DURHAM, N.C. -- Friday night at Duke University had some highlights on the first day of action at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.
Sometimes you just have to dig to find the gems on opening night of big, national events. Tucked away in the steamy Card Gym on Duke's campus, the Juice All-Stars and W.P.C. Elite put together the best game of the night.
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Led by James Padgett's 26 points, the Juice All-Stars claimed a hard fought 66-58 victory. Padgett was the story of the night and one of the nice surprises at the power forward position in the class of 2009.
Padgett isn't really a new name on the national circuit but watching his game blossom has been a treat. The 6-foot-8 power forward from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln played the supporter role to five-star Lance Stephenson
Padgett has had a chance to spread his wings and prove his worth in the lead role. Paired against a rotating defender of Terrell Vinson and Isaiah Armwood, Padgett passed with flying colors, scoring everything he got his hands on (both left and right) down low. He fought for the ball on the defensive end and chased down loose balls and rebounds.
What has been the secret to his success this spring?
"Confidence," Padgett says matter-of-factly. "That's what gets you going. That's what makes you want to play harder. I've been basically working on everything and I think it's paying off."
Mix in the fact that Padgett is a good student and the recipe generally works out well for guys like him. The future Rivals150 prospect scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and had roughly a dozen (or more) rebounds to boot.
He said his recruitment picked up after the spring period, picking up interest from Providence, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's and Kentucky. If he plays like he did on Friday in July, the list should double with a snap of a finger. He's off to a good start and it doesn't look like things will be slowing down.
"He's getting better and better," Tiny Morton, Padgett's high school and AAU coach, said. "He was too skinny to do much down low and now he's getting bigger and better. His footwork is getting better. He's getting stronger. He just knows how to play basketball better now."
Padgett wasn't the only stud in this match-up. Vinson, a four-star forward, scored a game high 29 points and made it look easy. The 6-foot-7 forward has been making the full-time transition to the wing and judging by his success in the midrange and from three as a shooter, he's making good steps in that direction.
Vinson was the hardest player to defend on the floor because he could score the ball in so many different ways. His effort was inspired and when the going got tough, he was the lone guy that stepped up on the offensive end of the floor, scoring from deep, at the rim and from the foul line.
HOME SWEET HOME
Mason Plumlee played his first game inside the walls of Cameron Indoor Stadium since committing to the program and the locals came to see him in action. The Blue Devil commitment clearly understands the religion of Duke hoops. He soaked it all in on Friday night. The Cameron Crazies, at least some of them, piled into the cozy confines of college basketball's most sacred venue to see Plumlee in action.
The four-star big man showed a little bit of why Coach K and crew wanted to lock him up early. The long and versatile big man scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in an easy win over the Las Vegas Prospects.
Plumlee is a rare prospect because of his size, skill level and versatility. He passes it well and runs the floor like a guard. The big man must get stronger and must finish the chip shots around the rim though. He could have easily had 20-plus points had he converted the easy ones. Overall though, the Crazies were buzzing with his play after the game.
FRIDAY NIGHT STANDOUTS
In a class where point guards are slim pickings, Indiana locked up local product Jordan Hulls last week. After seeing him for the first time, it's easy to see why. For starters, he's a scrapper that clearly grew up on cream and crimson fundamentals. He hit his open threes and played with a toughness that the Hoosier fans will love over the next five years.
Outside of Indiana, well, being Indiana for a home grown product, Hulls said the decision to suit up for Tom Crean was easy.
"It'll be nice to go home and get some of mom's cooking whenever I want to," Hulls, a Bloomington, Ind. native, said.
Future IU teammate Bobby Capobianco will also have his fair share of fans around Assembly Hall. The 6-foot-8 tight end look alike goes to work like it's a good nine to five job with great overtime.
His motor sets the tone and he blocked a number of shots with some power. Capobianco has good hands and toughed his way to the free throw line, where he made quick work from the charity stripe.
Las Vegas is known for being a place where you can be whoever you want to be whenever you want to be them. Alter-egos are the norm in Sin City. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise to see Anthony Marshall wearing a lot of hats for his team and embodying several different roles.
In a tough blow out loss to Indiana Elite, Marshall, at times, looked like a one-man wrecking machine. The 6-foot-3 guard from Mojave High School scored when needed to, which was a lot on Friday, passed when he needed to, defended as well as he could and scored from deep, at the rim and from the foul line. His game was a little bit of everything and he emptied the tank in a tough loss.
