NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - As the city of Augusta gears up for the arrival of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson and a host of other golfers for the Masters golf tournament, AAU teams took over the town for the AAU Super Regional at Riverview Park. Guys like Mike Jones and Cincinnati bound Devan Downey helped the South Carolina Ravens claim the 17 and under title.
Ravens fly to championship
The South Carolina Ravens rode the aggressive play of small forward Mike Jones and Devan Downey. The duo was the one-two punch all weekend for the Columbia based program.
One of the biggest questions surrounding Jones, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound prospect from Lower Richland High School, was his ability to shoot on the wing. After going four for four from deep in one game and consistently knocking down the perimeter shot, he proved that he could not only shoot it but be very effective on the wing. Mix that with his strong presence inside the paint as a rebounder and a scorer, Jones has the tools to be a multi-faceted high-major prospect.
Jones said Kansas, Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama have all recently called while Connecticut, Syracuse, FSU, Maryland, Georgetown, South Carolina and Clemson are staying strong on the recruiting front. Jones, the No. 54 ranked player in the class of 2006, has a good chance of climbing even higher with continued play at the Boo Williams tournament this weekend.
Downey, Cincinnati signee, took over the reigns at the point guard for the South Carolina Ravens and he picked up where he left off last summer. The 5-foot-9 scoring point guard is blink and you'll miss him speedster that uses his quickness on defense for steals and cross over moves on the offensive side of the ball. His size will certainly put some limitations on his game but he does a great job of scoring and trying to prove all of those that say he can't do something. It's his fuel.
The Ravens enjoyed the sharp-shooting from Brandon Wright, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Goose Creek (S.C.) High School. His perimeter game was one of the key reasons why the Ravens beat a talented Smyrna Stars team. Wright hit four three-pointers in a matter of four minutes to help open the game up to a big lead. He continued his hot shooting in the championship game, sending home a couple more long balls.
Coming into the tournament, Byron Faison was known as a good athlete and a good perimeter scorer. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard from Crestwood High School in Sumter, S.C. left with a rep as a great perimeter defender. He shut down several quick guards all weekend and didn't let many score on him. He has quick feet, loves to get into his man and matches opponents step for step. Faison didn't deviate from his strengths though. He had a nasty baseline dunk on a defender in pool play.
Booker starts AAU season strong, Nets surprise many en route to tourney final
Outside of Jones of the Ravens, Trevor Booker of the South Carolina Celtics made his case for the best player in the event. The 6-foot-7 lefty forward was a constant double digit rebounding machine and used his length to his advantage by getting big on the offensive side of the ball.
He knows how effective he is in the paint and finds a way to get the ball on the block and then work hard with his back to the basket. Defensively, Booker is hard to score on because of his length and active play.
Booker, a product of Union (S.C.) High School, will be a guy high-major coaches follow up with after watching him in April at the Kingwood Classic. He has a high skill level that can compete with the best of the best. He said he's hearing from Clemson, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, James Madison and Wofford.
The Celtics were ousted by a tough Charlotte Nets team. The North Carolina based team played up a division and the 16 year olds impressed everyone with their play. Led by point guard Chad Tomko, a 6-foot class of 2007 prospect from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School, the Nets played great basketball all weekend.
Tomko is incredibly quick, heady and knows how to play half court basketball as well as the break. He can pull up from three, play tight defense and uses his quickness to hang with guys like Downey.
Helping Tomko out was Forest Hills High School teammates Dorenzo Hudson and J.T. Thompson. Hudson, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound wing, and Hudson, an active 6-foot-6, 205-pound small forward, were interchangeable in the offense with their strong inside-out presence. Hudson is a better shooter while Thompson is more athletic and aggressive. The Union County, N.C. natives are both guys to watch develop.
Other 2006 players of note
Leading the North Carolina based Team Heat program, point guard Ishmael Smith proved why he's one of the top players in the Tar Heel State. The 5-foot-11 floor general from Central Cabarrus High School is quick, a great ball-handler and a leader on the floor. He told us he's hearing from Clemson, Wake Forest and UNC Charlotte. Smith and Team Heat will play at the Kingwood Classic in a couple of weeks.
The S.C. Celtics love to push the ball in large part to the play of point guard D.J. Moore. He's a spark plug of a guard at 5-foot-9, 170-pounds. He's quick, can shoot and loves to defend. He's also a two-sport star. Clemson, Wofford, James Madison and Davidson have shown hoops interest. In football, Moore said Illinois, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina have all shown an interest.
Lu Griffin played much bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame by mastering the art of the one-handed rebound. He's athletic, bouncy and full of raw potential. S.C. Celtics head coach Steve McNeely says Griffin is his biggest sleeper on his roster.
Usually automatic from the perimeter, Junior Salters extended his offense by creating more off the dribble and going inside the three point line for pull up jump shots. The 6-foot-2 guard for the S.C. Celtics is also a great student and is tops in his class academically.
Kenyan Harmon led the way for the TOPPS Sports AAU team all weekend. The 6-foot-6 forward from North Augusta High School is an athletic wing forward that is still improving his perimeter game. Harmon said he's hearing from Army, Purdue, UNC Charlotte and Clemson.
Austin Steed, a thin 6-foot-8 forward from Butler High School in Augusta, Ga., didn't have the tournament he is capable of having. The SC Hoopsters product is long and had a nice shot on the wing as a small forward and he can play hard inside as a rebounder. However, he didn't show just how good he is this weekend.
Skyler Williams became very well acquainted with the floor at the Riverview Park. The strong 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard from East Laurens High School in Dublin, Ga., was constantly taking charges, attacking the basket and absorbing hard fouls all tournament long for the Smyrna Stars.
He's not afraid or intimidated by anyone and loves the challenge of challenging defenses. Williams is a strong shooter and good athlete. It's no surprise that Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Duke and Florida are recruiting him as a quarterback and wide receiver as well as some interest for hoops.
Chris Wright and Ben Smith enjoyed the fruits of their labors this year at Dublin (Ga.) High School. Now together with the Smyrna Stars, Wright and Smith are continuing their ways on the AAU circuit. Wright said he's hearing from Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Colorado and Georgia. Smith is a good scoring point guard.
Korvotney Barber was the McDonald's All American on the Manchester (Ga.) High School team but Tay Waller was actually the team's leading scorer. Waller, a 6-foot-3 scoring guard is incredibly athletic guard that can put it on the floor and attack the basket. He's got great body control. Waller has a chance to be one of the big sleepers in the Southeast in 2006.