Everything is bigger in Texas, including basketball. More than 600 teams will compete in the in the 2005 Kingwood Classic this weekend in Houston, Texas, making it the largest AAU tournament ever. Event organizer Hal Pastner knows how to lasso in the best of the best for his annual event and with guys like O.J. Mayo and a host of other blue-chip prospects. Come inside for a loaded preview as Rivals.com breaks down the field from top to bottom.
If you build it, they will come
The Kingwood Classic is in it's tenth year of operation and the event has grown into the must-play event of the AAU circuit. Over 600 teams ages nine through 17 will travel to the Houston, Texas area. Over 1,800 games will be played over a span of 72 hours. Over 400 college coaches will converge on the city to evaluate the nation's top players.
Coaches will have plenty to watch, too. Some of the nation's elite players will be on hand to strut their stuff and play their way into a scholarship.
O.J. Mayo, probably the top player in the field, is the headliner for the 2005 tournament. Just a sophomore (class of 2007), Mayo plays like a battle-tested college player. Many believe he's a lock to go to the NBA if the 20 year age rule does not go in play when his time comes around.
Soon after committing to Oklahoma and changing AAU teams, Damion James has been one of the top dogs in April. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound small forward has been one of the hardest players to defend in the country because of his size and strength on the wing.
Mayo and James are the top ranked player in their respective classes in the tournament field this season.
Young and oh so talented
As good and as deep as the class of 2006 class is, the real stars this year at the Kingwood are in the class of 2007. Seven of the top 10 players ranked in the Rivals.com top 40 class 2007 rankings will be on hand.
Mayo is probably the best player in the field. He's joined by Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyle Singler, Cole Aldrich, Jerryd Bayless and Bill Walker.
Rose is a quiet killer of a point guard. He'll be on hand with his Mean Streets Express club. Love is one of the elite post players in the country. It's never a surprise to see him go for 30 points and 20 rebounds. Walker, Mayo's wing man with the D-1 Greyhounds, is a highlight reel in motion.
Going even deeper, 17 of the top 25 players Rivals.com has ranked in the juniors-to-be class will be at the Kingwood. Keaton Nankivil, Isaiah Rusher, Gani Lawal, Mike Singletary, Senario Hillman, Jai Lucas, Edwin Rios, Alex Legion, Gary Johnson and Scott Christopherson will also be on hand.
However, Rios will not play. He sustained a foot injury in a spring league game in Miami. He'll be out for three to eight weeks.
Great teams produce great match-ups
Last year it was hard to find the marquee big men match-ups. This year, it seems like every tournament boasts the best big battling it out. One of the match-ups to watch is Friends of Hoop's Spencer Hawes and Miami Tropic's Jason Bennett.
Hawes, a 6-foot-11, 225-pound center from Seattle, was outstanding at the Boo Williams Invitational two weeks ago. He's a tenacious defender that knows how to get it done inside the paint. Bennett, a 7-foot-2, 240-pound center from Jacksonville, was one of the surprises last weekend in Vegas. Can Bennett continue his strong play against one of the premiere players in the country? How will Hawes do against the tallest prospect in the class of 2006? We'll find out at the Kingwood.
Two of the nation's top small forwards are paired together in pool play. Chase Budinger was one of the stars last weekend in Sin City. The floppy haired SoCal athlete showed an all-around game and boasted rave reviews from everyone in attendance. He'll square off against one of the most versatile players in the country in Lance Thomas of New Heights NYC.
Thomas was a favorite to watch for nearly every high-major program in the country. He didn't disappoint. The 6-foot-8 prospect from St. Benedict's HS in N.J. is one of the fiercest competitors in the country. He put his New Heights team on his back and rallied them more than once.
Ranked players everywhere
Several of the nation's top players will be in action this weekend. D.J. Augustin is the top point guard in the 17 and under field. He'll play with the New Orleans Jazz once again.
Javaris Crittenton, An'Juan Wilderness and LaShun Watson are a solid trio for the Atlanta Celtics. Landon Milbourne, Cameron Tatum and Avery Jukes are the name guys with the Georgia Stars, last year's Kingwood champs.
James Keefe and Matt Shaw will play with the SoCal All-Stars. Richard Semrau holds down the blocks for Blessed IJN Elite while Marques Johnson will play the point.
