HOUSTON, TEXAS - The marathon is still being run at the Kingwood Classic and guys like Blake Griffin are making the college coaches sprint from one gym to another day of action.
Blake Griffin isn't just one of the best prospects in the class of 2007, he's also one of the toughest. After three big dunks against, Griffin took a shot to the eye, splitting open his head, just above the eyebrow. He fought through gash and played through the pain. Griffin uses the hardwood for his own personal ultimate fighting octagon. He will not be denied.
Effort? No problem. He'll bring the effort. Maybe that is why a host of head coaches were from sideline to baseline and everywhere in between. Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Sean Sutton and Jeff Capel were watching the big bruiser go to work.
Griffin is a terrific rebounder who has improved his athleticism and incorporates that in his game play this year. In a class that is lacking dominant big men, the 6-foot-8 Oklahoma City native will be highly recruited because of his tenacity in the paint. Being a coach's kid doesn't hurt either.
There are few players in this class that can flat out score the ball like Tyrone Shelley can. The San Diego product put up 74 points in a game this year and while he hasn't come close to that yet at the Kingwood, the 6-foot-5 wing averaged 22 points in three games played on Saturday. He scores from every spot on the floor. Shelly has a college ready body and a game that is quickly behind.
The four-star wing has interest from a number of schools, including Iowa State, Minnesota, Illinois, USC, Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Texas, he said.
Since playing himself onto the national radar last year, Marcus Simmons has become a must-see player for college coaches from coast to coast. The 6-foot-4 guard from Peabody High School in Alexandria, La., is one of the best on the ball defenders in the class of 2007 and gave little reason to doubt that on Saturday morning with the R.B. All-Stars.
Offensively, Simmons still needs to improve his jumper, which he says he is doing, but his understanding of the game allows him to play all over the floor. He does his best work on the dribble and attacks from the elbows and in. Simmons uses a good looking jab step to create space for pull up jumpers. He's a strong rebounder and a good passer.
A number of coaches came out to see him in action, drawing assistants from Texas, Mississippi State, USC, Washington State, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Simmons said Kansas, LSU and Charlotte are also recruiting him. Simmons won't be around the AAU circuit for much longer. He's headed to Las Vegas next weekend and then his next stop will be the ABCD camp in July.
Leonard Washington is playing in his first Kingwood Classic and the five-star combo forward from Louisiana is trying to make the best of it. The 6-foot-6 forward had a solid game, showing off his big time hops and big time strength around the cup.
Washington is trying to make the transition to the wing forward spot, going away from his strengths on the block. His perimeter game was not working. In fact, it wasn't even close to sinking from the wing. Washington is a prospect trying to find a position at the next level right now. What he is, though, is a hard-working, big-time athlete that just plays basketball.
Washington said he is high on Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado State, Mississippi State and LSU.
With Simmons and Washington getting a lot of the notoriety on the R.B. All-Stars, big man Rapheal Turner did the dirty work inside and muscled through the entire Team Hoop Zone roster.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound center is a load to defend around the basket and had little problem boxing out and scoring at the rim. He's improved his game over the last year and still needs to lose some weight and muscle up his big body. High-majors are willing to give him a long look. Turner said he is hearing from LSU, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Florida, Miami and Charlotte.
Samardo Samuels (2008), Metro Hawks – Roy Williams, Norm Roberts and a host of assistant coaches watched the 6-foot-8 Jamaican native go to work against the South Carolina Celtics. Samuels is a big load down low and muscled his way to 20 hard fought points. He's a big kid but has quick springs off the floor and a big, long frame to boot. Coaches from Miami, Kansas, Florida State, Texas, Villanova and Connecticut were also watching him.
Angel Garcia (2008), CAPS All-Stars – After making a national name for himself last week at the Real Deal on the Hill, the 6-foot-10 small forward from Puerto Rico came out strong again at the Kingwood. He's a terrific looking shooter from deep and camps himself out on the wing for long balls. Garcia will bury them and because of his size, he oftentimes shoots right over the tops of defenses. He doesn't go to the basket or rebound as much as he probably can. Garcia is a very good passer and finds guys in the flow of the game. Coaches from Purdue, Louisville, DePaul and Arkansas were on hand to see him play.
Rayford Shipman (2008), Florida Rams – The strong-bodied guard is a carbon-copy of former Florida prep star turned Alabama shooting guard Alonzo Gee. Shipman might not have the jumper that Gee does but he has the edge in athleticism. Shipman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Miami Pace High School, is a pure scorer. He's big, strong and difficult to defend one on one. Once he gets his jumper to start falling on a consistent basis, he'll be trouble in the Sunshine State. Shipman said he is hearing from LSU, Georgia Tech, Florida, Kansas State, Miami and Florida Atlantic. LSU, Florida, Kansas State and Miami were all in the building to see him in action on Saturday morning.
Steve Tchiengang (2008), T-Mac All-Stars – The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Cameroon has big time written all over him. He's bouncy, a fluid athlete, plays well both inside and out as well as handles the ball. His shot wasn't on display much but the talent is certainly there. Tchiengang said Duke is a boyhood favorite and likes the academic opportunities that the school provides. Tchiengang said he is still fairly naïve to the entire recruiting process but said Texas, LSU, Stanford, Kansas, Baylor and UNC have all shown an interest in him.
