Las Vegas Big Time: Observations from the sideline

Las Vegas, Nev. - The Las Vegas Big Time Tournament has grown to mammoth proportions since its inception in 1996.<BR> More than 400 teams with 4,000 players are crowding hotel rooms along the Las Vegas Strip and games are being played at every high school in Sin City.

The best individual performance of this first day had to be that of J. R. Smith, a 6-5 wing from Newark (St. Benedict's Prep), NJ. Smith scored 29 points in his team's first game, a 79-68 victory over Pump N Run Colorado.

Smith is getting attention from all the heavyweights and new North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was sitting courtside as the most visible observer. Smith did not disappoint. He played almost every minute of the game and not only led his team in scoring, but handed out a bunch of assists from the wing and rebounded like a big man.

Alex Galindo was playing alongside Smith just as he does at St. Benedict's. Galindo is not nearly as polished a player and not as athletic as Smith, but he may actually have more upside. He scored 14 points and showed a great release on his shot. He's not flashy, but plays under control and makes good decisions. He can play any of the perimeter spots and, although he's prone to reaching on defense and get into foul trouble, you have to like his defensive tenacity.

I wanted to get a look at Jackie Butler, the 6-10 power forward from McComb (Laurinburg Prep), Miss., and see how he had progressed. Butler has added some much needed bulk to his frame and it's made him more effective in the paint. He's a great athlete, but today he looked out of shape and floated much of time. Butler is probably headed to Mississippi State if he passes up the NBA. Tennessee is still in the hunt.

One of the most talented players on Butler's Southeast Pump N Run is Tyler Smith, a 6-7 junior wing from Pulaski (Giles County), Tenn. Smith is unbelievably quick and athletic. He can put the ball on the floor and blow by a defender or pull up and hit the jumper. Smith has all the high majors drooling and is already getting some big time attention.

Marvin Williams leads the Rotary Select, and there is no doubt he's a monster talent and the leader of that team. However, the most underrated player on the team might be Josh Heytvelt, a 6-10 forward from Clarkson (HS), Wash. Heytvelt has a solid game. He's much more comfortable on the perimeter hitting the face-up shot, but he's a very good post defender and shot blocker. He'll be a very good player for Mark Few at Gonzaga.

A major disappointment on the same team was Lyndale Burleson, a 6-3 guard from Seattle (Franklin), Wash. Burleson wants to be a point, but simply does not have the ball-handling skill nor the court savvy to run the show. In today's games, he turned the ball over numerous times and made bad decisions. He can shoot it, but not good enough to outweigh his shortcomings.

C. J. Giles, a 6-10 junior center from Seattle (Rainier Beach), Wash., is a back-to-the-basket big man with great upside. He's athletic and has good footwork and hands that don't miss. However, he needs to work on his face-up game.

Cheyenne Moore, a 6-6 wing who will attend South Kent (Prep), Conn., had his game going before being hit with a groin pull midway through the second half of his team's loss to Jackie Butler and Southeast Pump N Run.

Moore is athletic and shoots it well enough to keep defenses honest, but he has a great first step and can take a defender off the dribble. His offensive skills are obvious, but he needs to concentrate on the defensive end. He tends to float when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.

The Arizona Magic are not going to win this tournament, but if this group comes back next year in tact it has a shot at winning it all.

One of the Magics' few seniors, Ty Morrison, is on the bench nursing an injury. Yet the Magic are getting some strong play out of Lawrence Hill and Maurice Shaw. Hill is an athletic combo-forward who can put it on the floor and create or hit the outside jumper. He can also play down low and has a nose for the ball coming off the glass. Shaw, although he's not getting as much attention as Hill, might be an even better prospect. For a man 6-10, Shaw can handle the ball very well and he has a nice stroke on his jumper. He needs to be more aggressive in the paint at both ends of the court, but the talent is there. Oregon State is showing interest in Hill and Shaw.

Matt Terwilliger, a 6-9 power forward from Troy (HS), Ohio, had a very good first day at this event and Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien was in the stands watching over his investment. Terwilliger has given the Buckeyes a verbal and could very well step in and earn some immediate minutes. He's a great rebounder and offers some offensive punch from the perimeter or he can take his game inside.

Dorell Wright, a 6-8 junior wing forward from Lawndale (Leuzinger), Calif., was one of the few shining stars on a Los Angeles Paladin team that was completely overmatched by the super-talented Atlanta Celtics. The Celtics took a 71-29 lead at halftime and coasted to an easy win over the Paladins, but Wright showed he'd get some attention from the power schools.

Wright handles the ball like a guard, shoots the three and loves the transition game. He's very athletic and knows how to finish. Grades might be a problem and I hear prep school could be the road to college. Arizona is showing some early interest.

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