Even though Isaiah Armwood didn't really have a great game against the Juice All-Stars, the 6-foot-8 forward had some strong moments with the W.P.C. Elite. Armwood looks noticeably stronger and because of his jumper on the wing, ability to handle the ball and score in a variety of ways, the big boys are going to line up for him. He's clearly a unique talent and it's no wonder with the likes of Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse and Villanova are on his short list.
HI, MY NAME IS..
Legends are being born these days on the 'net thanks to the evolution of YouTube. And when the clips of North Carolina guard Hunter McClintock hit the world wide web, fans were buzzing.
On Friday night, the .com phenom went to work in real life for Southeast Elite. Playing his first game with a new team, the class of 2008 guard steadied the ship for the Alabama-based club and put on an entertaining show.
The Durham, N.C. product scored 16 points, including three three-pointers and showed off some fancy ball-handling. His basketball IQ is high and his shot was good, albeit slow out of his hands, when it needed to be.
McClintock is said he will take part in Kentucky's elite camp next week in Lexington. He is hoping to earn a late offer from the Wildcats.
"Things are getting pretty serious with them," the 6-foot-1 guard said. "I'd like to get up there for their elite camp and go from there."
If UK offers, he admitted it would be hard to turn a chance to play at that level down. Gonzaga and Air Force were also in the picture, he said.
Triple Threat wing Dwayne Jackson was an eye-catcher because of his length at 6-5, versatility from the wing and effectiveness for his team.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The New England Playaz have two of the best young players in the event in Jason Morris (2010) and Nadir Tharpe (2011). Morris, a cut 6-foot-5 super freak athlete, was in a groove on Friday, scoring at the rim, on the wing and at the foul line.
Tharpe, a heady point guard, is a nice orchestrator of the offense and makes friends quickly with his timely and crisp passing. The two were in a nice groove on Friday and will be very good high-major players when their time comes down the road at the college level.
Southeast Elite freshman Trevor Lacey doesn't play like a freshman. He has an old school feel and he has a frame that will be great for the highest level possible. The class of 2011 stud has a variety of moves that most kids his age don't understand. Lacey has clear superstar power.
NOTES FROM THE NOTEPAD
Erik Murphy, a 2009 Florida commitment, did what you'd expect from a guy headed to a high level program. He scored the easy ones, quietly led his team and didn't force the issue. He's a skilled shooter and passer. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to play. He was simply good late Friday night. Word is, his little brother Alex Murphy has a chance to be special. He's a class of 2012 prospect and already 6-foot-7 with a Mike Miller like game.
Despite playing on a chipped bone at the end of his tibia, recent Kentucky commitment Jon Hood still found success against Triple Threat. The long combo guard/point forward got to the foul line often in the first half and converted the chip shots. Hood had 14 points in a half. Clearly not able to get lift off of his injured leg, he found other ways to get his job done.
New Yorkers have the best nicknames for players. Each year, you can guarantee the best handle for one particular player. This year's winner is Juice point guard Darwin Ellis. The 5-foot-9 point guard from Brooklyn Lincoln goes by "Buddha." His basketball karma was good on Friday night, scoring 19 points and using his speed on a slippery floor to get into the paint with ease as well as stopping and popping for jumpers.
Every time North Carolina forward Kevin Powell was on the floor for Southeast Elite, his team would climb to a 10-point lead. Every time the 6-foot-6 powe forward was on the bench, the lead diminished. Playing with Southeast Elite for the first time ever, he clearly showed his value with the team as a rebounder and paint presence. Good mid-level schools would be best served to recruit him.
Catching up with Patterson head coach Chris Chaney in the stands led to a couple of nuggets of note. Unsigned senior Varez Ward still isn't getting close to a decision. With a number of schools still looking and still interested, particularly Arkansas and Texas, Ward has a number of good options to choose from.
Rashanti Harris, one of the few unsigned and legitimate high-majors still on the 2008 recruiting board, is at Patterson and did fairly well academically in his first semester at the North Carolina school. Chaney said Memphis is looking like a leading contender for the 6-foot-10 big man from Mississippi.
It's always fun to look through the roster books at the TOC. Why? Because guys like Latavious Williams, a newly crowned five-star prospect in the class of 2009, is listed on at least six different teams. He's in North Carolina this weekend with the D.C. Assault club.
Recent Indiana commitment Maurice Creek was not on hand with Triple Threat, his usual AAU team.