NEW ORLEANS, La.- For the second year in a row the Nike Memorial Day Classic was held in the "Big Easy" with the top 32 seventeen, 24 sixteen and 16 fifteen and under teams kicking off pool play Saturday morning with the hopes of winning the championship which will be held Monday.
MDC kicks off with a bang
Any day that begins with an 8 a.m. match-up featuring Brandan Wright, currently the No.2 player in the 2006 class, and power forward Kevin Love who has the No. 3 position in 2007 on lock down, has to be considered a good day and that is exactly what happened Saturday morning with the Murfreesboro Stars taking on the Portland Elite Legends.
The anticipated match-up quickly turned into "much ado about nothing" as the two highly touted players rarely squared off in head-to-head battle. Love, as usual brought his A-game, and put in his normal workday with a 30-point, 15 rebound performance. He was obviously the top player on the floor and it's going to be tough to keep him out of the No. 2 spot in the next Rivals.com ranking.
Wright, on the other hand, got off to a slow start and never really recovered, shooting 7 of 23 from the field. He never looked comfortable on the floor. The Tennessee native did have his moments, including two dunks in traffic against Kyle Singler, but for the most part the 6-foot-9 small forward made the game much more difficult than it needed to be with off-balance fade away shots and his refusal to risk any contact near the basket.
Potential is still the key with the ultra-long Wright but with a frame that probably won't carry much more weight his offensive arsenal needs to develop a consistent outside shot and the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. Also concerning is his inability to use his right hand to any extent.
Kyle Singler added 13 and Seth Tarver chipped in nine in the 73-58 win.
Eyes of Texas on Solomon Tat
Is Solomon all Tat? Apparently so in the eyes of the Longhorn staff who has made the 6-foot-5, 219-pound guard a top priority and the good news out of the Peach State is that Texas may be on the verge of landing a verbal commitment from the athletic combo guard.
"Texas has really been recruiting Solomon the hardest since they saw him earlier this year in Las Vegas," Georgia Elite AAU coach Linzy Davis said. "That's had a big impact on him and he has been impressed with the attention.
As things stand now Texas is in very good shape. In fact, my prediction is that if he commits early it would be to Texas. His physical style of play fits there system and he believes he can play early.
But he is also still looking at Georgia Tech, UConn, NC State, Georgia, Georgetown, Louisville, Memphis and Cincinnati. He has not decided whether he wants to get his recruitment behind him early or wait.
Tat is another prospect who has improved his stock in the early part of the AAU season. With an NBA ready body Tat has the ability to knock down the outside shot, although he needs to become more consistent, but he is at his best when driving hard to the basket where he finishes strong.
Spencer Hawes taking his time
Washington center Spencer Hawes has seen his stock rise during the early part of the AAU season and while he is currently ranked No. 8 in the 2006 class the 6-foot-11, 225-pounder has an excellent chance of improving that in the next Rivals.com rankings.
As might be expected Hawes has a who's who of college basketball programs to choose from and currently lists eight as the favorites to land his signature.
"UConn, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Washington, Stanford and UCLA are my favorites and all have offered expect Duke and Stanford," Hawes told Rivals.com Saturday morning. "I was going to UCLA on a visit a couple of weeks ago but I had to cancel because I hurt my ankle.
So right now I'm not worried about my recruitment but instead I want to play well this summer and just have fun. It's possible that I will take some unofficial visits but that's not for sure. I would like to narrow it down further before the summer is over but I'm not in a rush. I won't take any official visits until school starts again in August."
In FOH's 74-62 Saturday morning victory over Team Texas Hawes scored 20 points and pulled down double digit rebounds and came within two assists of a triple-double.
2007 Standout is Carolina dreaming
Mt. Royal small forward Donte Green has seen his stock continue to rise after a strong sophomore year in high school and an impressive early AAU season. Green, 6-foot-8, 210-pounds, still has two years before he has to make a college decision but one ACC program has moved into the early lead.
"I grew up a North Carolina kid. My godfather lived five minutes away from North Carolina and although I grew up overseas I always went to the campus when I was back," Green said. "I liked to go over to the Dean Center and see their history and all the great players that have played there. I've just always been impressed with them.
But I'm still going to keep an open mind. Maryland and Georgetown have both offered and I like them in addition to UConn and Syracuse. I'm going to look around and take some unofficial visits. I know I'll visit Carolina in June when I visit my godfather and I'm also talking to UConn to see when I can go there."
Quick, fast and in a hurry
Kevin Durant scored 23 points while teammate Tywon Lawson, who continues his vision quest to be the top rated point guard in his class, added 25 in the DC Blue Devils win over the Georgia Stars.
Stars shooting guard Cameron Tatum led the way with 22 points, including 4 three-pointers, in a losing effort. Alabama commitment Avery Jukes added 17 points and eight rebounds while Maryland pledge Landon Milburne chipped in 11.
Team Texas' Darrell Arthur was held in check against FOH totaling 10 points and four rebounds and his teammate Bryan Davis didn't fair any better with only 8 points although he did pull did nine rebounds. Jermaine Beal led the Texans in scoring with 15.
Duke pledge Brian Zoubek dropped 14 points on California Elite in a New Jersey all-star win.
In a thrilling 16 and under game the Georgia Star outlasted Team Texas 61-58 in a game that wasn't sealed until Gani Lawal knocked down two free throws with under 30 seconds left in the game.
Jamar Moore led the way for the Star with 16 points while Lawal added 12 points and double-digit rebounds with Jeremy Price totaling nine and Lance Storrs eight.
The leading score in the game was Clint Houston who knocked down 20 for Team Texas.
2008 sensation Greg Monroe scored 17 points and 12 rebounds in a convincing victory over the SC Ravens. Monroe, who is only 14 years old, will be mentioned in the same breath with another outstanding young big man Renaldo Sidney but it should be noted that although Monroe is not nearly as advanced as Sidney offensively or physically he is 8 months younger and a grade ahead. At his point he is a good athlete who runs the floor well and his offensive skill set will become more advanced as he gains weight, strength and experience.
Brandon Davis scored 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Ravens while his 2007 teammate Laron Dendy had 10 and seven blocks.
Georgia Stars power forward Jerome Burney currently favors Miami (offer), FSU (offer), Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Gilbert Brown claims offers from Miami, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia with those six along with Georgia Tech and Wake Forest leading for his services.
South Carolina Ravens small forward Mike Jones is considering offers from Maryland, Alabama, UConn, South Carolina, Clemson, Florida and NC State.
Georgia (offer), Georgia Tech (offer), North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky make up the short list for Georga Star 2007 star Gani Lawal.
Lawal's teammate Jeremy Price currently has Indiana, Georgia, Georgetown, Clemson, Kansas, North Carolina and Wake Forest on his speed dial.
Lance Storrs has unofficial visits planned for Kansas and Alabama and June with Georgetown, Cincinnati and Illinois also in the running.