You don't get better settings to evaluate big men than head-to-head high school duels in jacked up environments. The 5:40 game at the GSK Invitational pitted senior center Julian Gamble against junior center Victor Davila. The tale of the tape had Davila surrendering an inch and no less than 40 pounds to Gamble.
Each player was faced with adversity at some point. For Davila, figuring out Gamble took over 2 quarters. On Gamble's side of the ledger, finding a way to stay in the contest was a game-long battle.
Gamble's size and girth gave Davila early problems and Gamble scored 6 points in the first quarter with Davila being held scoreless. On the defensive end, Gamble's shot blocking talents seemed to at least intimidate Starmount's club. Davila's early indecision in the post led to turnovers.
The first half belonged to Gamble and he looked every bit like a bonafide high-major recruit. Plus, his backcourt had a major edge in athleticism and his team was able to mount a considerable lead.
50 seconds into the 3rd quarter, adversity hit Gamble. A great post feed put him in bad position and Davila took advantage by attacking him; the result was a 3rd foul on the Southern center.
As the game wore on, Gamble clearly became weary of the fouls and to his credit, Davila went into attack mode. Midway through the second half, Davila was beginning to figure out Gamble. Instead of trying to attack him facing the bucket he was able to get the baby hook off and was successful with the tactic.
If it's a title bout you'd score the fight with the first half to Gamble and the second to Davila. Right now Gamble would be the higher level prospect (both are solid Top 100 candidates). The Starmount junior finished with 23 points on 11-for-14 from the field to go with 7 boards. Gamble countered with 13 points (5-for-8 FG) and 3 boards. He rejected 3 shots to Davila's one.
Each player likely took away a lesson. Davila rarely faces this level of interior competition. Adjusting to the speed and overall athleticism in a setting like this is an area to work on. Indecision in the post, especially in the first half, with athletes and other capable bigs around was a recipe for trouble.
He'll also take away the bonus of knowing that he's a competitor and for the second time in a big setting (see Oak Hill in 2005) he was able to fight through adversity and figure things out. He smelled a weakness (fouls) with Gamble and went into attack mode. While many of his peers still are void of a go-to-move at this stage in their careers, he's got one. The half hook is his calling card.
If you're Gamble there's also work to be done. No. 1, conditioning. In back-to-back games he's been significantly more energetic in the first halves. No. 2, learning to play with fouls. It's going to happen in the ACC, especially given the fact that he's bigger and will be mainly inside. No. 3, get comfortable with a scoring move. The bulrush can be a weapon but it won't take long to lose its punch. A counter move inside will be an early priority at Miami. Regardless, he's made significant strides since this point last season when he was a mid-major prospect.
You attend a lot of games, many of them not very competitive. To have two good players attacking each other and watching them go through ebbs and flows during a contest is really a treat. If these two want to lace them up and get after it again, count us in!