Jeremy Green (2008), Team Hoop Zone – His team struggled in the early morning game, putting up just six points in the first half against the R.B. All-Stars but the 6-foot-3 combo guard from Austin (Texas) Bowie High School helped rally his team from the emotionally draining half. Green did a good job of going to his left and pulling up for the jumper from the elbows as well as scoring at the rim. He'll certainly have a number of high-majors in tow over the next couple of years.
Derrick Favors (2009), Atlanta Celtics – The 6-foot-8 forward from South Atlanta (Ga.) High School averaged over a dozen rebounds in his first year of high school hoops, making a big impression around the Peach State. Paired against five-star senior Darrell Arthur, Favors went right at the McDonald's All-American and challenged the big Texan. Favors is starting to really emerge as one of the best players in his class.
Terrance Santil (2008), Florida Rams – The chiseled 6-foot-8 forward doesn't know how good he is going to be. He's one of those guys. Santil is a good looking forward that rebounds well, gets up and down the floor and a physique that makes the high-majors look through the roster book for more information.
Perhaps the biggest news of who is watching who at the tournament has been LSU and Darrell Arthur. The Tigers coaching staff has been in close watch of the five-star senior at the Kingwood. Could a last minute push from the Final Four team turn one of the most dragged out recruitments upside down? It's certainly food for thought after the Kingwood. Kansas head coach Bill Self has been vigilant in his efforts though, making it to every Urban DFW game in the tournament.
It has almost been three weeks since Chris Wright opened his recruitment up. Since then, the former NC State pledge said his phone has been blowing up, fielding interest from "Maryland and every school to USC." Wright said he is just playing out the spring circuit and will evaluate later.
In a Saturday night contest with Belmont Shore, BWSL was lead by Chris Earley of West Virginia. The 6-foot-5 wing had 15 points in the win. He's a bit under the radar still nationally but he's coming on. Early said St. Joe's, Florida, Oklahoma (new staff) and Marshall are all involved early on.
Early's high school teammate is Patrick Patterson, the relentless class of 2007 big man. Since the Boo Williams Invitational, Patterson said he is now hearing from USC and Georgetown to go along with Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida, Wake Forest and Marshall.
Georgia forward Trey Lang had a big weekend last week at the Real Deal on the Hill and since then, the 6-foot-8 forward from Wheeler is now hearing from Arizona State, Wake Forest, George Washington and Auburn.
Kodi Augustus of the Houston Superstars is headed to Maine for prep school next year at Lee Academy. According to his AAU coach John Eurery, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Oklahoma State will all recruit him while he attends the Northeast prep school.
Class of 2006 guard Marcus Brister is headed to prep school after this year at Duncanville (Texas) High School. The sturdy 6-foot-3 guard was outstanding against the H-Squad, scoring 27 points and dropping off eight assists. He was getting after it on defense and played with a lot of emotion. Brister said he will likely end up at either Heritage Christian or Mt. Zion next year.
Brister said he is holding current offers from Minnesota, Utah, UTEP and Southern but will focus on getting his grades straight at prep school next year. His recruitment will take on more Big 12 and Big Ten schools next year. His game is suited for the AAU/prep school scene. And that is meant as a compliment.
Ben Finney is headed to Hargrave Military Academy next year. The I.C. Norcom (Va.) prospect will play football and basketball at the prep school power and then decided what direction he will take at the college level. He's the senior leader on the loaded Boo Williams Summer League program and raises the intensity level up another notch with his attention to the offensive boards. He's one of the best rebounding guards in the tournament field.
Going back for his second year at Massenutten Academy, Darrian Pellum is hoping reclassifying opens up some more opportunities for the next level. He had a strong year at the military school and is fielding interest from Arkansas, Virginia, Virginia Tech and James Madison this spring.
T-Mac All-Stars guard Larry Davis is nursing a sore wrist but that hasn't kept him from being one of the team's top scoring options. The Alief Hastings guard is a good looking shooter on the wing. He said he is being recruited by Georgetown, UNLV, Utha, Texas Tech and Texas Tech.
Odds & Ends
Future Florida guard Gary Clark has a reputation as a good shooter, which is well-deserved and well-earned. The 6-foot-3 guard from Sarasota (Fla.) Booker is now starting to realize his athleticism and ability to score at the rim and with a dribble drive. His offensive expansion is nice to see.
Joey Rodriguez is in a good place. Already committed to UMass, the 5-foot-9 pass first point guard has a ton of options on his Florida Rams squad to dish off to. He loves to get the assist rather than the point and that suits him just fine this weekend. Rodriguez is finding his guys in the offense with little trouble.
Down to UConn and Villanova, Corey Stokes will certainly have a pair of shadows following him this weekend. He still says he isn't getting closer to a decision. We'll see if that changes after the weekend and month.
Cade Davis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard for Athletes First, will be a guy to follow this July. He's a good athlete with a good looking perimeter game and a sturdy body to boot. A couple of Big 12 schools are looking already, including the new staff at Oklahoma.