Las Vegas Big Time Day Four recap

LAS VEGAS-Besides today's quarterfinals, semis and championship games, the matches on Thursday were about as good as it got in the Big Time tournament. Nearly a dozen of the most dominant and highest rated players took the court at Durango HS yesterday. All of the stars fared well but one "man" stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Seattle Rotary Select I vs. Fairfax County Stars
--Arizona target Marvin Williams (6-8 '04 F) scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and a block. His team won going away, 80-62. It was a competitive game, tied at 50, until Seattle went on a huge couple of runs.

Key players involved: Josh Heytvelt (6-9 '04 PF) had a very good all-around game. Making plays when it mattered most and had close to a triple-double. He is a borderline high major type player but most have him favoring nearby Gonzaga.
Lydale Burleson (6-3 '04 G) can get into the lane at just about anytime and makes plays once he gets in there. He doesn't really shoot a lot but is effective when he does.
Nick Grant (6-3 '03 SG) of Fairfax stood out but in a lesser sense. He has a good shot and is athletic. Has no trouble finishing near the basket.

Player of the Game: Williams.
--He tends to stay outside on the perimeter and almost never drives the ball to the hoop but he gets a lot of points on offensive rebounds. He is a plus-rebounder and his long arms and athleticism enable him to block or at least alter the majority of shots that come his way.
When asked to name a few of the better big men he's had to face in this tournament, he said, "I don't know any of the other people's names or the teams. I just play for my team and to win, I don't pay attention to anyone else."

Florida Hoopsters vs. Pump N Run (CA)
--This game got the string of great, close games started. Pump arrived late after a long breakfast and bad traffic and it forced three of their stars (Trevor Ariza, Omar Wilkes and Scott Cutley) to miss the first four minutes of the game.
With Florida up by four with 14 seconds to play, Trevor Ariza scored four points in a five second span to tie the game with under ten to go in the game. Immediately after the inbounds pass, super PG recruit Darius Washington hit a 16-footer at the buzzer to win, 78-76.

Key players involved: Ariza (6-8 '03 F) had another remarkable game, scoring 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds on 10-17 field goals. He put on a dunking display but missed two from point blank range that might have cost Pump the game.
Omar Wilkes (6-4 '03 G) was feeling the effects of a lingering cold all week but still played pretty well during the tournament. Today he had 11 points, four rebounds and two steals on 5-8 shooting. Wilkes is by far the nicest recruit I've ever spoken with and that is another reason why so many coaches want him, with or without David Padgett.
Fred Washington (6-5 '03 WG) played an inspired game for Pump in the close loss. He was hustling all over the floor, diving for loose balls, grabbing steals and driving to the hole for buckets. He is an athletic lefty with a pretty smooth shot but it doesn't fall consistently yet.

Player of the Game: Darius Washington
--For no other reason than the fact that he hit the game-winner in a pressure filled situation. Oh, and he scored 25 points also. The rising junior proved that he is a big time player and one of the top point guards in the 2004 class.

Long Island Panthers vs. Michigan Mustangs
--After getting the most out of their very young lineup, the Michigan Mustangs tournament came to an end at the hands of a "man" in a league of his own: Charlie Villanueva. The Mustangs led 38-35 at the half but burned out at the end to lose a hard fought game. Brandon Bell had a sub-par game from what he's used to but without him the Mustangs would never have made it this far to begin with.

Key players involved: Bell (5-11 '03 G) didn't shoot well (6-14 overall, 1-6 from downtown) but still wound up with 13 points and eight rebounds. He's always around the ball making plays but generally he's a very good scorer and shooter to boot.
Justin Ingram (6-2 '03 SG) led the Mustangs in scoring with 15 points and added four steals. His strength is in his shooting and ability to play the passing lanes on defense. Today he was 7-11 from the field but only 1-3 from three-point range.
Sammy Mejia (6-6 '04 SF) played a nice complement to Villanueva, scoring on a variety of shots from inside and out. Should be a high major recruit next year.

