Big Time, Day Three
Kyle Lowry, PG, Mobley Philly Stars: Picture Jerome Bettis with a basketball in his hands. That's how Lowry attacks defenses. He gets a head of steam, points himself at the rim and has a reckless disregard for his body. His 27 points helped gun down the Texas Blue Chips by 15. The remarkable thing to note in this was that his Mobley had just six players suited up and subbed just once when Lowry briefly went down with an injury.
Lorenzo Wade, SG, EBO: There's a certain pace and poise that makes his game fun to watch. In his afternoon game, Wade had an efficient 18 points. He's got a serious mid-range game to go with some fine athleticism. The Louisville Cardinals didn't steal one since it was common knowledge that he's a good player, but they might have gotten an even better performer than they originally thought.
Marvin Williams, PF/SF, Rotary Select: This young man scores like college player already. Whether it was a mid-range jumper, a transition dunk or a strong inside hit, Williams' 16 points stood out as his team advanced to play on Friday. College coaches all tournament long have been raving about him and for good reason.
Taj Finger, PF, Playaz Red: He's made steady strides since the spring and now programs from a variety of levels are interested. You can see that his game has risen to another level in the confidence with which he carries himself. Six months ago Finger wasn't driving the lane and hammering down dunks on guys. On Thursday night he did it twice and made a steal that sealed the game for his team.
David McClure, SF, Playaz Red: The recovery from mononucleosis has been a slow one for McClure, but he's starting to get better fast. He's building on each performance and he looks to have his legs back. His last time out the jumper was going down, he had some spring in his step and he appears to be back!
Stanley Burrell, SG, Indiana Red: Here's another guy who has college scouts checking their rosters. He's listed under someone else's name in the book and only the most educated of assistants even realize he's Xavier-bound. Meanwhile, he's breaking guys down off the dribble, firing threes and making Thad Matta and his staff look good.
Robby Springborn, PG, Eastbay Extreme: Granted, we've only seen him play just one game but he's a potential mid-level Division I guy. He's smart, tough and he won't back down from anyone. Against EBO he hit for 27 points. Prior to this event, he was a big time Division II recruit. That's about to change.
Justin Cerasoli, PG, Ft. Sooy No Limit: The guy can score. He's possesses good ball skills and hey, he's flashy but he's not wild. Cerasoli can get to the rim and he's always played well when we've been in the gym.
Mike Walker, SG, Gym Rats: Luke Zeller and Co. are headed back to Indiana because Walker torched them from downtown. The shooter from the Keystone State drilled them from all over. He simply killed it from downtown and fueled a surprising opening round rout.
Chad Millard, SF, Granite State Raiders: Intrigued by his potential the day before, we went back to watch him again. He's 6-8, a nice looking athlete and has all kinds of skills with the ball. He can pass and made his perimeter shots against Rotary. The kid is a prospect and you are going to hear a good bit about him in the coming season.
*Some people walk away from Shaun Livingston's games and they just don't get it. He's not the kind of guy who takes any excitement from embarrassing a lesser talented opponent. When the spotlight is on him, he rises to the occasion. When he doesn't feel challenged, he'll play a different kind of role and that's just his style. He doesn't have to get 25 points to play a good game.
*Josh McRoberts didn't have a great offensive game against Fox Valley but he contributed by getting rebounds and staying connected to the game. He's a big time talent with a savvy for passing and reading the game.
*Luke Zeller, one of the best big men in the Class of 2005, wasn't able to put away some close range finishes early and never got out of the gate. It was just one of those days and the Hoosiers were in a funk.
*Mike Walker of the Gym Rats shoots a lot of jumpers (ala Drew Neitzel) on the move and the result is that his shot is more difficult to block than if he were an undersized stand-still-shooter.
*Luke Bonner is all about effort. A work in progress on offense, Bonner earns points for his determination. He loves to go to the old school style sweeping hook shot. On Thursday night he made a pair of threes.
*Rotary Select big man Josh Heytvelt has all kinds of talent. He's a skilled post player and there's too much talent there not to bring it consistently. The tools are there to be a great one for the Zags in the years to come.
News & Notes
*Roy Williams has been very visible in Vegas. He's always been fond of the July evaluation period. There's been a lot of speculation as to what the Heels will do with their remaining scholarship. Is it earmarked for Brian Johnson? J.R. Smith? How about Shaun Livingston? Well, why not two of the three to go with JamesOn Curry and Marvin Williams? There are numerous plausible situations that could allow UNC to gain an extra scholarship. We think that with the lack of depth in the Class of 2004, North Carolina might look to cash in with this year's crop so don't be surprised if their recruiting class is larger than originally anticipated.
