LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- All Ohio Red continued its winning ways despite the absence of two of its starting guards in the opening game of The Real Deal in the Rock against MBA Hoops Elite. Once again it was the consistently impressive play of Jared Sullinger that kept All Ohio Red on top.
Jared Sullinger All Ohio Red- At times DeMarco Cox got the best of Sullinger on the defensive end of the court, but Sullinger had his full array of offensive skills on display. Along with his usual power game in the paint, Sullinger finessed his way to a couple left handed jump hooks, sank a three-pointer and attacked the basket off the dribble. There are questions about upside, but there is no question that at this moment, the Ohio State commitment is playing as good a basketball as anyone in the 2010 class.
Adreian Payne All Ohio Red- And Sullinger wasn't on his own inside for All Ohio Red. The lengthy and athletic Payne had several plays that screamed NBA. A hand full of jump hook finishes with his right and left hand where he appeared to shoot the ball down into the basket were impressive. A block that he spiked straight down from 12-feet up, then captured himself and had the opposition screaming for goal tending wasn't bad. And the three-pointer that he swished in from the key was an eye opener as well.
Aaron Craft All Ohio Red- Without his usual backcourt mates Juwan Staten (bone bruise in his knee) and Jordan Sibert (surgery on broken leg on Friday), Craft did an admirable job running the point and keeping Deville Smith in check on the other end. A physical defender and heady all around player, Craft won't score a whole lot of points at Tennessee, but he will help the Volunteers win a lot of games. He is a glue type of guy who will remind fans in the Volunteer State of Dane Bradshaw, albeit at a different position.
Deville Smith MBA Hoops Elite (2011)- Although just under 6-feet tall, Smith has long arms, strong hands and impressive spurtability on the court. He does a tremendous job turning the corner on the high ball screen and knifing to the rim where he can find teammates on the move and also finish with authority at the rim. His three-pointer is reliable and he can be a pest on defense. The more wide open the system of play for Smith in college, the better he will perform. MBA Hoops was also without the service of two of its standouts to ankle injuries. Neither LaQuinton Ross nor Rodney Hood made the trip.
DeMarco Cox- MBA Hoops Elite- It was fun watching Cox match his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame up against Sullinger's. More than once Cox bounced Sullinger back on the way to scoring a bucket. Cox has touch around the basket and will surprise with bursts of speed. Thought I was watching a potential NFL lineman during the game. After the game that suspicion was confirmed.
Kevin Johnson- California Supreme Red (2011)- At first I thought I was looking at Jeremy Tyler when I walked into the gym before I realized it was Johnson. Not nearly as chiseled as Tyler, Johnson does have big time size. He does have a way to go toning his body and improving his conditioning, but there is a potentially elite big man inside of him. He is poised with the basketball, scores it with strength and touch and has a sizeable presence on defense. Tyler was not with the team Friday night and reportedly did not play last weekend either.
Gary Franklin and Tyler Lamb California Supreme- The starting guards for both Mater Dei High School and their travel team are developing an impressive chemistry together. In a couple years, however, they will face off against each other with USC (Franklin) and UCLA (Lamb). Franklin is always ready to hit a timely three-pointer and is one of those players whose understanding of the game makes up for what he lacks in athleticism. Lamb can control a game at times as a defender and then slasher in the open court.
Joshua Hairston DC Assault- Perhaps a little over ranked at this time at No. 14, Hairston is nonetheless a quality prospect who will have a strong career at Duke. He showed signs of expanding his game to the perimeter Friday night. A baseline three-pointer and pin point pass from the high post standout.
Eric Atkins DC Assault- The lanky point guard consistently made positive plays for DC Assault against the Alabama Lasers. As long as he doesn't get out muscled, Atkins can weave his way through traffic and has a feel for finishing on the move. He also has the potential to be a tough defender with his long arms and ability to move laterally. Developing his body will be the key to his success at the next level.
DeMarco Cox is intent on playing both football and basketball in college. He said it is down to Alabama and Arkansas and that he will make a decision this summer. Arkansas will get a visit before the decision. He has already visited Alabama. When it comes to choosing a school, Cox noted that he will base his decision on the basketball program first.
Deville Smith is in no hurry to make a decision and is listing offers from Memphis, Wake Forest, Mississippi State, USC, Southern Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, Marquette, UAB and NC State. If he had to choose five schools to visit right now, Memphis, USC, Arkansas, Marquette and NC State would make the cut.