Cactus Classic: Day 3 Rundown

TUCSON, Ariz. – The New York Gauchos ran the gauntlet of the Cactus Classic without getting pricked. Kemba Walker, the event's MVP, helped the Gauchos outlast Belmont Shore for the championship.

The best thing about a weekend like the one we had at the Cactus Classic is that it provided us an opportunity to learn about players in an intimate, 32-team setting. What did we learn?

For starters, we learned that there's simply no way there are 34 better players than Demar Derozan. The Southern California wing is on the rise and will shoot up the rankings in a serious way. How serious? The guy has the makings of a Top 10 player in this class. We caught him twice in Kingwood but weren't able to catch the act he put on here in Tucson.

Second, Kemba Walker's ascension up the point guard list will be swift and deserved. Unlike most players from the Big Apple, the hype machine tends to spread the word – justified or not – about a player before he's got a chance to live up to the expectations.

In the case of Walker, he's gone out and earned every accolade that is about be heaped on him. As his confidence has grown, so has his leadership. We've wondered all spring long what this point guard class would amount to and who would rise up. Walker has been one of the few to elevate his play at that position and he'll be rewarded for it.

Walker Was Efficient In Win
Two of the most impressive performers – Derozan and Walker – met in the final with the New York Gauchos cranking up their fast-paced style even quicker. The Gauchos kept Belmont Shore at bay and won 102-96.

The leading scorer in the contest was Belmont Shore's gifted 2009 wing Roberto Nelson. He pumped in 27 points. Derozan didn't shoot it particularly well (12-25 FG) though he did manage 27 points. Brandon Jennings, who had been scoring in big chunks, mustered up 24 points of him to go with 9 dimes.

Walker's floor game earned him the MVP award. He finished with 24 points (9-12 FG), 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

It's important to note how the Gauchos won this event. The East Coast contingent won in typical NYC fashion: they used guards to get it done. Over the course of their final two games, the crew scored 190 points. During that span only 41 points came from the team's 3 post players. Undersized power forward Kevin Phillips had 29 of the points on his own.

Walker's 24 in the championship were augmented by 21 from a battle scarred Chris Fouch and 15 from Darryl Bryant.

Brandon Jennings, PG, Belmont Shore – When Derozan got in foul trouble Saturday night, he dropped 44 points. "I shot a lot of layups," Jennings said. On Sunday morning he pumped in 36 more.

Demar Derozan, SF, Belmont Shore – The guy was a stud all weekend. One of the best athletes is transforming himself into a deadly scorer. When he's not fading on his jumper he's connecting en masse. He'll be a significant mover and shaker in the rankings. The knock on him has been consistency so piecing together another outing like this would be nice. However, the rumblings about his game expanding during and thru the high school season are true.

James Rahon, SG, Pump ‘n Run – Anyone who watched the Florida Gators the last two years understands the value of a specialist. In fact, specialists have impacted programs over the years. Arizona had one in Steve Kerr who was eventually one-upped by UF's Lee Humphrey. Rahon is exactly that kind of guy. Rahon's a skilled craftsman who will find his place.

Gauchos Backcourt -- Truth be told, the entire tournament was cognizant of the havoc these guys could wreak. Led by Kemba Walker and supported by Jordan Theodore, Chris Fouch and Darryl Bryant, these guys imposed their will on everyone. Fouch and Bryant should be nice mid-level pieces and Theodore likely winds up higher given his point guard aptitude. Walker will make a well-earned move into the Top 100 the next time around.

Gallon's Effort Rewarded
Keith Gallon, C, Houston Hoops – It's time to realize that he's now a serious hooper. In one weekend Gallon went from prospect to player. At over 300 pounds his stamina alone has been impressive. He's battled everyone thrown at him and there's no hesitation in his game. He's feeling it and his game is opening up. Nimble seems to be the only appropriate adjective to describe guys his size. Comparison: Robert "Tractor" Traylor.

The road the to championship game for the Gauchos went through the Wisconsin Playground Warriors then California Supreme before beating Belmont Shore. Belmont's playoff streak began on Sunday with a win over the Bay Area Hoosiers, then a victory over Double Pump Elite followed by the title game loss. …

Demar Derozan is committed to Southern Cal. However, there's a feeling that he wants to look around and explore his options. Should be an interesting summer. …

James Rahon is visiting Arizona unofficially on Monday. He has offers from San Diego State, Santa Clara and UC-Davis. Rahon hinted that the Wildcats may offer him. Arizona State, UCLA, Colorado, Utah and everyone in the WCC is interested. …

Zhaoux Zhang, a 7-foot-3 prospect out of China ran with Cali Supreme this weekend. A potential Class of 2007 center, he'd be a guy the big boys would be willing to look at should his clearinghouse paperwork slide through. …

Chris Fouch has offers from Albany and Fairfield. Cincinnati and Iowa have remained in touch. … Houston Hoops wing Jeremy Green is in the middle of the recruiting process. He'd like to wait until the summer ends to scope his options. Stanford, Arizona State, Baylor, Oregon, Virginia and Washington are ready to offer. He's received a call from Kentucky. …

Wisconsin Playground junior point guard Johnnie Lacy continued to grow on us. The kid will bust 3s and despite the size he's always effective. …

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