ATLANTA, GA - It was as good as it gets. That seemed to be the theme on Saturday at the Wallace Prather Memorial tournament at Georgia Tech. Lance Stephenson and Renardo Sidney certainly made day two of the inaugural event worth it. The 2009 prospects put on a show that will have people talking for a while.
One to remember
Renardo Sidney of the MBA Magic against Lance Stephenson of the Juice All-Stars. That was the battle that everyone wanted to see and it lived up to its must see billing. The pair of the top prospects from the class of 2009 squared off against each other on Saturday afternoon and it was the match-up that people will be talking about for a while.
The game had the feeling of Stephenson's memorable match-up from last year's ABCD camp where he tangled with O.J. Mayo. The emotion of the crowd was dictated by each basket scored and every move made. The freshmen gave the crowd plenty to squabble about.
The majority of the taunts were centered on the argument of who really is the better prospect in the class of 2009. Stephenson, a 6-foot-4 guard from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln or Sidney, a 6-foot-9 forward from Piney Woods (Miss.) High School?
When players are trading buckets, blocks and big plays, it is hard to say who really the best is. Stephenson may have had the leg up on Saturday because of the big win and a game high 24 points. Sidney capped off a great game with 20 points. Call it a draw but the win went to Stephenson and his Juice All-Stars team.
When Stephenson would score with his lethal step back three pointer, Sidney would come back down the court with a nasty move to the basket for a two hand flush. When Sidney would block a shot into the stands, Stephenson would fly down the floor for a big rejection of his own in transition. It was one of those games.
"Man, I've been waiting for this all summer," Stephenson said. "I've been working hard for a game like this."
It showed. Stephenson played like a man on a mission. He said he was ready for the game for a while.
"He plays hard and he is a great player and I love playing against the best competition out there," Stephenson said. "I just wanted to show a little more that I was the better player.
"When the competition is there, you have to step up. I want to play against the best. You can put any player in my face and I'll play him. I want to play hard and work hard. That's what it is all about."
Stephenson said he is being recruited by all of the high-major programs. He rattled of a list that included North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Syracuse, Michigan and Kansas.
As Stephenson and Sidney went at it, the rest of the game's stars made sure people knew about them. The Juice backcourt of Erving Walker, a 5-foot-5 guard that plays bigger than his diminutive size and Malcolm Grant, the future Villanova guard, both play incredibly hard on both ends.
Walker is a scrappy player that defends anything and everything that comes his way. He is pesky like a gnat on a summer's day. And that is a compliment. Grant just makes plays. He was involved in everything. After a year spent at the Wincendon School in Mass., Grant will enter Villanova as a bigger, tougher (if that is possible) guard that before. That's scary.
Sidney had help from his right hand man Romero Osby all day Saturday. The built 6-foot-7 forward put in 20 points in a morning game against the Surry Stars and 16 points against the Juice All-Stars. He's a difficult match-up because of his strength, body and athleticism. Osby has had a couple of jaw-dropping, stop the action plays. Consistently strong all weekend, he was one of the top 2008 prospects in the field. Osby said he is hearing from Tennessee, UNC, Memphis and Georgia Tech the most.
Top 2007 performers
Eric Wallace, D-One Sports – After being down by nearly 20 points to the Worldwide Renegades, the junior told his team to climb on his back. The 6-foot-6 wing forward from Glenn High School had his shot dropping in the second half and helped his squad pick up a huge win. He rattled home a pair of pull up three-pointers and confidently shot good shot after good shot.
Mike Holmes, South Carolina Ravens – The future South Carolina Gamecock has been working on his perimeter game since the season ended and he is showing anyone and everyone that will watch that his shot is legitimate. In each of his games at the tournament, he has sunk at least two three-pointers. He finished with 18 points against Team Memphis. Mix his new found consistency from beyond the arc with his blue collar approach to the game around the basket and you have yourself a difficult player to defend. Overall, it was a very good weekend for the Palmetto State native.
Maurice Miller, Team Memphis – Playing with a new team just for the Wallace Prather Memorial tournament, the 6-foot-1 point guard from Raleigh-Egypt High School took the leadership reigns in his hands and stepped up as the team's on the court coach. Offensively, he had it working against the South Carolina Ravens, going for 22 points. He knows how to play the game and found his spots to score, make the pass and drove to the bucket for scores.
Zach Graham, Georgia Hurricanes – His bread and butter is getting to the free throw line. In the morning game, the 6-foot-5 wing forward scored 20 points and converted eight of 10 free throws. His offense is predicated on getting into the lane, scoring at the rim or finding slashing teammates going down the baseline or drawing the foul and sinking home the freebies.