Player of the Game: Villanueva (6-10 '03 WF)
--"Chuck V" probably had the most impressive single game performance that I've seen this entire tournament. He is a manchild and plays like it. At 240 pounds with explosive athleticism rarely seen in a guy his size, he has the ability to do pretty much whatever he wants at anytime. Today he scored 35 points on 13-18 shooting, including making 4-7 from beyond the arc. He has a quick release and his shot has no apparent weaknesses (just like the rest of his game). He shoots threes and then when his man comes out to put a hand in his face, he blows by him for an easy dunk or short floater in the lane. And when he posts up, he has good moves inside and usually tries to destroy the rim, backboard and supporting stantion hanging from the ceiling. He is a complete player and is too strong for anyone on the high school level. Has absolutely no business playing a minute of college basketball. He's better than Ndudi Ebi and at least 50 pounds stronger, too.

Fort Sooy-No Limit (IL) vs. Hunting Park Warriors (PA)
--The game of the day featured two of the best point guards in high school basketball, 2003's Mustafa Shakur and ‘04's Shaun Livingston. Ft. Sooy was in control for most of the game, mostly because Shakur's teammates and the concept of passing weren't acquainted with one another. The thought of giving up the ball on a break didn't even occur to them and that is why they lost. The two point guards matched each other big play for big play down the stretch with Livingston getting the better of Shakur at the end of regulation and in overtime.

Key players involved: Illinois' commit Richard McBride (6-6, '03 SF) jumped out of the gate with a quick 11 points on 5-5 shooting, cooled off by missing his next four shots and then regained his stroke to wind up with a game-high 32 points. He's not very well-rounded in terms of grabbing boards or making plays, he's just a scorer, plain and simple. He can shoot, drive and hit from mid-range.
Mustafa Shakur (6-4 '03 PG) does it in spurts, and while some have suggested that he is solid and steady but not explosive, I tend to disagree. He IS solid and steady (that's his best attribute) but he is also capable of taking over a game by making plays or scoring 6-10 consecutive points in a short time. He did that twice against Fort Sooy. His problem is that he rushes his outside shot on occasion and did so again in this game. He had three airballs on long, but not well-defended, outside shots.
Since this will be the only opportunity to write about him, I will just say that the Warriors' Jason Cain (6-8 '03 WF) is going to make some mid-major team very happy. You would never think he was a player by looking at him but he is a tremendous athlete and surprisingly aggressive against bigger, strong players.

Player of the game: No question it was Livingston. He missed eight of his first ten shots and only had four points at halftime. In the second half and overtime, the 6-6, 2004 PG scored 18 points on 5-7 shooting (6-6 at the line) and did so while handing out some spectacular assists. He reminds most of UCLA sophomore PG Cedric Bozeman with his size but that's where the comparisons end. Livingston has a burst to him. He continually blasted past his defender (Shakur most of the time) to get into the lane for easy shots. The problem was that a lot of those shots rimmed in and out for him. Had it been a normal day for him, he very likely would have scored 30-plus. He is VERY good.

Mississippi Panthers vs. Juice (NY) All-Stars
--One of the most talked about and overhyped teams at the tournament was the Juice All-Stars out of New York City. Their roster consisted of super recruit point guard Sebastian Telfair and highly touted center Chris Taft. On the other hand, the Mississippi Panthers had a bunch of good athletes and SF Ronnie Brewer. The talk before tip off was about expecting a walk over by Juice. Sorry, the Panthers missed the memo.
In what was probably the most well played game by one team that I witnessed the entire week, Mississippi embarrassed the New Yawkas by a score of 92-66.
Juice quit on themselves and Telfair was thoroughly outplayed by so-called no names from Mississippi. The swarming, attacking and relentless defensive pressure that the Panthers unleashed on both Telfair and his teammates was outstanding. What an impressive bunch of undersized super athletes the Panthers have.

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