McClellan leads Hoops in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The Las Vegas Easter Classic concluded on Sunday and it was no surprise that the Houston Hoops won two of the top three divisions. One surprise was that the Arizona Magic was in the semi-finals. Too bad an early tipoff contributed to the Magic's demise.

The Magic players were tired after a late night and fell in the semi-finals to the eventual runner up, the Utah Bruins. The Magic's quarterfinal game tipped off late and the team did not get finish play until almost 1:00 a.m. By the time the players ate and got back to the team hotel it was well after 2:00. The Magic had to face the talented Bruins at 8:00 the next morning. The Bruins had a late game as well, but finished at least an hour earlier.

"It's tough to play a game so late and then play so early the next day," said Larry Hill, father of Magic forward Lawrence Hill. "It would be nice to reschedule but what are you going to do? They have a schedule they have to keep and I'm sure there was nothing they could do."

The Magic have several talented players that are getting noticed, but even close observers were surprised at how well the unit played. Junior Ty Morrison led a team that featured 10 sophomores and a freshman.

The semi-final was not the only game affected by an early start. A planned exhibition between the LA Stars and the Houston Hoops 16 & Under team was not as competitive as it should have been. The Stars began the game with just six players because several members of the roster were still back at the hotel. The Hoops jumped out to a 39-12 halftime lead. At the half the rest of the Stars showed up, including a number of their key post players. The Stars won the second half, but still lost handily after digging such a big hole.

"We won the second half," noted Stars forward Amir Johnson. "It would have been a different game had the whole team been here."

Another scheduled exhibition, this one featuring Nic Wise and a number of other 15 & Under players, was scrapped due to the late finish of the 15 & Under championship as the Hoops cruised through the division and won the tournament. The Hoops 16 & Under team finished second in their division, falling to the Utah Vipers in the finals.

The main event, the 17 & Under finals, featured another team from Utah against the Houston Hoops. The Utah Bruins appeared less athletic than the Hoops, but made up for it with intelligent play and great outside shooting. The Bruins kept things close for most of the contest, but faltered in the end as the bigger, faster Hoops pulled away late and won 78-63.

Future Wildcat Jawann McClellan had a good day. The 6-4 wing scored 30 points in the semi-final win over BWBA and followed it up with 20 against the Bruins.

The Bruins used a zone defense that kept the Hoops out of the lane for much of the game. McClellan was forced to settle for jump shots and did not have a great shooting game. McClellan is a streak shooter and was just 4-of-12 from behind the arc, but did hit two in a row during a Hoops run. McClellan also had three nice assists on alley-oop lobs.

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Contact Brad at Heymtymte@cs.com

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