ASU Signees Advance to Championship Games

Scout.com ranked the Sun Devils 2007 Basketball recruiting class as the 15th best in the nation. Not that this group needed any further validation of its talent, but three of its members have help lead their squads to their respective championship games this week, while a fourth has already ended the season with a loss in the finals.

Jamelle McMillan scored 12 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed four rebounds as he helped O'Dea topple Seattle Prep 57-46 to advance to the district championship game. The Irish will match up against Seattle Bainbridge in a game that will take place on Saturday. Win or lose O'Dea will continue its playoffs run and participate in the 3A Washington State championship.

"Two games ago, I had my best offensive game this year," said McMillan. "I had 24 points and 11 assists in that game. So I came into this game very anxious to do well on offense. We knew that we already clinched a state spot, but we wanted to win this game and get a higher seed. Seattle Prep is our rival, and I always want to beat them." The point guard added that the Irish opened the fourth quarter with a 22-point lead, which allowed himself and the other starters to watch the fourth quarter from the bench.

McMillan has gained to the reputation of being a very capable floor general, who's defensive skills are probably ahead of his offensive attributes. Nonetheless, he has been working hard on his scoring and feels that he has made significant strides. "I definitely improved on my mid-range shot," he explained. "I came into the season as a pass-first point guard, and my coach challenged me on my offensive aggressiveness and the ability to put points on the board. I did struggle in the beginning of the year because I felt pressure. But I found my confidence and as of late I've been shooting very well. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates that helped me out."

The point guard knows that developing a consistent jump shot is vital for his success at the college level. "You have to have a good all-around game," he noted. "You can't be one-dimensional. You have to take the shot when it's there. I talked to Coach Sendek and all the other (ASU) coaches, and they said that I have to feel comfortable putting up my shots whether I have a hand in my face or I'm wide open. I have to make shots with a hand in my face, because the players in college are a lot longer and quicker. So I've been really concentrating on my shooting and it has really worked out for me." McMillan said that thus far this season he's averaging 14 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and 2.5 steals a game.

Rihards Kuksiks, Florida Air Academy's top scorer this season poured in 26 points and tallied eight rebounds as the Falcons trounced Ribault High 62-40 in the 3A State semi-finals. Kuksiks' squad will play P.K. Yonge in the championship game on Friday. We caught up with Kuksiks' coach Aubin Gaporo to talk about his star's player achievements this season.

"He's averaging about 30 points a game," said Gaporo. "He's obviously the best player we have and is the focal point of every defense we play. If you want to stop us you stop Rihards, but he's still scoring almost 30 points every time. His shooting is getting better. He's not only coming off screens and shooting; he's creating his own shot. He has good range and a lot of his points come from behind the three point line." Gaporo added that he felt that Kuksiks' ball handling and rebounding are two attributes he's improved on a great deal this season.

With all the success Kuksiks is enjoying, one can question how he's carrying himself with his immense success. His coach said that this issue doesn't even register as a concern. "He doesn't talk," quipped Gaporo. "He's the captain of the team and he leads by example. I want my captain to be vocal, get in players' faces and tell them what to do, but he just goes about his business. He's a quite kid that never celebrates when he does well."

Kraidon Woods, who plays for a Prep School in Pennsylvania called The Hill School ended his season last Saturday as he and his teammates lost 51-47 in the Pennsylvania State Independent Champions to the Academy of New Church team. "I played well this season," said Woods. "I didn't get the numbers I wanted to this season, but the team was very young. We did make a lot of strides this season and it was a good experience for me." He added that playing at a Prep School was probably close to an AAU tournament environment than a high school one.

The forward mentioned that he got to play a lot on the perimeter and consequently his shooting skills have improved, especially taking players off the dribble. "I averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks a game," he noted. "I call Coach Sendek every Sunday and keep him up to date on what's going on with me."

With an obvious need to bolster the depth up front next season, it's a given that the 6-9 200 Woods will be called upon to play the power forward role upon his arrival in Tempe. Woods doesn't feel that playing that role should present any difficulties. "In Coach Sendek's scheme the two forward spots are interchangeable," he commented. "There's a lot of motion and you end up on the wing as it is."

Last but not least, Five-Star recruit and McDonald's All-American James Harden paced Artesia High School with 22 points in a 70-52 win over Compton Dominquez. With the victory, the Pioneers advance Saturday's CIF-Southern Section Division I-AA championship game and a showdown with Mater Dei.

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