HOUSTON, TEXAS - It was all about New York guards on the first night of the Kingwood Classic at Westfield High School as Greg Paulus headlined a handful of backcourt players that shined in the biggest tournament of the country. Here is a look at some of the top performers.
Syracuse Rochester Area Players (SRAP) vs. Illinois Fire
It took three overtimes to end this battle but thanks to the play of their two stars, SRAP will sleep well on Friday night knowing they walked away with a hard fought victory. Greg Paulus was one of those reasons. The Duke-bound guard finished with a game high 23 points and controlled the pace of the game despite the number of falls and fouls received on the night. He earned every one of his points and shot the ball well from deep, connecting on five of eight from downtown. Love the bounce pass? Watch his quarterback/point guard for 32 minutes. He’ll show you what it’s all about.
Andray Blatche - The 6-foot-10 South Kent (Conn.) Prep bound big man looked more like a small forward late in the thriller. With Paulus fouled out of the game, Blatche became option number one for ball handling situations. And he was just the man to have it, too. The forward dribbled in from the top of the key and took the ball to the hole with 11 seconds to play. He scored the only bucket in the quarter and took his team to the 64-62 victory on the bucket. Blatche continues to grow into his body and improves each time out. North Carolina still has the lead over Syracuse, West Virginia and Georgetown, he said.
Nate Minnoy - There aren’t many, perhaps any, players blessed with a bigger chest and shoulders in the country than that of Minnoy. The bruiser of a guard used his size and strength to muscle over and through defenders for mid range jumpers and long range bombs. He finished the night with 17 points and made some believers out of those that packed the small subsidiary gym at Westfield High.
Minnoy had plenty of help from Tony Freeman (17 points) and Jeremy Pargo in the game, too. Freeman knocked down some clutch shots at the end of regulation and helped spark the Fire in the overtime periods. He’s a good point guard with a nice touch on the scoring end. He said several Big Ten programs are evaluating him this summer. Pargo is an athletic and aggressive guard that loves to attack the basket and score around the cup. He possesses a nice outside touch, too. We’d like to see more of it.
New York Gauchos vs. Atlanta Celtics Black
It is hard to pinpoint one player for the Gauchos. In fact, it wouldn’t even be fair to do it. The backcourt play was outstanding. Their guard play won the game against last year’s favorite AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics.
Leading the way was 6-foot-5 class of 2005 prospect, Saquan Stone. The Xaverian High School product poured in 17 points and played solid defense on the night. He set the pace for the rest of his backcourt mates on both sides of the ball. Stone told us he’s considering Ohio State, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Point guard Levance Fields added 12 points in the win but it wasn’t his scoring that jumped out at us. The 5-foot-11 junior guard and high school teammate of Stone, is a leader and just oozes basketball prowess. He understands the game and pesters opponents with his all-up-in-ya defense. Fields said he is getting looks from Pittsburgh, St. Johns, Georgia Tech and Villanova.
Rounding out the bunch was 6-foot-3 junior guard Jesse Sapp. The National Christian Academy scorer dropped 12 points on the Celtics in the win. Sapp is an ultra-athletic guard that loves to get up and down the court. He said his list hasn’t changed much in the last week and is considering UConn, Arkansas, Ohio State, Stanford, Georgia Tech and Penn State.
Curtis Kelly - The Gauchos promising big man is playing with the 16U group but that didn’t keep him from rooting on his elder teammates from the bench. After winning an earlier contest, the 6-foot-10 class of 2006 prospect made it to Westfield High School. He told us that North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Texas are the three schools recruiting him the hardest.
Brandon Rush - While the entire Celtics roster struggled on offense, Rush, the No. 5 player in the class of 2005, showed some flashes of why many consider him the most athletic player in his class. The possible preps-to-pros candidate had a team high 12 points and wowed the crowd with his jumping ability. On one instance, Rush skied for a rebound with two players for the Gauchos. When gravity brought the New Yorkers back down to Earth, Rush remained on the up and up, snatching the rebound out of the air.
Tracy Smith - The sophomore from Detroit via Mt. Zion in North Carolina, had some moments of greatness. He looked much more aggressive and athletic than what we saw of him during the school year. He isn’t afraid to attack the basket and sky for the dunk. While his game is still being groomed, don’t be surprised to see great things from him down the road.
Illinois Warriors vs. Belmont Shore
Brett Hoerner - After watching the California center two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Hoerner continues to get better and more confident in his game. Not blowing many away in the first major AAU event of the season, the 6-foot-11 junior has improved in so many ways. For one, he stepped up his play inside as a shot-blocker and defender. Not overly strong, Hoerner uses his length and good timing to his advantage when opponents drive inside. He finished the game with 15 points and said a host of Pac-10 schools are recruiting him the hardest.
Seketoure Henry - “Sek” was pretty quiet in the first half, scoring only two points but something happened at halftime. He returned to his great athletic game and knocked down four three pointers and attacked the basket with very little hesitation. Henry finished with 18 points. In the last two weeks, Southern California, Oregon, San Diego and Washington all came to Lynwood, Calif. to evaluate him.
Jon Scheyer - The string bean shooter did what he does best and that is connect from the wing. The 6-foot-5 guard connected on four three pointers en route to 14 points. Julian Wright had 14 points as well. The Warriors will be back in action on Saturday against the Houston Hoops.