2008 prospects enjoy a big games
Murphy Holloway, South Carolina Ravens 16U – In a team full of Division I prospects, no one brings it from start to finish each and every game for his team quite like the 6-foot-7 garbage man forward. Holloway is a junk yard dog of a player, grabbing a number of offensive rebounds and putting them back in for scores. Against the Atlanta Celtics and Howard Thompkins, the lefty forward recorded a big double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. The spring has been good for the sophomore. His recruitment is off the charts. Holloway said Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, Clemson and DePaul lead the charge.
Lashay Page, South Carolina Ravens 16U – Known primarily as a scorer, particularly from the left wing, the 6-foot guard put the ball on the floor and created offense for his teammates. Playing against the Atlanta Celtics, a team full of talented guards, Page did a good job of not being denied access into the paint. His point guard skills came through in this one in a big way all the while knocking down his open shots from deep.
Howard Thompkins, Atlanta Celtics Green 16U – The class of 2008 isn't a big national secret. With over 1,000 points already scored in his high school career, the 6-foot-8 forward from Wesleyan High School demands attention whenever he plays. Rightfully so. But it was his outlet passes and shot-blocking against the South Carolina Ravens that shined through. Thompkins had at least seven blocks and five great down court passes that translated into buckets. He is rounding out his game and adding the pieces to his Danny Manning like offensive game.
Jarrett Mann, Playaz 16U – The 6-foot-4 guard from Middletown (Del.) High School wears number 22 for Jimmy Salmons's squad. Mann knows the last player who wore the double deuce and how well he did on the AAU circuit. While Mann is no Wayne Ellington, the last wearer of number 22, he's certainly on his way to a handful of high-major offers. Mann is a smooth operator with the ball and can score it in a number of ways. He finished with 22 points and was the offensive spark in a win over ta good Smyrna Stars team. Defensively, he isn't too shabby either. Man said he likes Illinois, Georgetown, Texas, Florida, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Rutgers early in the process.
Austin Johnson, Playaz 16U – The 6-foot-7 forward from Cheltenham (Pa.) High School is a good looking combo forward. He has good size, good length and a good feel for the game. He runs well and scores at the basket. Defensively, he makes things happen because he will put a body on somebody and make people work. Johnson said he is holding offers from Rutgers and Villanova while NC State and Penn State are watching closely.
Victor Davila, Surry Stars – Perhaps the biggest, and most pleasant, surprise of the tournament was the well-built 6-foot-9 forward from Starmount (N.C.) High School. The Puerto Rico native went right at anyone that was matched up with him. Against Renardo Sidney, Davila scored on a number of impressive moves around the basket. He's much quicker and more explosive than he looks. It comes no surprise that Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, UNC Charlotte, UNC, Appalachian State, NC State, Michigan, Kansas, Florida and Miami are recruiting him. He has high-major written all over him.
Carter McMasters, Smyrna Stars – The 6-foot-10, 215-pound big man from Grace Academy in Chattanooga didn't have it going offensively against the Playaz but there is a high-major big man inside of him. A confident and fluid shooter, McMasters will knock down threes like a shooting guard. Mechanically, he knows what he is doing. He'd be perfect in a pick and pop situation at the next level. What was most impressive about his game is his added strength has allowed him to be a more confident rebounder close to the basket.
Jarvis Jones, M33M Ballers – Word from his last game of the tournament had the lefty guard from Memphis (Tenn.) Mitchell for 44 points, including 11 three-pointers made. The 6-foot-2 guard is finding his niche as a terrific scorer and is gaining more confidence by the game.
Chris Singleton, Atlanta Celtics Gold 16U – When a prospect is 6-foot-7 wing forward that can bury the long ball, run the floor like a guard, block shots like a center and jump out of the gym, the word big-time seems to follow you around. Singleton has big-time potential. It is up to him on how often he wants to tap into it. When he does, we're talking about a big-time high-major kid. On Saturday, he showed flashes here and there. That big one is still waiting for him.
Delwan Graham, Atlanta Celtics Gold 16U – The 6-foot-5 forward from Dunwoody (Ga.) High School is putting the pieces together. This AAU season could spring board him to a great junior season. Athletically, he is one of the best in his class. Body wise, he is mature beyond his years. And he knows how to mix the two of those together. Graham watched workhorse Anjuan Wilderness lead his team to a state championship. Graham could be a better college prospect when it is all said and done.
Andre Young, Columbus Blazers Red – He is small. Now that the one major concern is out of the way for the 5-foot-7 guard, let's get to the good stuff. The sophomore from Deerfield-Windsor High School is a great game manager. That has always been his strength. Now his perimeter game is refined and he has hit big threes in the tournament. Coaches love his feel for the game. Now if only he can sprout up a couple more inches for the high-majors. If not, a mid-major program will be very happy to sign him in a couple of years. Very happy.
