Beach Ball: Day One Notebook

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The Beach Ball Classic has been a fixture on the holiday tournament scene for decades, and over the years future superstars such as Kobe Bryant and Kobe Bryant have graced these courts along the Atlantic coast.

This year, it's Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman that headlines the field, the powerhouse from Sin City that features a bevy of high-majors and elite seniors Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter.

But Bishop Gorman doesn't begin play until Saturday, so Friday's action revolved around numerous other top teams and prospects.

Record Breaker

Luke Kennard set the Beach Ball single-game scoring record on Friday night, erupting for 52 points as Franklin (Ohio) High routed Mullins (S.C.) High.

At the risk of dating myself, as a college kid and recruitnik (naturally) I attended the 1995 Beach Ball Classic, at which a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant electrified the crowd for an entire weekend.

But it was another senior, Mike Bibby, who set the single game scoring record with 48 points that Kennard has now shattered. Bibby would go on to set the three-game record as well, finishing with 118 total, so Kennard has a chance to topple Bibby twice this weekend.

Kennard's game differed from Bibby's in the sense that, despite his reputation as a shooter, he hit a relatively paltry two long bombs. Instead, the 6-5 wing and Duke signee played a power game. He was the biggest guy on the floor and played like it, beasting smaller guards but still doing so as a perimeter player. He moved very sharply without the ball, created and exploited creases in Mullins' defense and initiated contact anytime that proved possible.

As evidence, consider that he shot 18-26 from the floor and 14-17 from the foul line. He also hauled down 15 rebounds and dished out four assists, with five turnovers. Stylistically, this was a very different Kennard from the sometimes quiet one who competed with the King James Shooting Stars on the EYBL circuit this year.

If you wanted to nitpick, you might note that he won't finish as well inside versus high-major length and athleticism, nor will he be shooting 26 times (plus all the free throws) for Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils.

But an efficient, dominant 52-game stands under its own weight, and all Kennard can be at this moment is a great high school player. And on Friday night, he certainly was that.

Felton also steps forward

Back in 2000, junior guard Raymond Felton inspired fans by leading tiny, easily dismissed Latta (S.C.) High to shocking upset over famed Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha.

Felton's nephew, sophomore guard Jalek Felton, couldn't push Mullins past Franklin but definitely created an imprint of his own. He scored 29 points on 10-20 shooting, adding four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

He performed very impressively in the first half to keep the game competitive, and his array of scoring tools — quick floaters in either direction, three-point bombs, slick layups — make him one of the country's flashiest and promising Class of 2017 prospects.

Felton also is a sensational passer — even better than his shorter uncle — and as his decision-making improves, should become even more effective as a facilitator. Nine turnovers is too many for a player as gifted as he, but in his defense he doesn't have a ton of help and he has plenty of time to develop a higher percentage approach.

More Notables

Luke Maye, Cornelius (N.C.) Hough — A senior power forward headed to North Carolina, Maye did what he normally does: He puts up numbers and led his team to a victory. In a 54-52 win over Columbus (Ohio) Northland, Maye racked up 20 points and 12 rebounds on 9-18 from the floor. He'll never be long or athletic and those qualities loom as a challenge for the ACC level, but he possesses exquisite hands, is an outstanding passer, is strong, tough and a tireless competitor.

Maye’s high-arching shot finds the net from 22 feet

His jump shot will be a key to his offensive game in Chapel Hill, and his very high-arching shot features greater backspin than it did in the past. He missed all four of his three attempts on Friday but did hit a couple from 18-19 feet. Maye's release is quick and thus, despite shooting off his shoulder, should translate to college. He also buried two clutch free throws late to provide his team the winning margin.

Seth Towns, Columbus (Ohio) Northland — A junior forward, Towns jumped out to a hot start versus Hough. He cooled off over time but still finished with 17 points and five rebounds on 6-14 shooting. Towns lofts a nice looking three-point shot, clearly a strong suit for him. He needs to gain strength and become more physical to offset average athleticism and length. Still, the fact that he can stretch a defense at 6-6 bodes well.

P.J. Dozier, Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley — It was by no means a great overall game for Dozier, but the South Carolina-bound guard made plays when his team needed him most. Spring Valley appeared to be on their way to an easy win, but Beaufort (N.C.) East Carteret scrambled back into the contest and nearly pulled out a win. Dozier's line included 16 points (6-11 FG), eight rebounds, six assists and six steals but also included 10 turnovers. He fought hard down the stretch, however, driving to the rim and making a critical steal as East Carteret tried to push over the top. I've watched him at two events in the past week now, and he has made a lot of contributions despite not performing in vintage form. He needs to regain his shooting stroke from July (0-2 on threes versus E.C. and 4-7 on free throws) but otherwise continues to boost his club in multiple areas.

Kipper Nichols, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward — This senior forward is unsigned and looks like a solid upper mid-major prospect and a potential high-major in the right system. He's a good athlete who's a little tight through the shoulders but also is strong, fairly athletic and tough. He plays hard and appears to be a versatile defender as well.


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