LAS VEGAS - The Drew Gooden Soldiers comfortably won the championship game at the Fab 48 tournament Sunday night and no one was surprised. Not even LeBron James, who showed up to the final with his security detail and entourage.
James left with about eight minutes left, the Soldiers already winning by double digits en route to an 86-66 win against the Iowa Barnstormers.
Nick Johnson finished with 16 points and eight assists, the four-star shooting guard from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep not only scoring but distributing the ball as well as anyone in the tournament. Five-star guard Jabari Brown from Oakland, Calif., scored a game-high 19.
"This meant a lot because we didn't win the Peach Jam and we really wanted to win this," Brown said. "It's pretty easy playing with these guys because everybody is a great player and we feed off each other, we're all unselfish and so that makes it easier."
In front of Drew Gooden, on hand to watch the championship as well, the Soldiers dominated like they had all weekend, simply too much talent for any team to keep up.
Brandon Ashley, the top-rated player by Rivals.com in the 2012 class, had 15 points, eight rebounds (five on the offensive end) and three blocks.
The 6-foot-8 power forward from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd was unstoppable on the offensive end tipping in missed shots and on defense he blocked shots, altered many others and rebounded well.
Five-star forward Kyle Wiltjer had 16 points and was outstanding especially in transition. Even though he's 6 feet 9 and 225 pounds, Wiltjer can fill lanes in transition and finishes well even when he's contested at the basket. Josiah Turner, another five-star guard playing for the Soldiers, had eight points and four assists.
The Soldiers are just too loaded and too talented for many teams to match them for 32 minutes.
Northern Iowa commit Seth Tuttle led the Barnstormers with 16 points, Wes Washpun scored 13 and recent Wisconin pledge Jarrod Uthoff finished with 11 points but it wasn't enough. Iowa trailed by 12 at halftime and couldn't close the gap in the second half.
"We stressed the whole summer we just wanted to win a big tournament and we finally did that," Johnson said. "We played good together and good things happened.
"We felt like we could've won (the Peach Jam). We were 4-0 at the beginning so we definitely felt we had a little chip on our shoulders coming out here."