CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Things wrapped up on Sunday at the Tournament of Champions and the morning games provided some great games from the 17 and 16 and under brackets.
Michael Beasley, DC Assault – When his motor is pushing the red line, he is unstoppable. That was the case on Sunday morning against the Juice All-Stars. The five-star big man put in 30 points in a vintage performance. He scored inside, outside and every where in between. The only problem was, Beasley was the only one pushing the pedal to the floor for the Assault.
Erving Walker, Juice All-Stars – It is hard not to like the diminutive sophomore point guard from Christ the King High School. For starters, he's 5-foot-7 on a good day but he plays like a 6-footer. Always even tempered, Walker never complains with the refs and never complains to his coaches. His 23 points against D.C. Assault certainly earned some respect from the naysayers and followed that up with a tough performance against the Playaz, a bigger, stronger and physical team that threw bodies at him. Walker, a class of 2008 prospect, could be the exception to the unwritten rule that keeps a lot of smaller players out of the big time programs. Walker said Villanova, Florida, Illinois, St. John's, Seton Hall and Rutgers are some of the schools involved with him.
Malcolm Grant, Juice All-Stars – There were stretches in games on Sunday morning where Grant looked like a guy that could make an impact at the Big East level when he enrolls at Villanova. He was consistently knocking down three-pointers, controlling the flow of the game with good passes and disciplined ball-handling. Then there were times where he looked like a back up player that will serve nicely over four years in Philly. Then there were times where he was non-existent. He covered all of the bases in two games.
JaJuan Johnson, Spiece Central Stars – He'll always give you a little taste of how good he can be. Against Kevin Love and the loaded SCA team, Johnson only scored seven points but it was aggressiveness in the flow of the offense that impressed. He went to work from the high block with a turn around jumper, put the ball on the floor from the wing and scored baseline and challenged defenders more. On the defensive end, Johnson met Love on the way up for a dunk and stopped the five-star big man from thundering home two easy points.
Antonio Jardine, Playaz – The future Syracuse commitment brought his game to another level en route to the championship game. He scored 14 points in a heated battle against the Juice All-Stars in the semi-finals, finishing with 19. Gone is the hitch in his shot but Jardine still tends to fall away with the jumper. The ball tends to go in more times than naught and with the hitch now gone, he is getting the shot off quicker and more often. Pair him with Johnny Flynn in the Orange backcourt, Syracuse fans have good reason to be excited with this talented class of 2007 group.
News and notes from the 16U division
Al-Farouq Aminu, Georgia Stars 16U – When discussing the best players in the class of 2008, Aminu's name now needs to be one of the first mentioned. It has been that kind of couple of weeks for the 15-year-old from Norcross (Ga.) High School. His motor sets the tone for his game both inside and out and on both sides of the floor. Considering the fact he did not play varsity basketball as a sophomore, it is scary to think about the player he will become over the next year. It is even scarier to think he could technically be in the class of 2009 because of his age.
Tanner Smith, Georgia Stars 16U – He can add clutch the list of adjectives describing his game. In sudden death, double overtime against the Westchester Hawks, Smith drove hard to the hole, got the foul call and calmly put in the game winning basket to advance to the finals. Mid-major schools are starting to figure out that he will not be playing at their level anymore.
Wesley Witherspoon, Georgia Stars 16U – Natural talent has not been a question for the 6-foot-6 sophomore. The question has been when he will tap into it. The answer was answer this weekend at the TOC. Witherspoon is a do-everything kind of player. His ball-handling skills are strong, passing is good, and scoring went from okay to versatile as the tournament went on. The class of 2008 prospect played a big role in the Stars' climb to the championship game.
Tyshawn Taylor, Westchester Hawks 16U – Put the 6-foot-2 guard from St. Anthony's on the watch list for the summer. His 19 points against the Georgia Stars had people talking. He's athletic, Jersey City tough and bursts to the bucket for baskets. The Hawks have been one of the most successful teams on the 16 and under circuit this spring and Taylor is one of the reasons why.
Mookie Jones, Westchester Hawks 16U – Scoring 22 points against one of the best frontlines in the 16 and under division didn't come as a big surprise if you have followed his play from the spring time. Jones has been very impressive on the circuit and he has justified the recruiting burst from Big East schools with his workmanlike effort on the blocks. Think Gary Johnson. Jones is 6-foot-7, plays like a man possessed and rebounds everything off the rim.
Matthew Humphrey, Meanstreets 16U – The 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard from Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago was the man with the money ball shot on Sunday afternoon in the 16 and under bracket. He buried three big three-pointers to help push Meanstreets over the hump and shifted the momentum to the victory. The lefty is smooth with the ball, found his spots and looked every bit of a high-major player against the Pittsburgh Storm. Humphrey said Marquette, Georgia, Illinois, DePaul, Syracuse and "all of the Illinois schools from top to bottom" are recruiting him.
Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh Storm 16U – There must be something in the water at Aliquippa (Pa.) High School. Playing alongside five-star forward Herb Pope, Baldwin must have picked up a few pointers along the way. The 6-foot-6 forward used athleticism and pure grit to snatch boards, score inside and rolled around for a couple of mid range jumpers. Atlantic 10 schools will probably fight off the power conferences this summer.
Brian Walsh, Pittsburgh Storm 16U – His 17 points against Meanstreets were impressive because the 6-foot-4 guard scored buckets all over the court. Walsh, a rising senior from Moon Township (Pa.) High School, has good size and good basketball smarts that will certainly draw a wide variety of looks this summer.
Junior Cadougan, Grassroots Canada 16U – The Most Outstanding Player in the 16 and under Reebok Shootout did his thing once again in Chapel Hill. Cadougan plays a game from the point guard position that most players in the 2009 class fail to do. He understands every facet of the game in terms of decision making and play making skills. Cadougan is a pure point that does his best scoring in transition all the while finding guys cutting to the basket or running off of screens for scores. Even though the Canadian native is just a rising sophomore, his recruitment is filled with high-majors. North Carolina, LSU, Michigan State, Connecticut, Syracuse, Illinois, Washington, UCLA, Tennessee, Georgia and Arizona are involved. Cadougan said North Carolina and LSU sit atop his short list.
Olu Ashaolu, Grassroots Canada 16U – Cadougan's running mate was equally as strong this weekend. He did what he does best: plays hard, plays above the rim, rebounds like a madman and scores inside. Like Cadougan, Ashaolu is on the high-major radar. The class of 2008 prospect said UNC, LSU, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona and Washington are involved. And like Cadougan, North Carolina and LSU sit atop his short list.