Although they rarely went head to head, Jamelle Horne clearly won his morning showdown with Harden. Horne was sharp and active, while Harden struggled offensively.
Horne worked hard on both ends, even when matched up against 6-10 Chris Gabriel. Horne gave up three inches and at least 50 pounds, but took of the challenge of guarding the bruiser from the Patterson School in North Carolina.
Other than a couple of missed threes, Horne could not be stopped. He was on the receiving end of several nice lob passes and had his midrange game working. Unlike the day before where he had to play almost entirely in the post, Horne was utilized more on the wing and excelled at his natural position. Horne is very good at taking opponents in these settings off the dribble and is a good passer.
It was a different story for Harden. His shot was just not falling. He could not buy a bucket, inside or out. He was aggressive, repeatedly getting to the line. He was also a very effective passer. When he realized he was not going to have a good shooting day he switched gears and did a very nice job getting his teammates involved.
Things improved for Harden in the top-20 game. The lefty knocked down his first two three pointers and looked to be in a much better rhythm.
From a recruiting standpoint Harden denied the rumors that Arizona State is his leader. Harden admitted that the Sun Devils are sitting pretty but claimed that they are on even footing with schools like Arizona, Washington, USC and Washington State. Despite his public claims, the buzz surrounding ASU did not dissipate.
Overall it is tough to judge players in the all-star games with a total lack of structure and defense. The games quickly disintegrate into dunkfests.
The top-20 game actually featured some good play for the first five minutes but soon after that screens and help defense vanished and lob dunks and cherry picking were the name of the game.
Horne had some trouble handling passes in the early stages of the top-20 game but was quickly joining the rest of the players throwing down big dunks and draining threes.
Matt Simpkins has a lot of tools to be a big time player. He's long, athletic and explosive. He still has a lot of development to do in terms of fundamentals but there is more than enough talent to work with. In the top-20 game Simpkins did his share of cherry picking and took some bad outside shots, but he also showcased a ton of athleticism. Arizona is the current leader but Simpkins rooted UConn as a kid.
J.J. Hickson is a big time player. No doubt that he's got the size, skills and motor to be a very nice player on the next level.
Drew Gordon is also big time. He's got everything you want and should be a top-25 player in the 2008 class. He claims to be wide open and says he would be interested in hearing more from Arizona.
The top-40 game featured some names to pay attention to in the future. Rome Draper is receiving a lot of buzz and has some great length and a decent stroke. UCLA is his childhood favorite but he's open to anyone.
Ibrahima Thomas has a lot of developing to do, but gets a little bit better every time out. He's very, very raw but can move and is a decent shot blocker.