Tyler Smith, PG-SG, Baltimore Select: Somehow, this young man averaged 29 points a game for the state champs but was able to fly under the national radar. Well, not anymore. The West Nottingham Academy-bound Smith his up the Cleveland Basketball Club 16-year old team for 38 points. Toss in an array of alley oops to teammates and this was a complete throttling. Smith has deep range, ballhandling skills and a definite bright future.
Brian Butch, C, Fox Valley Skillz: We didn't get to see the entire game but from what we caught, Butch was terrific. He probably had 30 points – give or take – and his effort, determination and skills were the reason why Fox Valley took down Southeast Pump and Run with Jackie Butler in an overtime tilt. Count this observer among Butch's growing fan club. This is a budding Top-10 player.
Olu Famutimi, SG-SF, Michigan Hurricanes: Speaking of Top 10 players, its clear Olu has made some significant strides in his game. He hit for 20 points on 7-14 shooting. He made jumpers off the catch and bounce. The development of his offensive game could very well turn into one of the bigger spring stories. Plus, he's still a skywalker who routinely plays above the rim.
Sean Banks, SF, Tim Thomas Playaz: He's grown to about 6-6 ½ and retained his ballhandling skills. Banks is one of the truly outstanding scorer's in this tournament. His 3-point stroke is improved and he does a nice job of creating for himself and isn't adverse to the drive and dish.
Brandon Jenkins and Dion Harris, PG and SG, Michigan Hurricanes: The duo combined for 29 points but each stood out; Harris for his crafty finishes and obvious scoring touch and Jenkins for his scoring tools and play at the point. Schools that jumped on Jenkins early will be happy this summer.
Travis Outlaw, SF, Alabama Ice: Like Famutimi, he's developing his offensive arsenal nicely. When he had it rolling, the Ice was rolling. When he struggled and fell asleep at the wheel for a stretch in the second half, his team took a dive. Once he cranked it up again, good things began happening for his team and they crept back into the game.
James Lang, C, Alabama Ice: The New Orleans Jazz claimed him on their roster but he was definitely in the building for Kenny Harris' team. Kudos to Lang for working on his body. He's about three bills but he's 6-10 so while he hasn't really trimmed a ton of weight he has been stretched out and gotten taller. Super soft touch at the hoop and is way more active and agile than most guys his size could dream about being. Pleasant surprise.
Will Sheridan, PF, Tim Thomas Playaz: He and Banks carried the torch for the Playaz. While Terrance Roberts and Darryl Watkins struggled, he played hard, stayed active and turned in a fine performance. He might not be the fastest guy off his feet, but he's not going to get outworked.
Hassan Fofana, C, Middlesex Magic: Loved him. He's another guy who has taken to a training program and trimmed inches off his waist and is looking much more fit and muscular; his calves are like tree stumps. He played through foul trouble, displayed plenty of offensive firepower and didn't allow Watkins to score. Another semi-surprise who's game seemingly has taken off on the strength of a conditioning program.
Brandon Bass, PF, New Orleans Jazz: He really goes all out for most of the game. Made some face up jumpers on Friday night but make no mistake about it, he's a guy who loves contact, chases rebounds and is a beastly athlete for his size.
Tasmin Mitchell, SF, New Orleans Jazz: Who knows what position he'll wind up being, but it doesn't matter because all you need to know is that he's a high-major talent. He's a strong athlete who already uses both hands at the rim and stays active.
NOTES: Warren Scott is now unofficially officially going by the name Jarvelle Scott. For those interested parties, Jarvelle is his middle name. … Will Sheridan's visit to Wake Forest went over well and the big fella said he enjoyed the trip to Winston-Salem. … Brandon Bass averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds last year. He says that LSU, Cincinnati, Texas and Mississippi State are recruiting him the hardest. …
New Orleans Jazz point guard Casey Long is originally from Mississippi but he now resides in Fayetteville, N.C. The last time he played in the Dean E. Smith Center, he was on the short end of a state title game. "I wasn't planning on coming back here until next year," Long said before his first game back in the Dome. … Apparently, Team Minnesota point guard Lawrence McKenzie told a group of reporters that Oklahoma was his leader. Interesting, what a Final Four appearance will do for you. Just a few weeks ago, Andrew Lavender said that the Sooners were his favorite. …
Play of the Night: Andres Sandoval picked Marquis Webb's pocket late in the game and went in for a contested final and foul. He converted the 3-point play. … We caught a little of Longar Longar against the Raleigh Heat. He looks like a fine mid-major (maybe a tad higher) athletic power forward whose greatest gift is shot blocking and rebounding. … Speaking of shot blockers, Darryl Watkins scores high in that department but he's got to develop his offensive game. Right now, he looks like he's really lacking confidence down low. …Rod Grizzard's brother Anthony Grizzard played with the Alabama Ice. In his AAU days, Rod was a member of the Alabama Laser's. His brother is a deadeye shooter. …
Miami Tropics (great AAU team name!) power forward Ivan Lopez wasn't healthy for his team's game against the Michigan Hurricanes. Lopez told TheInsidersHoops.com he's definitely suffering from some sort of sickness. … Nice catch for Northeastern as 2003 forward Bennett Davis is already locked up. He's a 6-8 skinny forward with a nice touch from deep. … Speaking of good catches, LSU has a nice one in small forward Darnell Lazare. …