HOUSTON, TEXAS - The championship games are on tap for the Academy National Invitational but the early morning games provided fans with some memorable games, including a thrilling double overtime victory for Peabody (La.) High School while Jai Lucas and Nic Wise paired up in a down to the wire battle.
Free basketball for everyone
Nobody knew much about Peabody (La.) and LeFlore (Ala.) High Schools prior to the Academy National Invitational. And nobody knew that between the two of them, there would be at least eight Division I players. The two battled it out through two overtimes with Peabody coming out on top 70-68.
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The two Southern schools met up in the seventh place game in the morning and for the coaches - Auburn, Georgetown, Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee and Virginia - that stuck around for it, that may pay off on the recruiting front down the road.
Peabody senior Rodney Jones drove down the middle of the floor with five seconds to play in the second overtime and dropped in a 12 foot jumper that gave the Warhorses the hard fought victory.
Jones was the offensive answer down the stretch as he scored a game high 26 points on 10 of 18 shooting from the floor. The 6-foot-5 senior is a good low to mid-level prospect and said Colorado State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Southeastern, UC Santa Barbara, Stephen F. Austin and Texas-San Antonio are recruiting him the hardest.
For the third straight day, Marcus Simmons wowed fans and recruiters with his Dwyane Wade like quality to his game. The 6-foot-4 junior guard may have only scored 13 points and turned the ball over four times, including a late mistake in the overtime period but to fully understand just how good Simmons is, you have to come and watch him play.
Simmons has a non-stop motor and showed off skills from every spot on the floor. He posted up the guards and big, defended both in and out, passed the rock and even took a couple of an offensive charges. Not a bad repertoire of skills for a guy that no one has really heard of. But talk to him and Simmons says his showing at the ANI wasn't as good as everyone thinks.
"That was the worst that I've played the whole year," Simmons said. "Coming here, I learned that I got to get stronger and hit the weights if I want to be better."
"He's a very modest guy," Peabody head coach Charles Smith said. "I need him to come out and take more of a charge of the game. He has that ability in him."
Simmons didn't play AAU basketball last year and just transferred to Peaboby this season from Menard High School
"He played the post there because he was the biggest guy there and we've worked on him at the guard spot and he's been doing pretty good at it," Smith said. "This kid is going to play at the next level. He's a d-one guy."
A mighty good Division I guy at that. Simmons said Oklahoma State was recruiting him the hardest at the moment as Oklahoma, LSU, USC, Tulsa, Kansas State, Charlotte, Louisiana Tech and Northwest State all have him on the mailing list.
He's going to get to know his mailman a lot over the next couple of weeks. The high-majors that watched him at the ANI are quickly making him a priority in the class of 2007. Simmons earned it the old-fashioned way this week.
LeFlore had their chances and gave as good of an effort that you'd expect from an Otis Hughley club. With senior Johnny Mayhanne, a 6-foot-5 wing, roaming around the perimeter, LeFlore was always going to be in the game.
Mayhane finished with 21 points and was the team's most consistent player all week. Hughley said South Alabama, Colorado State and Tulane top his short list.
Sophomore Nick Williams, a 6-foot-4 player without a position, was a pleasant surprise at the ANI. He connected on a huge jumper that helped send the game to double overtime. Williams finished with 19 points and leaves Houston with his name on a number of high-major mailing lists.
Make no mistake about it. The city of Houston loves Kingwood guard Nic Wise. Well, everyone expect for Bellaire High School on Friday. Wise
Watching Wise you gain a great appreciation for what a tremendous passer he really is. The box score had him for six assists to compliment his 18 points but Wise probably pushed the double digit figures in assists.
Wise responded like the poised player that he is after a dismal opening game at the ANI. The future Arizona Wildcat picked himself up, dusted himself off and made things happen in the two games that followed.
Kingwood took advantage of hot shooting from junior Mike Singletary, who dialed in for three three-pointers en route to 16 points. It was a game that the 6-foot-5 forward needed to have. He hasn't looked like the same player that shined as a sophomore in a while.
Bellaire point guard Jai Lucas was incredibly frustrated in the defeat, going scoreless in the second half and finished three of 13 from the floor.
In this day and age of instant analysis and information, finding a true sleeper is a near rarity these days. But this Lawrence Gilbert really emerged at this year's Academy National Invitational. The 6-foot-7 small forward from Wheatley High School had his third straight impressive showing at the ANI with a 20 point, nine rebound, seven assist and four blocks in a big win over Jones High School.
Gilbert is one of the best wing prospects still available in the class of 2006. He said USC, Miami, Texas A&M, Tulane and Baylor are the five schools currently on his list. Best of all, Gilbert says he is fully qualified.
Future Texas guard Harrison Smith had his second 30-plus point game of the tournament. On Friday, he erupted for a season high 38 points. Smith was the only guy for Jones that seemed to take, and more importantly, make big shots.
He does a great job of slashing to the bucket and finding a way to get to the foul line. He sank home 14 of 20 from the charity stripe. Mix him with the athletic Justin Mason and the craftiness of D.J. Augustin and the 'Horns have one heck of a trio in the backcourt next season.
Sam Hannes, a 6-foot-7 sweet shooting wing from Cornerstone Christian, had it going in the morning game. The unsigned senior went for 23 points against Eisenhower and showed off is textbook jumper. He may be a step too slow at the highest level but guys that can dial it up from deep catch on with the big boys late in the game. According to Cornerstone head coach Walt Webb, Baylor, Utah, Cal and Liberty are all high on the list for Hannes.
Beas Hamga, the raw but talented sophomore center from Cornerstone Christian, had another solid game offensively inside. The 6-foot-11 big man had 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in the contest.