Hi, my name is…
Justin Brownlee, Smyrna Stars – Put the 6-foot-6 athletic wing forward from Tift Co. (Ga.) High School on the sleeper list. The bouncy and built post grad bound forward has been the stabilizing force for the Stars this spring. He has a great motor and a game that is steadily improving. Likely headed to the Patterson School in North Carolina, Brownlee could be a name that gains more national notoriety on the prep school scene. He has a list of Auburn, Florida and Florida State heading into his prep year.
Brandon Cooks, MBA Magic – Who is that kid? That question was thrown around at least four times in the last two days regarding the 6-foot-8 forward from Genesis One. He makes quiet but important plays. Moreover, he has been the team's most aggressive rebounder for the Magic. As schools look for big men like a treasure hunt, Cook could be the sleeper that everyone is trying to find. He's efficient game in and game out.
Gaby Ngoundjo, Arkansas Hawks - The 6-foot-7 forward might have the longest arms in the tournament and he knows it. The class of 2007 big man uses his great length to block shots and clean everything off the glass. He has the tools becoming a hot commodity with some high-majors late in the game.
Marcus Kitts, Carolina Celtics – William and Mary stole this kid. The 6-foot-8 forward committed early to the CAA program and people are starting to figure out just how good he is. The Apex, N.C. native will go to work inside the paint, playing hard against all comers. He keeps the ball high on offense, rebounds with a purpose and will play hard from tip to the final buzzer.
Prospects name favorites
Brandon Walters, Juice All-Stars – The 6-foot-8 forward from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln has opened a lot of eyes with his play from the spring. Walters said he is hearing from Pitt, St. John's, Rutgers, Florida and Michigan.
Malcolm Kirkland, MBA Magic – Playing alongside Sidney and Osby, the 6-foot-9 big man from Jackson, Miss., picked his spots to shine this weekend. He's a guy the high-majors are watching closely from the class of 2007. Kirkland said Connecticut, Syracuse, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn and Clemson are all looking at him hard.
Justin Knox, Birmingham Raptors – The 6-foot-8 forward from Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Central High School enjoyed a good morning game to the tune of 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks against the Georgia Blazers Black team. Knox, a sturdy post presence, has opened some eyes with his spring play. He said Florida, East Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, Arkansas-Little Rock, Auburn, Tennessee and South Florida are all involved in his recruitment after April.
Trevor Gaskin, Georgia Hurricanes – The lefty guard went to work in the morning game, scoring 23 points, including 9-12 free throws. The 6-foot-1 guard from Milton High School in metro Atlanta said Colgate, Toledo and Western Carolina are recruiting him.
Jeremy Simmons, Georgia Hurricanes – After enjoying a big showing at the Kingwood Classic, the 6-foot-7 forward from Tucker (Ga.) High School said his recruitment has skyrocketed. Simmons said he is hearing from Georgia, Stanford, Tennessee, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Georgia State now.
Kenyan Harmon. South Carolina Ravens – Since re-opening his recruitment from UNC Charlotte, the 6-foot-6 small forward from North Augusta, S.C. via the Patterson School (N.C.) is now looking at Auburn, Miami, Arizona, Iowa and UNC Charlotte.
Mike Rosario, Playaz – The St. Anthony's guard said he is holding an offer from St. Joe's while Villanova, South Carolina, Rutgers and St. John's are looking hard at him early in the process.
Terrell Johnson, South Georgia Kings 15U – Freshman aren't supposed to be made like the 6-foot-4, 210-pound built from granite guard from Liberty County (Ga.) High School. He scored 28 points in a big win over the Atlanta Celtics. Not bad for a kid that didn't play any high school basketball last year. He bullies his way to the lane. It just isn't fair on how hard he punishes people en route to the cup. The 15 and under circuit can't handle kids like him. His jumper is still a work in progress, he said. When that starts to fall, watch out.
Adam Jones, Showtime Ballers 15U – The 6-foot-6 forward from Orlando's Lakeview opened a lot of eyes. He runs the floor with a purpose, plays above his shoulders, rebounds, scores in the paint and blocks shots. By the way, it is Lakeview Middle School. Jones is not your ordinary eighth grader. He'll have plenty of ink in his time.
Tariq Muhammed, Georgia Stars 16U – You have to like point guards that can score five points but have a huge impact on a game. That is what the 6-foot-2 guard does. He is calm, cool, collective and confident on the court. His feel for the game is years beyond his classmates and knows how to play. Don't be surprised to hear him mentioned with the best of the best point guards in the class of 2009.
9:30 a.m. 17 and under Quarterfinals
Atlanta Celtics vs. Southeast Elite
D-One Sports vs. Juice All-Stars
DC Assault vs. Long Island Lightning
Arkansas Hawks vs. Georgia Hurricanes