Lasers Blaze To 17 and Under Championship

HAMPTON, Va. – Mike Ford arrived here in Southeastern Virginia under-recruited and relatively unknown. He left with a championship and an MVP trophy – and a chance at plenty more options for college.

The 6-7 SF from Huntsville (AL) Johnson scored 16 points in leading the Alabama Lasers to a 79-74 win over Riverside Church in the 17-and-under championship at the Boo Williams Invitational.

"He's going to prep school next year," Alabama coach William "Wig" Pearson said after the victory. "We had him one, but we might try to send him somewhere else now. I don't know."

But he does know this: Ford could hack it just about anywhere in the prep school ranks. He's only 17 years old – he doesn't turn 18 until October – and he's very thin. But he can handle the ball fairly well, shoot it from the perimeter and sneak into the paint for a key rebound here and there.

"He just needs to get stronger," Pearson explained, "and he needs a year to get older. But he's got game. He's a high-major player. No doubt about it."

That remains to be seen. But there's no doubt about the Lasers' worthiness as champs. They played the weekend without their best player – Tuscaloosa (AL) Hillcrest super soph D.J. White – but got solid contributions from a balanced roster.

On Sunday afternoon against the Church, Huntsville (AL) Butler sophomore SG Courtney Beasley scored 15 points in the second half en route to a team-high 22, and Huntsville (AL) Johnson senior PG Mike Davis added 20.

The Lasers erased 40-34 halftime deficit to notch the upset.

For coach Kenny Pretlow's Hawks, Brooklyn (NY) Robeson PG Gary Ervin led the way with 22 points (the senior is going to prep school next year), while Brooklyn (NY) Grady WG (also probably going to prep after originally signing with Hofstra last November) pitched in 14 in spite of struggling all game long with his usually reliable outside shot. He managed only two threes.

Gary Forbes, a junior SF from Brooklyn (NY) Bannuker, had 10. Teaneck (NJ) High junior SF Willie Irish went for eight. Ditto for Milford (CT) Academy junior SF Kelvin "Peedy" Nelson.

Alabama's Davis, Riverside's Ervin and South Carolina Raven Ra'Sean Dickey joined Ford on the all-tournament team.

Michael Kruse writes for Basketball America and

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