Rewinding through July, the two major AAU events highlighted the month. At the Nike Peach Jam, Duke Crews helped lead Boo Williams to the title while Quincy Pondexter and the rest of the EBO squad took home their second straight adidas Showtime Nationals.
Five-stars shine at Peach Jam
One of the highlights each year for prospects, parents, college coaches, hoops fanatics and others related to the game of roundball is the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C. This year was no different. The beautiful Riverview Park hosted 32 of the top Nike sponsored teams and the star power that made it to the Deep South gave their best efforts.
When anyone talks about the 2005 Peach Jam, you have to start with Spencer Hawes, Brandan Wright, Lance Thomas and the continual emergence of Duke Crews.
Starting with Hawes, the 6-foot-11 center from Seattle, began his July tear at the Peach Jam and he did it against one of the biggest players he'll play against in the prep ranks. Paired against 7-foot-2 Florida center Jason Bennett, a guy who Hawes has played against numerous times in 2005, the Northwesterner went to work. Hawes finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and made it look easy.
Later, against the D.C. Blue Devils, Hawes gave a "How to play the post for dummies" demonstration. The five-star prospect dropped 32 points and snatched 12 rebounds in front of a legion of coaches, including Roy Williams, Trent Johnson, Lorenzo Romar and Ben Howland.
Hawes led his Friends of Hoop team deep into the tournament before dropping in the Final Four. The only player that really slowed Hawes down was Crews, who at the Peach Jam, was playing his best basketball. Makes perfect sense though. He was playing for some high-major offers.
The story of mid-July was Crews, the pogo stock from the Hampton, Virginia area. Crews' loaded Boo Williams team features at least 10 high-major prospects and while the squad always brought out the coaches, Crews was playing at a level that demanded every coach in America to come and take a peek at the 6-foot-7 forward.
There have always been questions on Crews' size. After the Peach Jam, those questions seemed to go out the window. Wake Forest, North Carolina and a host of other elite programs jumped into the fray. He played much bigger because of his quick elevation off the floor and aggressive style of play on both ends of the floor.
Crews capped off his stellar week by helping his Boo Williams squad win the Peach Jam.
Hawes and Crews weren't the only players that had a host of high-major coaches watching them in North Augusta. Wright and Thomas both had their fare share of coaches at their respective games.
Wright, who is looking hard at Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina, was outstanding in the post and focused his efforts 12 feet and in. He put his team, which sports a handful of mid to low-major prospects, on his back and rallied them to more wins than anyone would have given them credit for. Even the NBA scouts that were in attendance raved about Wright's play.
Thomas, who played with the New Jersey All-Stars for the first time at the event, was his normal self. He tried to do too much on the perimeter at the ABCD camp but went back to his bread and butter, which is scoring in the paint at a fervent pace. No one gets to the foul line better than Thomas does and he works for every point he scores. At every one of Thomas's games, there was at least eight schools on hand.
Still working on trimming his list, Thomas can't short change teams for not coming to see him when he looks to whittle down the suitors this month.
With the five-star prospects playing up to their potential there were a couple of players that played at another level at the Peach Jam. Future Pitt Panther Gilbert Brown was one of them. Known primarily for his athleticism, Brown was shooting lights out and showed off a well-rounded offensive attack. Several high-major programs were trying to figure out who he was only to be disappointed to find out he was already snatched up by Jamie Dixon and staff.
Guard play was excellent as guys like future Florida State point guard Josue Soto was outstanding. He dropped 37 points on Friends of Hoop and finished the event at 25 points per contest. Future Baylor Bear Demond Carter took it to Tywon Lawson and outscored the UNC bound point guard 29-13. Carter shot over 50 percent from deep that week.
Two guys that didn't get their just due in Augusta were Jon Mitchell, a bruising 6-foot-7 power forward from Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Mike Holmes, a class of 2007 bruiser from South Carolina. Both guys did the dirty work and powered it inside the paint from start to finish. Holmes actually injured his foot and didn't finish the tournament. He did enough damage in the three games he played to put him onto the high-major map for the year.
One of the biggest omissions of the Peach Jam was Kevin Love. Why? Well, it's all about the shoes, right? At least that is what the shoe companies tell themselves.
Love, a rising junior that has dominated the Nike field for so long, went to the Reebok ABCD camp for a change of scenery. Little did he know he threw a major kink into the all to aggressive shoe wars for America's top teens.
Love maintained he did it only to play the likes of Cole Aldrich, Derick Caracter, O.J. Mayo and Greg Oden - all guys he had yet to play against on the AAU circuit. Love was named as the underclassmen co-MVP of the camp with Mayo. Just hours after being named as the top young prospect at the camp, the Nike suits were on the phone with Love's father with an ultimatum.
Fast forward to the Peach Jam and missing from the Portland Elite Legends roster was Love, who with the help of fellow class of 2007 star Kyle Singler won the loaded Kingwood Classic in April. Love did not play in the Nike AAU tournament in the Deep South. Nor did he play with the team in Las Vegas. In fact, Nike told the biggest star in it's own backyard in Oregon to essentially take a hike.
Love joined his close friend from the class of 2007 Taylor King with the Reebok sponsored SoCal All-Stars. It's all about the shoes, right?
EBO claims adidas Showtime Nationals
EBO, a California based summer program, loves to play in Atlanta. For the second straight year, the club shined in Peach country and this year they claimed the adidas Showtime National tournament. One of the reasons why they won the event was the play of Robin Lopez and Quincy Pondexter, who were named as tournament MVPs.
Lopez showed off his versatility on the blocks as he pounded inside the paint and stepped out and showed the midrange game. He's one of the most fluid big men in the country and strung together another strong performance. That would be the tune to his song all month long.
Pondexter continued to be the offensive force for EBO and proved that there are few guys that can get to rim like he can. The 6-foot-7 small forward really started the summer strong in Atlanta and his recruitment continues to bring in the high-major possibilities.
EBO always gets big games from guard Trevon Willis and his clutch shooting from the foul line was the weight that put his team over the victor's side of the scales. Willis began his big game run in Atlanta. In Vegas, he did it again. More on that tomorrow.
With a host of high-major guys on the EBO roster, it's easy to get lost in the numbers. Point guard Derrick Jasper put up a big 0 in the championship game but his playmaking and rebounding helped earn him high honors from the camp. He was one of the top guards in the field.
Thaddeus Young, the No. 3 overall ranked player in the class of 2006, wasn't himself at the event as he dusted off the downtime due to a bum foot. In his final game of the event, he was back to normal and put in 27 hard earned points.
Young and his loaded Memphis Pump 'N Run squad were ousted by newly committed South Carolina recruit Brandis Raley and his Charlotte Royals squad. Raley impressed many with his jumper and penetration skills. His play caused coaches to inquire about he Charlotte native but the Gamecocks were in first and landed the summer star.
On Wednesday, Justin Young will recap the three major events in Las Vegas and highlight those that stood out in Sin City. With every major prospect in attendance, there were plenty of opportunities to see the nation's best as well as discovering some high-major guys. Stay logged on to Rivals.com for the complete recap of July.