native said he is holding an offer from Maryland while Florida, Michigan, Texas and Florida State round out his list.
Odds & Ends
Johnny Flynn, a 2007 Syracuse commit, was playing unselfish basketball, dishing off on nearly every possession all the while getting to the cup with ease where he could have easily scored at the rim. Nobody from All-Ohio could man him up. Flynn is on constant go mode. He's one of the top point men in the tournament field.
Ohio State has a good one coming in Jon Diebler. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard is known primarily as a shooter, and that is fine because he's one dandy perimeter scorer. Check his pull-up jumper off of a power drive for three. He sees the floor very well, as one would expect a coach's son to do. But what may get overlooked is his athleticism. Once he gets stronger, he'll be scary good with the talent in Columbus.
Michael Dunnigan of the Mean Streets Express is an intriguing high-major prospect. More so the prospect than the high-major right now, the 6-foot-8 long and lanky big man plays above his head, rebounds well on the offensive end and has a soft touch around the cup. A host of Big Ten schools will probably be in tow this weekend.
Jordan Crawford of The Family is a good looking combo guard. He scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds, dished off four assists and snatched three steals in a tough loss. He has good basketball instincts, probably developed playing against his brother Joe, a Kentucky sophomore.
Chris Allen didn't have quite the night like the rest of his Michigan State commits had. Allen finished with a very quiet five points against Mean Streets Express. He did run the pick and roll with Hickson nicely and almost seemed to be too unselfish.
Dar Tucker looked like he brought a jump shot with him to Akron, sinking a pair of mid-range jumpers and a three-pointer but he failed to get in sync with the jumper. Tucker is a superior athlete that still needs some refining on offense. He has a high-major body with high-major athleticism and high-major potential though.
Former Seton Hall head coach Louis Orr was out and about at the tournament, catching a couple of games.
CBS commentator Clark Kellogg's son, Alex, plays for All-Ohio Red and watched from the sidelines in the opening game against the GC Ballers.
The Cleveland Titans-New York Panthers game was cancelled at halftime after a major dispute. The problem? The Titans suited David Lighty, a 2006 Ohio State signee. Apparently the rules of the tournament state no signed seniors are allowed to play.
While the game didn't provide many opportunities to get a good look at any prospects, there was one thing that stood out in the washed up game. Dallas Lauderdale might own the longest set of arms in the class of 2007.
A giant picture of Bob Huggins is on the wall of Rhodes Arena at Akron, acknowledging his time spent as the Zips head man. The real Huggins will likely be here on Saturday to see a number of K-State targets in the field.