*Shaun Livingston's morning crowd: Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner of Arizona and Wayne McClain and Chris Lowery of Illinois. Mike Davis was spotted there as well, but is he interested or just biding time before another game? Well, Ft. Sooy coach Verdell Jones said the list remains at four.
*Luke Zeller's final Vegas crowd: Thad Matta, Herb Sendek, Mike Davis, Todd Lickliter of Butler and Mike Brey. Assistants from Michigan State, Marquette, Illinois and Kansas were also there.
*Rick Pitino sat and watched Lorenzo Wade do work in a day three afternoon session. Wade will attend either Hargrave or Worcester Academy next season.
*Canadian Theo Davis was rumored to be headed to St. Patrick's, but he's undecided about school and won't be playing there next season. Speaking of Theo Davis, assistants from Tennessee, Texas and LSU were in the gym watching him.\
*Rutgers head coach Gary Waters was front and center for Luke Bonner. He was joined by Richmond assistant Mike Winiecki, Bill Coen and Ed Cooley of Boston College and Jeff Neubauer of West Virginia. Rhode Island is also rumored to be in the mix.
*Mark Few was there to watch Josh Heytvelt in the nightcap game for Rotary Select.
*Richmond and Villanova were in the stands watching Taj Finger. Both have offered and so have Stanford and Penn.
*For J.R. Smith in the evening: Roy Williams, Bill Self and Fred Hill of Villanova.
Justin Cerasoli, Shaun Livingston are shown. Cerasoli is being recruited by Auburn.
Big Time, Day Four
Quarter-final Matchups: Atlanta Celtics vs. Connecticut Select; Ft. Sooy vs. Rotary Select; Pump 'n Run vs. Houston Westside; Playaz Gold vs. LI Panthers/Michigan Mustangs winner.
Shaun Livingston and Justin Cerasoli, Ft. Sooy: These guys were awesome on day four.. For their first trick, they knocked off Daniel Gibson and the Houston Hoops. In this one, Cerasoli hung a cool 35 points on the Hoops while Livingston went 9-for-14 from the field and collected 19 points; Gibson had 21 in the loss. Then, to reach the quarters, Cerasoli and Livingston did it again, this time to the Michigan Hurricanes. Cerasoli is posting the big scoring numbers and Livingston is picking his spots to shine.
J.R. Smith, SG, Playaz Gold: He had an amazing day. From a half court three-pointer at half of one game to his overall shooting and sky walking skills, he's been hot. Remember, it was here in Vegas last year when he dazzled the college coaches. In one playoff game, there was a sequence where he came up with a pair of steals and then hit a key triple. He's made some big-time plays.
Lamarcus Aldridge, C, Team Texas: Everyone who has seen him extensively the past two years agreed that his 33 points against the Playaz was his best AAU game in a long time. At times in the second half he was dominant and the Playaz simply couldn't keep him off the glass. He had energy and was aggressive. There's been a lot of talk about Texas or the NBA but we can tell you that as of right now, the NBA guys we chatted with prefer Dwight Howard and Josh Smith a lot more.
Sebastian Greene, SF, Billy Shepherd: Credit Billy's Boys with their second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance at the Big Time. However, the Celtics would avenge last year's loss to them as they overwhelmed them with their inside power. Still, amongst the trees on man stood tall. Greene used his perimeter game, athleticism and savvy to compete at the highest level against the Celtics. Look, Josh Smith has been dunking on people left and right all tournament long. Against Greene, he finally was on the receiving end of one. This mid-major forward earned a number of scholarship offers with his fearless effort.
Nick Young, SF, Pump 'n Run: He's looking for a prep school or a junior college right now and he'll have little problems finding either. Young has been Pac-10 good out here. He's been a slasher, a mid-range shooter and a reliable rebounder. He's instant offense and he'll play at the rim.
Roy Bright, SF, Michigan Hurricanes: He's strung together a nice tournament. A lot of people still don't know that he's a reliable shooter and has to be guarded on the perimeter.
Goran Sutton, PF, Michigan Hurricanes: Get him the ball and he finds a way to produce. He's a second-tier target for a number of high-major schools and someone is going to get a guy who plays hard, can fill a role and converts on his chances.
Darius Washington, M.A. Select, G: He still plays like he's most comfortable as a shooting guard and that remains the position he's been most successful playing. Simply put, the guy can get his shot off whenever he wants and he's a strong, athletic finisher.
Joe Krabbenhoft, SF, Dakota Schoolers: He looks to be the Schoolers best prospect we can remember since Mike Miller. He has all the trappings of a high-major small forward. We charted him against the Michigan Hurricanes and he had an efficient 18 points (5-10 FG, 3-5 threes). He's an average athlete, but he's capable of playing high-major ball.
*Charles Rhodes' body is starting to fill out up top and he plays with the purpose of dunking on you.
