NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - The talent level may not be the best it's been here at the Peach Jam as it has been in the past but the big-timers are living up to their reputations as pool play continues to roll on. Brandan Wright got it done and showed why he's such a coveted prospect by so many programs as he highlighted the evening session of games.
Tennessee forward has the Wright stuff
It was classic Brandan Wright on Thursday night. The 6-foot-9 forward used every inch of his freakishly long arms as he put in 33 points, eight rebounds and five blocks against Nike Team Florida. When Wright stays within his game and doesn't stray too far away from the rim, he's nearly unstoppable around the cup.
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Defensively, Wright changes the way teams attack the rim because of his length. He'll block a lot of shots but he makes guys think twice about coming at the rim. On one play late in the game, a Team Florida player came driving down the lane and attempted to loft the ball over Wright. Bad idea. He threw up his hands and snatched the ball out of the air before it could get to it's intended target.
On the offensive end, Wright just drops shots into the bucket. He extends so high on his jumper that it's nearly impossible to block his shot. Wright was showing off his mid range stuff and kissed shots off the glass and did his damage on the blocks. For a five minute stretch in the second half, Wright scored eight straight points and gave his Murfreesboro Stars team a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
Duke had their entire staff on hand to see Wright do his thing. Roy Williams balanced between Wright's game and Spencer Hawes on another court. Kentucky had an assistant on hand, too. A trio of NBA scouts watched him for a half.
Wright has maintained all week that the North Carolina schools - Duke and UNC - will battle it out with Kentucky for his services. He hasn't budged from that story all summer long.
Gators got a good one
One of the most under-appreciated players at the Peach Jam is future Florida guard Nick Calathes. The class of 2007 prospect has an incredible feel for the game and has sparked his Team Florida team to some big wins and did all that he could do against Wright and the Murfreesboro Stars with 22 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals in the loss.
With Billy Donovan watching closely, Calathes worked the floor incredibly well and scored at the right times but it was his court management and spunky leadership that impressed the most.
Wright may have been the big star of the game but Calathes probably earned more respect from the coaches sitting on the sidelines. Paired with sweet shooting guard Gary Clark, the Gators backcourt future is very bright.
Oklahoma pair doing their thing
The Peach Jam has always been good to Obi Muonelo. This is where the 6-foot-4, 215-pound combo guard put his name on the map and he's continued to play well at the Riverview Park Center. Those close to him call him Aleve after the cold medicine with the slogan "All day strong, all day long." He's lived up to his interesting nickname.
The power guard has shown that he can score from deep, handle the rock, challenge defenders inside and be a major threat from the point guard spot. It's been a good week for him despite his team's 2-2 record.
Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Florida and Connecticut are showing interest. All of the schools have watched him and Texas head man Rick Barnes has caught a game or two as well. OU, Oklahoma State and Florida have all offered he said.
Really playing well for Athlete's First is 2007 power forward Blake Griffin. The 6-foot-8 prospect has grown five inches since his freshman year and taking a daily beating in the post from his brother Taylor (who is now at Oklahoma), Blake is earning himself a scholarship here at the Peach Jam. He's been sensational inside the paint and takes a blue collar approach to the game. He's amongst the top rebounders in the field and getting interest from Oklahoma, Illinois, Nebraska, Tulsa, Purdue and Wichita State.
Other top performers
Playing in front of his future head coach Jon Scheyer had his best game of the Peach Jam against the New Jersey All-Stars. With Coach K and two assistants at his side, the Duke head man watched his future backcourt player do what he does best. Scheyer finished with 25 points on a solid shooting night from the wing but it's his ability to penetrate and roll off screens and ball-handling ability that will make him a good four year player in Durham.
When Lance Thomas sticks to his game of pounding the ball inside, crashing the boards and knocking down the midrange shot, he's downright unstoppable. When he flirts with the perimeter, he's taking away his high percentage finishes and limits his rebounding.
The head coaches continue to make it out to see Thomas. Rutgers head man Gary Waters and an assistant were joined by Coach K and his two assistants, Jay Wright was on the baseline with Kansas's Bill Self. Lute Olson and Arizona assistant Josh Pastner were on the baselines so Thomas could see them on the offensive end of the floor. Even Florida's Billy Donovan and assistant were looking on.
