FT. WAYNE, Ind. – One of the best tournaments of the spring came to an impressive end on Sunday. While the championship games were of course important, the star attraction actually came in the quarterfinals when Jared Sullinger and Josh Smith faced off.
Individual battles on display
One of the most highly anticipated individual matchups of the spring took place on Sunday morning pitting 6-foot-8, 260-pound Jared Sullinger against 6-foot-10, 270-pound Josh Smith. With Jeremy Tyler leaving the United States for Europe, Sullinger and Smith are maybe the two best low block players in the class.
With the two wide bodies prepared to take on each other, many were wondering who would get the best of the battle, and from the very beginning it was obvious that Sullinger was going to come out on top.
Though Sullinger is shorter than Smith, he was able to bother Smith with his length on defense, and on offense with a variety of post moves and an uncanny ability to offensive rebound. In fact, rebounding is where the difference between the two was most notable.
Sullinger pulled in seven boards in the first half as compared to only three for Smith, and many of those led directly to points. Also Sullinger limited Smith's touches by playing good post defense, while more often than not Sullinger got the ball in a position to score.
In the first half of their battle Sullinger had 10 points and seven rebounds compared to Smith's four points and three rebounds, and the second half was much of the same. Sullinger was able to get Smith into some foul trouble by beating him with post moves, and when Smith was out of the game Sullinger completely dominated on the glass.
Overall Smith had a few nice plays, including a pair of late dunks, but still the damage was done. All-Ohio cruised to a win, and Sullinger himself looked great in the process. For the game Sullinger finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds while Smith was limited to 11 points and six rebounds.
Obviously Sullinger and Smith weren't alone, and while it was under the radar, and interesting matchup took place between Anthony Wroten Jr. and Aaron Craft. Wroten is one of the top offensive players in the 2011 class while Craft is one of the premier defenders in the 2010 class.
The two of them went at it all game long, and Wroten showed some of why he is thought of so highly. At 6 feet 4 with a strong frame and athleticism to spare, Wroten really did a lot of damage in the post. He posted up the shorter All-Ohio guards, including Craft, and was able to really get things going. Also playing closer to the bucket put him in a good position to rebound and convert.
Using his quickness and strength, Wroten was able to get Craft in some foul trouble, and that really allowed him to get going on the offensive end. Wroten finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in an impressive effort. Overall he showed the natural ability that many have been so impressed with in his time on the AAU circuit.
Davis Leads Team Indiana to Championship
Indiana Elite-Team Indiana is one of the better 16 and under squads in the country, and a huge reason for that is the man running the show for them. Point guard Darwin Davis won a state title during the high school season, and showed his unique combination of leadership and natural ability.
Though he stands only about 5-foot-9, Davis is the leader of his team. Using his special ability to break his man down off the dribble with his incredible quickness, Davis would set up his teammates for easy buckets or score on his own.
In the 16 and under championship against the Ohio Basketball Club, Davis made all the difference. Davis' ability to control the show allowed Team Indiana to get out in transition on offense which led to numerous easy buckets. Also his play guarding the ball on defense was quite impressive. Even though his numbers weren't huge, 14 points, his impact on the game was much greater than that.
Overall behind the strong leadership and performance from Davis, Team Indiana was able to come home with the tournament championship.
More notable performances
In a very exciting game between Boo Williams and All-Ohio Red in the 17 and under semi finals, Travis McKie of Boo Williams had one of the better games we have seen from him. He hit threes, was athletic finishing above the rim, played good defense, and even scored off the dribble. Of his 23 points, many came in the fourth quarter. A quarter in which Boo scored 40 points, and cut down a 19 point lead to two before falling by the score of 89-87.
Also playing well for Boo Williams was Kendall Marshall. The future North Carolina floor general was also instrumental in leading Boo out of their big deficit against All-Ohio. He scored 18 points on a variety of floaters, driving layups, and deep jump shots, but most important he played solid defense down the stretch and lead his teammates. Marshall showed the court awareness and savvy that makes him such an impressive player for Boo Williams.
One of the better performers all weekend long was James McAdoo. McAdoo has a rare combination of size, athleticism, and strength. Though he battled foul trouble against All-Ohio, McAdoo still showed the glimpses of what makes him so highly recruited.
While his other teammates get all the headlines, All-Ohio guard Kevin Gray plays a valuable role. He is a very good shooter from deep, and also plays excellent defense. Despite being undersized for a scoring guard, Gray does all the little things for All-Ohio, and was actually their second leading scorer with 15 points in the title game win.
Once again the Illinois Warriors backcourt of Vander Blue and Ahmad Starks was tough to deal with. They led their team to a trip to the finals, and in the championship game both made a huge impact. Blue and Starks scored 18 points apiece, and had to do it against some definite pressure defense. Blue showed some impressive range on his three ball, and Starks shot it well from deep to go along with finishing on drives through the lane by using his quickness.
Playing well for the Mac Irvin 16 and under squad was Sam Thompson The long and lean small forward showed his ability to score from deep as well as finish inside the arc with his athletic ability. While he couldn't lead Mac Irvin past the Ohio Basketball Club, he was a tough matchup and put the entire skill set on display.
Another member of the 2011 class who showed off his game was Stevie Taylor. The diminutive point guard was very good in the 16 and under championship game. His shot was falling from deep, and that allowed him to use his quickness to beat his opponents off the dribble. Taylor finished with a game high 24 points, and almost single handedly kept OBC in the game against Team Indiana.
In the 2012 class one player in specific really stepped up. With a short bench, All-Ohio called on the services of Elijah Macon to play at the 17 and under level. The 6-foot-7 forward more than held his own against some of the best teams in the country. Using his athleticism and rebounding ability, Macon scored 12 points against Boo Williams and even hit key free throws with under 10 seconds to go to keep All-Ohio in the lead. Overall Macon made a major impression with his play, and at times was the second best player on the floor for All-Ohio.
One of the more intriguing bigs in the 2012 class is Hanner Perea. He is still learning how to play the game, but at 6-foot-9 he is a big time athlete who can finish with authority on offense and impact the game on defense. As he gets more seasoning he could be interesting to follow.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera also had a good day on Sunday. The powerfully built guard is at his best using his strength to get to the rim and finish, but also he is capable of knocking down shots from deep when he gets a clean look. At the moment his strength is tough for most 15 and under players to deal with, and Smith-Rivera uses that to his advantage.
St. Joseph's High School in Chicago is one of the more storied programs in the Windy City and a new star looks to be on the horizon. Cameron Harvey is a good looking wing guard who shows the combination of athleticism and skill that is intriguing in a freshman. He must get stronger, but on Sunday he made impact with his natural ability.
Also in the windy city is 6-foot-8 power forward Jermaine Morgan. Morgan plays up an age group, but he isn't out of his element. With long arms and athleticism Morgan's defense is currently ahead of his offense, but as he gets stronger he could be one to watch.
17 and under: All-Ohio Red 56 def. Illinois Warriors 55
16 and under: Indiana Elite-Team Indiana 74 def. Ohio Basketball Club 63
15 and under: Spiece Indy Heat 74 def. Spiece Indy Stars 67