*Jawann McClellan was clearly fatigued in his team's playoff loss in the morning session. The legs just weren't there to get the push he needed on his jumper.
*Chris Lofton is going to be a nice addition for a mid-major program. Lofton has a very reliable stroke from deep. We're talking about a young man who made 9 threes in the state title game so you know he's got some intangibles.
*Chester Giles resembled the skilled guy we saw last year in the games we watched on Friday. Giles has plenty of scoring options in the post and he's going to move up on the recruiting lists of a number of schools.
*Paulius Packevicius is trying to get to where Taj Finger is. Packevicius is continuing to improve, but it's a gradual process and we still like upside. It was interesting to see him matched against a guy like Finger who has steadily gotten better. Finger taught him a lesson on one play as he spun baseline for a dunk. Packevicius' day will come.
*David McClure is a tough kid. On one play, Aldridge dribbled once, turned and threw down a nasty dunk right on top of him. So, what does McClure do? He comes right back down on the other end and makes a contested 3. That says something about a guy. He's not getting a lot of minutes and he's certainly college-bound but the NBA guys are watching and in a few years they are really going to like his game.
*Darius Washington seems to have added some upper body strength to his game.
*Rico Tucker threw down a pair of high-degree of difficulty dunks on day four which certainly weren't easy at his size. His athleticism is his top asset and dunks like the 360 he did on Friday can be big time momentum changers.
*Here's a stat line for you: against Billy Shepherd, the Celtics frontline combined for 12 blocks. They also yielded a surprisingly high number of points in the paint, 28.
*Alex Galindo is a Top 100 player and a nice prospect with a versatile game. His baseline drive and big time slam was slightly out of character but we liked it!
News & Notes
*In the morning, Iowa State and Tennessee were there for Roy Bright. Charlotte joined the parade in the evening.
* Bo Ryan of Wisconsin, Sean Kearney of Notre Dame and Jeff Strohm of Marquette were in the stands for Krabbenhoft. He says he's hearing from Minnesota, Marquette, Creighton, Auburn, Notre Dame, Northern Iowa and Arizona.
*Shaun Livingston's morning crowd included the full staff treatment from North Carolina as well as assistants from Duke, Illinois and Arizona.
Super Showcase Notes From Orlando
The Gauchos, winners of the Nike Peach Jam, advanced to play The Family for the Showcase championship. The Gauchos defeated Team Breakdown and The Family knocked off Sports Academy. Earlier in the day, in a defeat, A.J. Price scored 36 against The Family. Big Time, Day Five
Howard and Smith
In a city where everyone has hope, luck and a chance to strike it big, the Celtics played the Big Time with a stacked deck. They saddled up a trio of All-Americans inside and rode them all the way to the championship.
Final: Atlanta Celtics 85, Michigan Mustangs 65.
Semi-finals: Atlanta Celtics 87, Rotary Select 73; Michigan Mustangs 66, Houston Westside 60.
Big Time Scoreboard (Quarterfinals)
Atlanta Celtics 93, Connecticut Select 68
Rotary Select 88, Ft. Sooy 73
Houston Westside 80, Pump'n Run 72
Michigan Mustangs 75, Playaz Gold 57
Celtics Are Big Time!
The Michigan Mustangs were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Celtics machine was destined to rip through Vegas and it did just that. Despite a stellar run by Drew Neitzel and Al Horford, the 'Stangs had no one to guard Josh Smith. The 6-8 small forward rolled up 18 at the half as the Celts led 46-30. He finished with 26.
At the break, the Celtics had saddled the Mustangs' primary inside force with four fouls. Horford battled as best he could, but it was three against one in the paint and the greatest frontline in AAU history (featuring three McDonald's All-Americans) never compromised their position. The final score was 85-65 with Drew Neitzel leading the way for Michigan with 16.
For their efforts, Smith and Dwight Howard were named the co-MVP's of the event.
Marvin Williams, F, Rotary Select: His big time act in Vegas continued in the quarters as his 21 points led Rotary past Ft. Sooy.
Basically, Marvin has been a wrecking crew all by himself. The guy is scoring, rebounding and playing defense. He's all smiles out here and the hits keep on coming.
Rotary wasn't able to stop the Celtics machine despite 34 from Marvin. He went 13-for-17 from the line and he showed just how complete a prospect he is. One of the performances of the summer.
Dwight Howard, PF, Atlanta Celtics: Speaking of performances of the summer, Howard's 14-for-20 from the floor and 14 rebound effort in the semis was damn impressive. He actually missed two dunks --both hit off the back of the rim--or the stat line would have been even more impressive.
