FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. -- The Real Deal on the Hill is off and running at the University of Arkansas on Friday night and those that were excepted to play like a big-timer, played like a big-timer.
Last year at this stage, everyone saw the potential in rail thin big man John Henson. Now, the Texan is starting to tap into his overall talent and becoming a very, very good player.
Henson looks a little bigger these days and could be pushing 6-foot-11. He's still rail thin though. The future North Carolina Tar Heel knocked down a couple of three-pointers in a 20-point win on opening night en route to a modest 16 points.
He'll pepper in some flashes of brilliance. Henson tried a couple of left-handed jump hooks that didn't drop but the execution was outstanding. The Tar Heels made a strong push for the Lone Star State prospect for a reason. He's one of the most intriguing players in the nation. And that's coming off an average night for the big fella.
DeMarcus Cousins had a good game despite the quiet way he did it.
The UAB-bound big man was great on the glass and started the break with ease. There are few players in the field with his kind of size and grace. Cousins ran the floor but also played the role of enforcer for his club. His game is maturing as he gets older and bigger.
Mike Davis has to like the future in Birmingham with Cousins anchoring the team down the road. He's an elite talent and when he puts it all together, he's fun to watch.
The M33M Ballers were paced Sampson Carter, who scored 25 points in an opening night victory.
Carter looked great on Friday night. It was pretty cut and dry with the combo forward on opening night. The 6-foot-6 Memphis native knocked down a couple of three-pointers, worked hard in the paint as a rebounder and did most of his work as a face-up player in the paint. His play was inspired and effective.
Carter is off to prep school next year, according to his brother, and the year should help him keep fine tuning his natural abilities.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
As a seventh graders, Dallas native LeBryan Nash suited up with the Dallas Mustangs 17 and under team at the Real Deal three years ago. Now back with the Mustangs 15 and under team, Nash is playing up in the 17 and under division this season with his talented teammates.
Nash, a powerfully built 6-foot-6 forward, didn't look like a timid rookie. In fact, he was one of the most impressive players on the night despite being a class of 2011 prospect.
Last year at the Real Deal on the Hill, Alabama's Trevor Lacey helped the 14 and under division. Now that he's on the big stage with the 17 and under Southeast Elite club, Lacey didn't look like a rookie at all.
Lacey, 6-foot-4 guard from Butler High School, has a world of potential and was one of the top performers for Southeast Elite in a one-point victory. He's a smooth ball-handler that is constantly moving with and without the ball. He doesn't rush the game and seems to always make the right play. Instinctually, Lacey is a world ahead of most of his classmates. Chalk him up as a big-timer out of the class of 2011.
HI, MY NAME IS…
This weekend will certainly serve as a springboard for a number of players in the field. A trio of players certainly made enough noise to make the on-lookers perk up.
Alabama forward Edward Daniel used the opening night for his own national springboard. Daniel actually looked like he was playing on a springboard. The 6-foot-7 forward was one of the bounciest players on the Bud Walton Arena floor.
Nearly all of his points came off of athletic plays at the rim. He's a true high-flier that was without question the most exciting player in the gym on opening night.
Houston forwards Kelly Lawson and Ray Turner line up with Henson on the Franchize All-Stars and both picked their spots to shine.
Lawson, a skilled 6-foot-8 forward, was solid across the board and has the make-up of a skilled forward that knows what he is and what he isn't. Taylor is a raw prospect with high-major ability. Both guys should leave Fayetteville with a number of schools aching to get involved.
SCHOOL LIST CENTRAL
Nash, the talented class of 2011 forward for the Dallas Mustangs, said he is hearing from Georgetown, Memphis, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Syracuse, Stanford and Stephen F. Austin.
Lawson and Turner, the sleepers for the Franchize All-Stars, both entered the Real Deal with solid lists. Lawson said he has heard from Tulane, Stephen F. Austin, Baylor, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, UCLA and Oral Roberts. Turner said Texas A&M, Nebraska, Baylor, Memphis, Arizona and Stephen F. Austin have shown early interest.
Daniel, the high-flier with the Birmingham Ice, said his recruitment looks like this as of Friday night: Alabama, Marquette (and probably now Indiana), UAB, Georgia State, Missouri, South Alabama, Southern and Murray State. By Monday, his list should be dramatically different.
Sampson, the star of the night for M33M, is hearing from Memphis, UTEP, UAB, New Mexico and a number of mid-majors prior to his trip to prep school next year.
Christian Watford is bigger (6-8, 215) and better than what he is was this time last year. His recruiting is going down the same path. Texas, Memphis, Alabama, Ole Miss, Missouri, Marquette, Indiana, UAB, Oklahoma and Auburn have shown interest.
Class of 2010 prospect Tim Peete rattled off a list of Arkansas, Tennessee, Memphis, Virginia, Baylor, Ole Miss, UTEP and New Mexico.
Lacey, the class of 2011 stud from Alabama, has the big-timers already showing early interest. Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Alabama and most of the SEC, says his father, are in the mix.
NOTES FROM THE NOTEPAD
* Iowa commitment Brennan Cougill looks a lot better physically than he did last year. He's thinner, more nimble and his post moves are getting better and better. Looks like a typical case of dropped pounds and added production.
* There isn't a better team in the tournament field that plays full court defense than the Birmingham Ice. This crew will jump on you like a mosquito on a hot, sticky night in the South. They don't mess around.
* Three first half fouls put Shawn Kemp, Jr. on the bench in a quick hurry for the Worldwide Renegades Black club and his team eventually lost an 18-point lead to the Iowa Barnstormers. You have to wonder if the fouls limited his production down the stretch because starting the game the 6-foot-10 junior was a difference maker inside the paint on both ends of the floor. He blocked a couple of shots and showed some flashes on offense. He's a baby-step prospect. Those that take their time will be rewarded with a high ceiling prospect.
* Wisconsin landed Mike Bruesewitz with little fanfare during the high school season. But if you watch the 6-foot-7 forward closely you'll quickly understand why the Badgers locked him up. He has a body that will handle the bulk of a college weight program, his skill set will be best served in Bo Ryan's swing offense and his motor will blend in nicely in the Big Ten.
* Took notice of Harrison Dupont for Oklahoma Elite in a loss to the Birmingham Storm. The 6-foot-5 wing was the team's best prospect and he picked his spots to shine. Dupont finished with roughly 20-points and showed of a number of good basketball moves in the process.
* Derrick Jackson, a 6-foot point guard for the King James 16 and under team playing up in the 17U division, caught our eye. He's a steady floor leader that has good quickness, good hoops and a good burst of speed to the basket.
* The Dallas Mustangs 15 and under club isn't all about Nash. Keep an eye on Keaton Miles, a 6-foot-6 wing from Skyline High School. Miles might be too good to creep up on anybody.
NEWS & NOTES
College coaches will make their first appearance on the AAU circuit on Saturday morning, opening up the busy evaluation period for the month.