Montverde, Fla. - It may be February but the action was hot on the first day of the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament. A couple of the top juniors, including Georgia big man J.J. Hickson, in the country had big games. Rivals.com was in the gym for the full day of action.
Five-star big man puts on a show
Looking for a dominant big man? James Hickson makes the search easy. The five-star forward from Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., has been rapidly improving in his junior campaign and he proved that in a convincing opening round win against Archbishop Carroll.
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Hickson scored, rather dunked home, 26 points. The 6-foot-9 pivot man showed off his improved lift off the floor for a number of rim rattling dunks but it was his move from the right elbow to the rim all with two power dribbles and dunk that had the dozen or so coaches there to see him beaming.
His improvement over the last couple of years has helped him climb up the national rankings but more importantly, he's becoming a must get recruit. In fact, he may be the most coveted big man in the class of 2007.
To help matters on the recruiting front, Hickson implores that he is wide open.
When players say they are "wide open" it generally means they are looking at a handful of schools but aren't ready to make their select list public. With Hickson, he means it. And his list could extend 94-feet. More on Hickson coming on Friday morning.
Hickson had a lot of help from junior guard Adrian Williams, who torched the nets for 18 points and four three-pointers. The 6-foot-1 guard had things going his way from beyond the arc and showed off his offensive arsenal.
Williams, the son of former NFL Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, said his top two schools are Georgia and Florida State while Memphis, Clemson, Auburn and Arkansas are also in the mix.
Flynn getting it done a long way from home
This time of year, the weather in Niagara Falls, N.Y. is far from perfect. So playing in the hottest gym he'll play in all year, future Syracuse point guard Johnny Flynn didn't seem phased by the temperature or travel.
Flynn is incredibly athletic skills by attacking the rim at will and dishing off passes to his teammates. He went off for six three-pointers en route to 26 points in a big win against Mt. Dora (Fla.). Flynn, all 5-foot-10 of him, flies on his jumper and releases high at the top of his shot. He has great wheels and knows how to turn on the extra gear.
Also making a splash for Niagara Falls was big man Tyrell Lynch. He was one of the more intriguing players on opening night. The 6-foot-8 forward had 18 points in the win.
Lynch is a bouncy forward with a nice soft touch from 12 feet and in. He can play the face up four position but can also make things happen on the blocks.
He is listed as a senior in the roster and he is. The 18 different colleges that were in the house all became intrigued but they will have to wait a year. Lynch will be prep school bound after this season at Niagara Falls. Lynch said he is hearing from Providence, South Florida, Illinois, Syracuse and UNC-Charlotte.
Alabama team full of prospects
A number of schools made it out to see LeFlore (Ala.) shooting guard Johnny Mayhanne and the 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard had his worst game of the year in the opening round.
With at least a half dozen schools watching from the sidelines, Mayhanne had a hard time finding his rhythm from the wing. He has a reputation for being a guy that can knock it dial it down from deep but he failed to show off the shooter's touch he displayed at the Academy National Invitational, the event where he put himself onto a number of watch lists.
It will be interesting to see how he rebounds in the next two games.
While Mayhanne had an off day, his junior teammates Chris Blake and Derrick Young picked up the offensive load. Blake, a muscular 6-foot-5 versatile player, scored a team-high 18 points while Young chipped in with 16 points.
Blake is a muscular guard that scored most of his buckets around the rim and was on the other end of Mayhanne's six assists. Blake said Tulane, Auburn and Virginia are showing the most interest.
Odds & Ends
Both Jacksonville University and Virginia Commonwealth should be commended for the two steals the respective programs landed at Montverde Academy. Cliff Warren's staff landed Szymon Lukasiak, a 6-foot-8 bruising forward while VCU signed Franck Ndongo.
Lukasiak is a tough lefty that isn't afraid to dive on the floor for loose balls. He took a drop step and dunked home a bucket against Brevard Christian. Lukasiak may have only scored seven points in the victory but they were loud and impressive. He has a great touch with both hands around the cup.
Ndongo is a major steal for the Rams. He plays hard from tip to the buzzer, defends well and is always moving. He scored an effective 13 points in a blowout win.
For basketball purists, Montverde Academy is the crème de la crème in the event. They pass the ball incredibly well and take the best shot possible on every possession.
Future Wake Forest guard L.D. Williams led the way with 19 points. He is one of the premiere athletes in the country and he's improved his jumper. Don't be surprised to see him develop into a key player for the Demon Deacons sooner than later. More importantly, he has the tools to become a great defender in the ACC.
Archbishop Carroll junior forward Jamar Samuels is out of action for the tournament due to an injury.
In the house
Coaches from Auburn, Central Florida, DePaul, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Miami, Notre Dame, Providence, Rhode Island, Richmond, South Florida, UConn and Virginia Tech all made it out for the first day of the tournament.
LeFlore (Ala.) 68, Heritage Christian (Texas) 60
Wheeler (Ga.) 77, Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) 42
Niagara Falls (N.Y.) 77, Mt. Dora (Fla.) 57
Montverde Academy (Fla.) 78, Brevard Christian (Fla.) 35
Friday, Feb. 3
3:00 p.m. - Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) vs. Heritage Christian (Texas)
4:30 p.m. - Mt. Dora (Fla.) vs. Brevard Christian (Fla.)
6:00 p.m. b> - Wheeler (Ga.) vs. LeFlore (Ala.)
7:30 p.m. - Niagara Falls (N.Y.) vs. Montverde Academy (Fla.)