Gilbert Brown has had a statement week here at the Peach Jam. The Pitt commit has shown that he's much more than a pure athlete that gets it done above the rim and nothing else. He's scoring from the perimeter, knocking down the midrange shot and scoring off the dribble. Sorry high-major coaches he's taken and Jamie Dixon was smiling all game long when he watched Brown on Wednesday night. No one has helped their stock more than Brown here at the Peach Jam.
Jason Bennett said he's trimmed his list to five schools and even told one of the nation's top programs that he's not interest. Cincinnati, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia and Clemson all made the cut but even after offering him last week, Bennett said he's not interested in Kentucky.
We weren't there but apparently Demond Carter took it to Tywon Lawson. Carter, a 2006 Baylor commit, put in 29 points to Lawson's 13.
News from the notepad
People in Illinois know about 6-foot-9 big man Bill Cole but now the class of 2007 prospect is beginning to spread his name around the country with flashes of what he's going to become. Even though he's pretty skinny, he's aggressive in the post and held his own against 6-foot-10, 275 pound behemoth Hamidu Rahman of the New Jersey All-Stars. Cole has a nice face up game and a great passer for his size.
Trying hard to not leave anyone out, Cole said he's hearing from Illinois, Kansas, Purdue, Syracuse, Iowa and Indiana the most. He's got high-major talent and he'll develop it over time. The Big Ten loves his potential.
South Carolina combo guard Byron Faison said Auburn, UMass and Boston College have all watched him at the tournament. Faison also said FSU, Connecticut and Alabama have been writing of late. But one school is standing out the most right now.
"Auburn - I just talk to them a lot. I've been to their camp and I did really good plus they called on the first day they could call. That told me a lot," Faison said.
A.J. Stewart has had himself a solid tournament. The 6-foot-7 athletic small forward has done his best work inside the paint and has shown an ability to put the rock on the floor and attack the basket. The class of 2007 prospect said Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State and Miami are his top four schools at the moment.
Texas big man Eugene Crockett said Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Virginia are showing him the most interest right now and the Yellow Jackets are sitting on the top of his list.
Looking for a sleeper big man? Check out New York Gaucho Austin Wallace. The 6-foot-8 power forward had a solid showing at the ABCD camp but has been somewhat quiet here in Augusta. He's got good size, a nose for the ball and can really rebound the ball. Wallace said he's hearing from South Florida, Providence, Rutgers, Georgetown, Louisville, Purdue and Georgia Tech right now.
As Brandan Wright's wing man, Jimmy Oden has enjoyed the summer's biggest stage. He's played very well at the Peach Jam, mixing his scoring ability with good court vision and is second amongst assist leaders for the tournament. Oden said Middle Tennessee State, Lipscomb and William & Mary are recruiting him the hardest right now.
The South Carolina Ravens lost the Peach Jam's most impressive underclassmen big man Mike Holmes to injury so Lucas Hargrove stepped into the leader's role in Holmes's absence.
The 6-foot-5 wing man has played well this week and opened some eyes along the way. He's versatile, a good ball handler and aggressive on the glass. Hargrove said he's hearing from South Carolina, UNLV and Tennessee State. After 13 points and five rebounds against the Gauchos and 18 points, four rebounds and four assists against the New Jersey All-Stars on Wednesday, coaches were trying to find out more about him.
Odds & Ends
Want to know just how tough Boo Williams guard Grevies Vasquez is? He went to an Augusta area dentist on Wednesday and found out he needs a root canal as soon as possible. Instead, he received some meds to hold him over until he returns to the D.C. area.
Boo Williams continues to roll over people. They are the deepest team here and have 12 guys that can really hurt you.
The race back to Atlanta on Thursday will be fun to watch. Nearly all of the coaches here said they are planning on jetting down I-20 West to Atlanta for the adidas Showtime Nationals.
Points per game leaders at the Peach Jam
1. Josue Soto 27
2. Tywon Lawson 25.3
3. Jonathan Mitchell 22.8
4. Demond Carter 22.5
5. Edgar Sosa 22
6. Anthony Gurley 21.8
6. Brandan Wright 21.8
7. Brandon Fields 20.8
8. Lance Thomas 20
9. Mike Holmes 19.7