Al Horford, PF, Michigan Mustangs:
Josh Smith, SF, Atlanta Celtics: The threes were falling at a pretty good rate for Smith in this one and he went off for 24 points of his own in the semis. In fact, the official tally for Smith was 6-for-7 from downtown and 9-for-11 from the field. Not too shabby.
J.R. Smith, SG, Playaz Gold: He certainly did all he could to prevent the upset loss in the quarters. He was banging them from way past the arc and even completed a few of his trademark circus layins around the hoop. He hustled and got after it but in the end, it wasn't to be.
Drew Neitzel, PG, Michigan Mustangs: Billy Beane would love this guy. Forget the size--or lack of it--or the average quicks, he makes shots. He'll get floaters off in traffic and he's fearless. He's got tremendous value to a college basketball program and he's been much better in a team setting than we've seen him at various camps.
Dion Dowell, SF, Houston Westside: He played like a Top 50 player all the way through the playoffs. Dowell is a versatile prospect and from his perimeter game to ability to go above the rim and rebound, he's going to be a player at Texas. He had 19 in the semi-final setback.
Dwayne Day, SG, Atlanta Celtics: His quarterfinal effort against Connecticut Select was the best game we've seen him play since the high school season. He was credited with 13 points and four steals in the rout.
Charlie Jones, PG, Westside: He did a nice job against a good group of guards against the Pump 'n Run squad. The Colorado State commitment distributed the ball and his speed always seems to play a factor. His seven assists were key in the win.
Enrico Tucker, SG, Pump 'n Run: Though it wasn't enough in the end, he did make some plays that really pushed his team into striking distance. From a nice crossover to some important assists, he nearly played the hero role for his team.
*Connecticut Select had reached the quarters as a team that relied primarily on driving the ball to the rim. Obviously, against the Celtics frontline, that was not a good idea.
*One of the best jumpshots made this summer was a Shaun Livingston contested hit with 6-8 Marvin Williams draped all over him.
* Heytvelt scored 24 points in the quarterfinal win, but the stats were a little deceiving. Eighteen of his points came in the second half when Rotary was up big and well on its way to victory.
*Shaun Livingston and Justin Cerasoli combined for 37 points in the loss. They'd been hot all week long and Livingston was 8-for-16, but Cerasoli finished with a 6-for-20 outing.
*Rotary had a big time size advantage over Ft. Sooy and used it. Williams and Co. took just 9 threes the entire game and made only one, but still rolled by 15.
*Jordan Farmar never really got it going from the outside and finished 0-for-5 from downtown against Houston. He would foul out in the end.
*David Burgess spent time overseas last week and it took him a long time to travel here. In the quarters you could definitely tell that he must have been dragging.
*Rodney Stuckey of Rotary hit for 25 in the semis against Atlanta and he was getting them going to the basket at a pretty good clip. The Celtics frontline (Howard, Morris, Smith) outscored Rotary's frontline (Williams, Giles, Heytvelt) by a 68-44 margin and remember, Williams accounted for 34 of Seattle's on his own.
News & Notes
*Georgia Tech's Willie Reese was the first coach in the gym to watch Dwight Howard and Randolph Morris on the final morning...Mike Davis was on hand for Josh Smith...Duke, North Carolina, Illinois and Arizona had assistants in the building for Livingston. Duke also had Coach K in the building...Chester Giles' father played two years of juco ball at Independence where he won a national title and then transferred to Kansas where he reportedly spent two oft-injured seasons with the Jayhawks...We think Seton Hall, North Carolina State and DePaul were in the gym for Justin Cerasoli...It's tough to tell who is the crowd for Al Horford since there are a number of programs wanting to jump in, but from what we saw Xavier had head coach Thad Matta was here as was UCLA's Ben Howland. Michigan State, Kansas and Georgia Tech each had an assistant. Horford says he needs time to evaluate his list and will do that in August. Obviously, it's changed since first of the month.
Stanford, Richmond and Villanova had assistants for Taj Finger...Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton was in the gym, not ready to concede Dwight Howard to another college without a fight. All the schools involved with Howard might be battling a higher power in the end...Each Big Time finalist already had a title under their belt. The Michigan Mustangs won in 1998 with Jason Richardson and the Celtics captured the championship with Jonathan Hargett in 2000...Colorado State assistant Buzz Williams was in the gym watching two future guards in Sean Morris and Charlie Jones...Rutgers received a commitment from Dan Waterstradt, a big man with the Michigan Mustangs. Waterstradt was injured during the Big Time and unable to participate.
The Gauchos defeated The Family for the Super Showcase title. Apparently, Malik Hairston and Russell Robinson were trading paint down there. Joe Crawford's injured wrist limited his playing time in the championship game. The Gauchos have to be the team of the summer as they've won the Kingwood, Peach Jam and Super Showcase titles.