HOUSTON-The Kingwood Classic tipped off Friday night at its new headquarters, and finding the gym was the only thing that could hold Latavious Williams down against the Georgia Stars.
The reclassified forward from Camp Springs (Md.) Progressive Christian arrived at the game midway through the first half with a handful of his Brandon Bass teammates. Once he made it onto the court, however, there was a new level of energy in the gym. Gradually the Brandon Bass squad came back from an opening deficit and overtook the Georgia Stars for a 71-68 win.
Williams simply assaulted the rims with dunk after dunk. His athleticism translated to the defensive end as well with a number of blocks and rebounds. All of Williams' 14 points were at the rim, and he never attempted an outside shot. That's okay. With athleticism that makes you think Tyrus Thomas, Williams is a high level player even if all his baskets come at the rim.
He rattled off Mississippi State (offer), Kansas State (offer), Baylor (offer), Xavier (offer), Virginia Tech and West Virginia as schools of interest after the game. Williams also said he plans to officially visit Kansas State in the fall.
Williams was not alone in the win over the Georgia Stars. Guards Nowell Arnold (13 points) and Donald Williams had strong games, and post players Brian Crowder and Latay Darden gave Williams a lot of help inside.
Darden, a long lefty, consistently made things happen on both ends of the floor. Finishing didn't always come easy, but it will get a lot easier if he can put some muscle on his skinny frame. Darden claims an offer from Maryland.
The Georgia Stars were led by the play of Glen Rice, who pumped in 24 points. In the midst of a growth spurt, Rice scored the ball off the catch and the bounce. Defensively, he showed some instinct coming up with some steals which resulted in strong finishes at the basket. With all the characteristics of a late bloomer, Rice made a strong statement for a fourth star.
His teammate Kenny Hall had 12 points, all of which came off midrange jumpers and difficult post moves. A skilled back to the basket player, Hall will be a welcomed addition to the Tennessee roster in 2009-2010.
Heavyweight match up
Two of the better teams in the event Houston Hoops and Rising Stars squared off on the opening night. Setting the tone for the game was physical Notre Dame commitment Jack Cooley of the Rising Stars. His fundamental and physical defensive play immediately frustrated Keith Gallon and took him out of the game. Gallon managed only eight points in the Hoops hard fought win, but the majority, if not all, of those points occurred while Cooley was out of the game.
Cooley managed nine points himself, but his game is not about scoring. Looking like a less athletic version of Luke Harangody, Cooley captures rebounds with strength and has an impressive old school feel to the game.
Tommy Mason-Griffin pumped in 16 points for the victorious hoops, but emerging post prospect Augustine Rubit led the team in scoring with 19 points.
Also looking impressive for the Hoops was 2012 prospect J-Mychal Reese. The smooth lefty looked more confident than he did at Boo Williams and made some high level plays.
Marcus Jordan started out strong for the Rising Stars, knocking down a couple threes early. His second half wasn't as strong, but the lefty got to the rim repeated on right hand drives and finished with 16 points. With varying opinions about his ability, Jordan looked like a high major prospect Friday night.
Nik Garcia couldn't buy a bucket for the Rising Stars until he caught fire for four late three-pointers in a near comeback bid. Looking around 6-foot-6, Garcia has the makings a being a clutch shooter at the high major level. He finished with a team high 18 points.
The Rising Stars' top prospect Jereme Richmond had moments of brilliance but couldn't put together a dominating performance. Most of his buckets came off pull up jumpers off a ball screen. Finishing with eight points, Richmond is, nonetheless, one of the elite talents in the class of 2010.
Help on the way
Not only is Illinois getting an elite talent in Richmond, Brandon Paul will also offer instant help when he gets on campus. The 2009 prospect plays almost like a carbon copy of Kentucky's Jodie Meeks. A strong athlete, Paul loves to attack the rim in the open court and is productive in the lane in the half court. His shot doesn't look great, but he has the feel of being a capable, but streaky long distant shooter.
A quick glimpse
Only saw a couple minutes of the Howard Pulley game, but what I did see was Rodney Williams dominating Dee Giger on the defensive end. Looking strong and even more athletic, Williams blocked three consecutive shots by Giger and threw in a 360 dunk on the other end. At this point Williams has my vote for the best leaper in the class.
More school lists
Although he is planning to sign this spring as a 2008 prospect, Edgar Garibay is here with the LA Stars and was instrumental in his team's comeback from 17 points to beat I-5 Elite. Garibay is receiving some heavy recruiting interest. He said new Indiana coach Tom Crean has called and offered. USC, New Mexico State and Loyola Marymount have offered as well. UCLA has been talking to his high school coach as has Georgetown. Garibay would like to visit Indiana, Memphis and Georgetown before signing.
Lorenzo Brown had a strong showing for the Lou Will Elite, scoring 16 points. He handled the ball well in the open court and created scoring opportunities at the rim. Presently he has a top three of North Carolina State, Florida and Memphis.
On the interior Brown's teammate Reggie Brice snagged a number of athletic rebounds and ran the floor with a purpose. He finished with nine points, and is being recruited hardest by Tennessee Tech, Auburn and LSU. Tennessee Tech is the favorite.
Tyler Haws, who finished with 15 points in a blow out win by Salt Lake Metro, has BYU (offer), Utah (offer), Harvard, Stanford (offer from former staff), Marquette and Wake Forest on his list. A sharp shooter with a high basketball IQ, Hawes has the ability to create his own shot with the dribble as well.