Chick-Fil-A: Day Three Notebook

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When the potential matchup between junior point guards Dennis Smith and Seventh Woods came to fruition, the hype preceding the game compelled event organizers to move it from the back gym onto the main floor.

Smith vs. Woods

The individual showdown between Dennis Smith and Seventh Woods proved to be more fizzle than sizzle, but each man had his moments. Woods helped lead Columbia (S.C.) Hammond past Smith's Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian 64-54, though individually he struggled offensively.

Woods scored 11 points on just 3-12 shooting, including 1-5 on threes. He did add four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, however, and his defensive potential absolutely is off the charts. His sensational quickness and solid frame could enable him to ride that ability all the way to the NBA.

On offense, it gets complicated. He's a very streaky jump shooter and doesn't handle nearly as well with his right hand or his left, and he lacks natural playmaking ability. He's highly compromised against zones but doesn't consistently get to the rim, either.

But Woods is dynamic with a head start. I continue to believe that he should get into the open floor as much as possible, demanding the ball each time it's rebounded or inbounded, then applying continual pressure against the defense. When he gets a head of steam, he's an electric finisher — as everyone knows — and will find that passing lanes open up for him, too.

Still, you can't blame him for attempting to address lingering issues, and hopefully over time he'll achieve a balance. He's certainly among the most athletically talented players in all of high school basketball.

Smith fared better on offense but has not shot well here in two games. He hit 8-19 from the field, only 1-7 on threes, en route to 21 points. He added five rebounds, three assists and two steals. His best moments occurred on runners and other hanging shots, not surprising considering that he possesses truly remarkable body control.

Smith appears to have grown to 6-3 and bulked up some as well

He's also a shifty dribbler who enjoys driving left, and he's a tricky passer who also looks for openings to whip dishes to teammates for layups. Smith's jumper doesn't look bad and he has hit it in the past, but he simply has been cold at Chick-Fil-A.

Neither player really went full tilt, as a heavy dose of zone defenses took some of the starch out of the individual play, and both teams struggled big-time shooting. Both Smith and Woods showed flashes of their ability, they just didn't get it completely working on Monday.

Ingram lights up back gym

I’ve watched Brandon Ingram (pictured above) for years, and Monday night may have been the best I’ve ever seen him play. Matched head to head against P.J. Dozier — unlike Smith and Woods, they guarded each other frequently — Ingram soared to a sterling outing: 26 points (9-17 fg, 2-5 on threes), 12 rebounds, six assists and a steal.

And he accomplished that when his Kinston (N.C.) High squad needed it most. Kinston and Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley battled back and forth throughout the second half, but Ingram was positively dominant during a key stretch. He made steals, hit jumpers, handled the defense glass and threw down perhaps the best dunk of the event, jumping off one foot on the break and getting full extension to throw it down for the and-one.

Ingram then stepped to the line with Kinston up two and just seconds remaining, and he buried a pair of clutch free throws as his squad ultimately prevailed 69-68.

Fans have questioned at times whether such a skinny 6-8 forward can succeed on the wing, particularly given that he isn’t dynamically athletic nor a pure shooter.

He hasn’t always delivered great production, either, so the catcalling has been more persistent than you would expect for a player ranked in the national top 30.

But anyone watching him Monday night would, if anything, wonder why he doesn’t slot even higher. What he does well almost certainly will translate to college and beyond, given that his standing reach simply dwarves players at the same position. Dozier, for example, is a long and tall 6-6 wing whom Ingram swallowed up in terms of length.

Although Dozier himself played respectably versus Kinston, at one point Ingram closed out on his jump shot and Dozier missed the rim by a couple feet. That’s the kind of length that would enable Ingram to play basketball for a very long time.

He scored on drives in both directions, lofted in touch shots with his left hand, made several clever finds as a passer and looked smooth hoisting long jumpers. Ingram has been sensational thus far his senior year and certainly kept that going at Chick-Fil-A.

More Notables

Jalek Felton, SG, Mullins — This Palmetto State native is a nationally elite sophomore who demonstrated why. Mullins performed very poorly on Saturday and fell to Columbia (S.C.) Keenan on Monday as well, and it's always challenging to evaluate a player when his squad is overmatched. That said, Felton shot the ball well and looked comfortable doing so.

Felton’s timetable appears to be accelerated, with UNC and others in pursuit

He's a set shooter with a slower release, but his form and follow through are sound. He's clearly at his best making plays for others, however, as he's a tremendous passer with either hand, both in the halfcourt and in transition. He boasts outstanding speed and length as well, and he finishes on the break via easy step-throughs that he can finish at full extension with his left hand. His numbers included 22 points (8-20 fg, 4-11 on threes), nine assists, four steals and three rebounds. Going forward, he'll need to get stronger and perhaps compete with a bit more fire. But make no mistake: He's one of the most gifted players in the sophomore class.

Tariq Simmons, PG/SG, Keenan — He's getting his own story as an introductory piece, but I'll also mention him here. Only a sophomore, Simmons scored 18 points on 7-10 shooting — 4-5 on threes — versus Mullins. He said it was his first ever matchup against Jalek Felton, and he was a key reason his squad won handily by an 83-62 margin.

Victor Enoh, C, Greenforest Christian — A sophomore from Nigeria, Enoh is a rebounding machine. He's burly and competes with aggression and tireless stamina, and he gets buckets on the basis of toughness and workrate, if nothing else. He mugged and brawled his way to a whopping 18 points and 19(!) rebounds on Monday afternoon, as Greenforest Christian toppled Lower Richland. Enoh is perhaps a touch small for center, but he battles big. I'll have a story on him later.

Xavier McDaniel, WF, Hammond — The son of the former NBA antagonist, McDaniel has improved to the point that he looks like a legitimate Division I prospect. He's 6-5 and truly more of a combo forward due to an absence of left hand dribbling, but he has a solid frame, nice athleticism and can hit a facing jump shot. He also boasts long arms. He's an unsigned senior and reportedly qualified academically as well. McDaniel finished with 21 points and nine rebounds while shooting 7-12, including 2-4 on threes.

Alonzia Tyson, PF, Trinity Christian -- Without much fanfare, this High Point-bound forward has raised his level of play. Previously only a dunker, Tyson continues to benefit from explosive hops and long arms, but now he has added a jumper from 8-12 feet as well. He attempts some threes that don't look as good, but his shorter attempts (which look almost one-handed) are finding the net with far more regularity. Credit to him for obvious hard work in the offseason. Versus Hammond, he contributed a solid 14 points and eight rebounds along with three blocks.

North Carolina’s Roy Williams was a fixture in the stands on Monday, and South Carolina boss Frank Martin made another appearance as well. Various other assistance stopped in during my two days, impressive considering that it’s a difficult week to draw many coaches to games.

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