LAS VEGAS - The Rivals.com Rivals.com Summer Showcase presented by Vision Sports tipped off on Thursday, but the action will really get started on Friday, when most of the camp's bigger names arrive to play in front of college coaches for the first time in July as the NCAA's Evaluation Period begins.
While there will certainly be some well known recruits in attendance, the Summer Showcase looks to be an event where several prospects that haven't gotten a good look from college coaches can prove themselves as players who deserve more recruiting attention. (Click here for 17U schedule)
On Thursday, we got a look at some players who have flown under the radar up to this point. But that could change if their performances throughout the weekend mirror what they did on the tournament's first night.
The first game we watched was the only one that featured a four-star prospect, which was Vegas Rebels small forward Raevon Samuel. Of course, Samuel has his ranking on the gridiron, where he's Rivals.com's 35th ranked wide receiver prospect in the country.
Two of Samuel's Rebel teammates have respectable football reputations. He shares the court with three-star athlete Devonte Christopher and three-star wide receiver Juron Criner.
The first half of the team's opening game against Lakeshow saw Samuel use his athleticism to easily get to the basket, but also stepped out and hit a three en route to 11 points to go with his five boards. However, he didn't add to either total as a wrist injury severely limited him in the second half.
Criner scored five points and Christopher had one, but the most skilled player on the team looked to be 5-foot-6 point guard Pierre Jackson. The 2009 floor leader is tough, constantly driving to the lane to create for his teammates, but also scoring off of good shots, as he had 12 points in the game.
Jackson has the ball handling and feel for the game to definitely earn more attention than he's received to date, which is letters from two schools – Oregon and Long Beach State. He might be undersized, but we've been consistently impressed with his toughness and playmaking ability every time the Las Vegas Rebels take the court.
The Rebels ended up losing the game 66-56 to a Lakeshow squad that played hard and as a team throughout the contest. They were led by 6-foot-3 class of 2008 guard Brian Stafford, who had a game-high 24 points.
Up next was B. Bass All-Stars against Las Vegas Dynasty Silver, a game that featured a couple impressive guards who stood out for different reasons. B. Bass is named after Brandon Bass, the ex-LSU star who now plays for the New Orleans Hornets.
Brandon's little brother, Chris Bass, is an interesting prospect who has received some good recruiting attention to date. Bass told us that he's hearing from Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina and Minnesota, among others.
The 6-foot-0, 175-pound 2008 point guard has a terrific handle and can easily get to the basket with his dribbling and quickness. He's also a very good on-the-ball defender.
Bass is almost too quick for his own good and on Thursday, he sometimes got himself into trouble by driving too far instead of finding the open man. He can easily take his man off the dribble so once he learns to consistently drive and create, he'll take his game to the next level. We'll definitely keep an eye on him all tournament long.
On the Dynasty was 6-foot-0, 160-pound guard Demetric Williams. The 2009 prospect stars in the same backcourt as classmate Elijah Johnson, who is ranked 37th in the country by Rivals.com.
Colleges are obviously heading out to Las Vegas to watch Johnson, so it's surprising that Williams isn't getting any attention at all. He says he's not even getting letters, so there are either a lot of schools missing the boat or his game against the B. Bass All-Stars was an aberration.
Williams scored 14 points on Thursday, showing a good looking outside shot in the process, but that's not what stood out the most. He consistently found the open man, smoothly getting past his defender to get himself into position to create for his teammates.
We'll be watching Williams throughout the weekend to see if he can build on what was certainly an impressive opening game from the 2009 sleeper.
The next game had the most exciting ending, as the San Diego Cougars and Las Vegas Stars traded baskets back and forth over the past minute, with the hometown team winning on a free throw by 2008 wing Ronald Barnes with 0.2 seconds on the clock.
Despite coming up short, the player of the game was lightning-quick 2008 guard Aaron Simpson, who scored 28 points in the game, 12 of which came from long range. He also had some big assists down the stretch.
The nightcap was a 93-74 victory for Marcus Banks Dynasty over Southwest Scorpions. The Dynasty won easily, but we were impressed by Scorpions' point guard Stephon Lamar, a 6-foot-2 class of 2009 prospect from St. Augustine High School in San Diego.
Lamar, who moved to Southern California from Tempe (Ariz.), has the tools to earn some good recruiting interest. He can shoot from three-point range – easily, in fact - and has good handles. Lamar did force his shot a little too much and it was no coincidence that the shots he forced didn't go in and those that came to him dropped.
2008 Utah State commitment Deremy Geiger led the way with 26 points in Marcus Banks Dynasty's victory. 6-foot-4 2008 guard Phil Payne helped out with 23 points of his own.
On Friday, some of the bigger name AAU programs like the Houston Hoops, Miami Tropics and Arizona Magic take the stage, and we'll have reports on all the standouts following the day's action.