ORLANDO -- The Super Showcase got going in full force in Orlando on Thursday with the 17 and under action beginning and the 16 and under tournament coming to a close. With 12 courts located on the Disney premises, there was good action all around and notable performances galore.
The Big Red Machine rolls along
The Cincinnati Reds were the Big Red Machine in the 70's, and now it is the All-Ohio Red squad. Having lost only one game since April of last year, All-Ohio came home with another title on Thursday.
In All-Ohio's tournament championship win over Albany City Rocks, it was Jared Sullinger that made all the difference. The 6-foot-7 power forward was simply able to score at will. He scored the first three times he touched the ball, and that was just a precursor of things to come.
When his guards didn't do a good job of getting him the ball on the block, Sullinger simply went and got it off the rim. After scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds in the first half, Sullinger just exploded in the second half. He went for 19 points and another eight boards to finish with game highs of 28 points and 16 rebounds.
With Sullinger dominating down low, usually his much ballyhooed supporting cast finishes opponents off with hot shooting or athletic plays, but that wasn't the case on Thursday. It was Aaron Craft who finished with 20 points and was the glue to the All-Ohio team.
For City Rocks it was Tobias Harris that absolutely carved up the All-Ohio defense. At 6-foot-8, Harris can play on the perimeter and he took the All-Ohio defenders to the rack at will. When he wasn't able to get all the way to the rim he scored in the mid-range, and overall was just a machine.
Whenever City Rocks needed a bucket to stay in the game they got one from Harris. He finished with 22 points, and really opened eyes in the process.
Even with Harris playing great, Sullinger and company were just too much. All-Ohio pulled away in the fourth quarter and came home with an 83-69 win and another title.
Lasers pull the upset
Many people anticipated BABC being able to cruise through their pool, but the Alabama Lasers didn't get that memo. The scrappy bunch from the south took it to the highly touted BABC squad in every way possible.
The player who specifically stepped up for the Lasers was Verkeno Mann. Possessing good size and quickness, Mann was able to create for himself and get his shot off. When he did shoot the ball, it usually went in. At one point in time in the second half he hit three threes in a row, and was just unconscious from the field. Overall Mann finished with 25 points, 14 of them in the second half.
Also playing well for the Lasers was Fentress Lockett. Lockett was able to score inside and out, and did a good job of hitting shots from deep and helping to control the big BABC front line headed by Alex Oriakhi.
With Phil Pressey struggling to get his game going, BABC just didn't look like a dominant team. Oriakhi had his moments, but really it was never a game. The Lasers were up by double digits the entire fourth quarter and cruised home with a surprising and dominant win by the score of 71-54.
Young guns coming in Georgia
For the Georgia Blazers Torin Walker is the class of 2009 player who draws the most accolades, but his young teammates really brought it on Thursday against Wisconsin Playground Elite.
Playground Elite features Jamil Wilson on the interior, but he was more than contained by Tim Dixon, LaMichael Fanning, and Brandon Johnson. Dixon and Fanning are both 2011 prospects who are excelling at the 17 and under level while Johnson is an intriguing 2010 forward with bounce.
The Blazers used their big men to score down low, and that kept Playground Elite at bay. Walker was also a shot blocking and rebounding presence. He needs to work on his hands, but his athleticism and wing span were definitely factors in their tournament opening win.
Another very impressive 2011 prospect on the Blazers is Kentavious Caldwell. Caldwell is 6-foot-4 with long arms and the ability to score inside and outside. He was a match up nightmare for Playground Elite, and still has two more summers to refine his game.
Notes from the note pad
Russell Byrd can really shoot the ball. Even though he struggled in his team's loss to the Baltimore Stars, he just has the look of someone who is going to make every shot he puts up. In his second game of the day Byrd found his range and really kept Blessed IJN in the game. His stroke is simply pretty to see.
The Baltimore Stars aren't loaded with high-major talent, but they played well on Thursday. The man who led the way was Devon Saddler. A solid guard with good range, Sadler had 23 points in the Stars blowout of IJN.
The state of Georgia has another gem in Adrian Coleman. In the Georgia Stars opening game Coleman was flat out the best player on the floor. The 6-foot-3 athlete was handling the ball, getting to the rim, and most importantly hitting shots from the perimeter. On Thursday Coleman showed that his performance at the Peach Jam was not joke.
Also playing well for the Stars was Kammeon Holsey and Kenny Hall. The two bouncy forwards were using their athleticism and size to make things difficult on the smaller St. Louis Eagles frontcourt. Hall especially was impressive blocking shots while Holsey was a beast on the boards.
Team Melo big man Andrew Fitzgerald doesn't run the floor all that well, but when he gets the ball on the block with a chance to score, he can do it with the best of them. Team Melo rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the SYF Players in overtime. In the game Fitzgerald had 19 points and several key blocked shots during the extra period.
Even in a losing effort, Scott Wood showed that he can really shoot the basketball. The 6-foot-6 Indiana native is headed down to NC State, and with future coach Sidney Lowe sitting front and center Wood was on fire for a time. He cooled off later on, but with his size and shooting ability he is a match up problem.
The New York Gauchos 17 and under team is playing well, and as usual Durand Scott is the person behind it all. The intense guard was getting into the lane at will and playing tough defense all game. He led a balanced Gaucho attack with 15 points.
Playing with the 16 and 17 teams, Doron Lamb looked a little tired at the end of the day, but certainly at the beginning he wasn't. In the 16 and under semi finals, Lamb had 28 points and scored in every way imaginable.
Torin Walker has a long list of schools showing him a lot of attention. He mentioned Florida, Florida State, Clemson, USC, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn, Kentucky, Georgia State, Xavier, Minnesota, and James Madison.
Devon Saddler is hearing from TCU, Quinnipiac, Drexel, Providence, Fairfield, and Towson.
Verkeno Mann said his suitors include UAB, Murray State, Bucknell, Lehigh, and ETSU. With more days like Thursday that list is sure to expand.
Jordan Sibert of All-Ohio said he now has offers from Ohio State, Tennessee, Xavier, Miami (FL), Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.