Tory Jackson and Tom Herzog are the top seniors for the Michigan Hurricanes. Marcus Johnson, Raymar Morgan and Ricky Jackson are all with the King James Shooting Stars.
Isaiah Dahlman, Bryce Webster, Cory Johnson, Cameron Rundles and Trevor Mbakwe are all with Howard Pulley. And unlike the Boo Williams tournament, the full team will be there. None of the guys will be out taking the SAT.
Other top players include: Josh Lomers, Jodie Meeks, Christian Polk, Harrison Smith, Mike Jones, Dale Vanwright, Perry Stevenson, Thijin Moses, Dwayne Collins, John Kreft, Lawrence Westbrook, Bryan Beasley, Nic Wise, Jamil Tucker, Seth Tarver, Will Walker, Devan Bawinkel, Josue Soto, Luis Colon, Solomon Tat, Darris Santee, Daniel Deane, Kurtis Huelsman, Johnny Lett, Xavier Crawford, Demetrius Jemison and Cordell Pope.
Now that the evaluation period is coming to close, several players that have flown under the radar have caught the attention of coaching staffs from around the country. It will be interesting to watch what coaches check out what players.
After lighting it up at the Real Deal on the Hill, Armon Bassett, a graduating senior in 2005, instantly became a guy that every high-major program coveted. However, he's headed to Hargrave Military next year and he'll trip with the Indiana Elite squad to the Kingwood. Expect to see high-majors on the sidelines trying to get in early, if you want to call it that, with the strong 6-foot-2 guard.
John Tiller of the Atlanta Celtics played well last weekend at the Real Deal on the Hill. He's been a hot name with ACC and SEC coaches. James Florence might have been the only constant for the Georgia Stars at the Boo Williams Invitational two weeks ago. The point guard from the famed Wheeler HS is earning his stripes as one of the top guards in the Southeast. Be sure to watch Jujuan Jones, too.
Brian Carlwell, a monster of a post player at 6-foot-10, laces 'em up for the Ferrari Youth club. He's flying under the radar nationally but Big Ten programs would love to land him for their frontlines.
Who is Gilbert Brown? That's been the question several coaches have been asking about the Delaware Sharpshooters/South Kent (Conn.) product. This will be Rivals.com first look at the guard. Several Big East and ACC schools are inquiring. He'll line up with Jawan Carter in the rotation.
The Palmetto State his home to a couple of guys that have emerged early in the spring. Byron Faison, a 6-foot-2 guard with the South Carolina Ravens, is a good athlete, a strong perimeter scorer and a nice looking defender. His recruitment has heated up in April with several SEC schools looking in. Trevor Booker, a 6-foot-7 left-handed forward for the South Carolina Celtics, has emerged as one of the best players from the state. The Kingwood could yield forward a number of scholarship offers for the rugged rebounder and active post player.
Kalvin Bay, a point guard with the Arizona Stars, is the desire of several schools across the country. He'll visit Cal in May officially and several other programs will have a chance to evaluate the strong floor general against the best of the best.
The Kingwood will boast a dozen players listed over 7-feet tall in this year's field.
Jonathan Mandeldove will play for the Atlanta Celtics Black. Belmont Shore Blue boasts Michael Vantrimpant. It will be the first time for coaches and NBA scouts to see Kyle Luckett. He'll be there with Blessed IJN Elite. The Miami Tropics have 7-2 Jason Bennett.
The Michigan Hurricanes have Tom Herzog holding down the middle. Midstate Ballerz Elite suit up Jeremy Saffore. New Heights NYC lists Liam Potter on their roster. NM Force All Stars will have Steven Spensley. Now in Picayune, Miss., Hashim Mank will lace 'em up for the NOGA African All Stars.
Florida State bound John Kreft will play for the South Florida Heat. Team Hoop Zone will have Josh Lomers on hand. Team Indiana has Laurinburg center Tijan Jobe.
Make Rivals.com your home for the Kingwood
The Rivals.com basketball team of Jerry Meyer, Justin Young, Tim Watts and Mark Reeves will all be in Houston for the Kingwood. Be sure to check the Inside the Paint message board for live updates from inside the gyms. The team will also have day by day coverage of this loaded event.