GSK Invitational: Wall, Leslie Team For Title

RALEIGH, N.C. – Not since 1989 has a local team captured the GSK Invitational. Rodney Rogers led Hillside to the title 18 years ago and this time around C.J. Leslie and John Wall worked in unison as Word of God outlasted DeMatha.

With a packed house looking on, C.J. Leslie stroked a pair of free throws that gave Word of God a 5-point lead with 12 seconds remaining. Leslie, the event's most outstanding player, scored 19 points as DeMatha fell to the local contingent 64-62.

By all accounts, Leslie stood tall for three consecutive games. For a young man whose had difficulty maintaining intensity in the past, the 2007 GSK Invitational was a major stepping stone for one of the gifted prospects in the Class of 2010.

Leslie, with the help of electric lead guard John Wall, gave the hometown crowd everything it asked for. A first half steal and major slam-dunk from Leslie set the tone for the evening.

Wall scored 14 points and for his overall efforts took home the Most Valuable Player award. Wall took just 9 shots and made them count. His biggest contribution won't show up in the stat sheet. He took a team that starts a trio of underclassmen and navigated them past a young, but talented DeMatha club.

While Leslie was showing signs of maturing for Word of God, DeMatha's Josh Selby did some growing on his end. The speedy lead guard played the final, particularly in the second half, with a tremendous amount of heart and purpose.

Selby cut down on his mistakes and went into full attack mode, essentially putting DeMatha on his back. The sophomore scored 25 points, including 20 in the second half. Like Leslie, this game may well be a stepping-stone for his season.

Junior wing Naji Hibbert added 14 for the Stags. Lance Beckwith scored 11, Richard Denning 7 and Milton Chavis 10 for Word of God.

Justin Watts, SF, Jordan – Three days of ball is a lot for a team with only one primary scoring option. Watts burned it up early and finished 7-for-14 (3-5 3s) with 18 points and 2 boards. Jordan was missing senior post Culton Fouschee and they could have used his size against a big Ravenscroft front line.

Hunter McClintock, G, Northern – In the gym that Pistol Pete Maravich once called home, it was fitting that another showman turned in a special night. McClintock broke the event record for career 3s and 3s made in a game. He went 8-for-15 from downtown for 39 points.

Larry Drew, PG, Taft – Drew and teammates Justin Hawkins (12 points) and Eugene Phelps 17 were the double-digit performers. Taft, which played in a pair of East Coast holiday events, has earned its rest. Drew led the way with 18 as Taft raced out to a 24-5 first quarter lead and held on late.

Ryan Kelly, PF, Ravenscroft – He's done nothing but enhance his reputation over the holidays. A dependable, skilled four-man, Kelly had 17 points and 8 rebounds. He went for bigger digits early in the tournament and we suspect he did nothing but cement his status among the programs that offered and leave the others with a big decision to make in the second half of his junior campaign. In one year, Kelly has ascended from a mid-level prospect to an excellent piece of the puzzle for high-major programs.

Reggie Bullock, SG, Kinston – Coming off a 23-point performance, all eyes were on Bullock. Minutes into the game against Taft he turned an ankle and did not return. Kinston fell behind big but rallied to keep it close in the second without him.

Ryan Kelly said that he'd like to narrow his list in the spring. He'll take in the UNC game on Sunday. …

It was rough sledding for Panther Creek's Earnest Ross who scored 26 points but shot 9-for-28. On the flipside, his young team is 10-2 heading into the bulk of the season. …

Vanderbilt is the most recent program to offer Kelly. Michigan is cranking up the intensity along with Notre Dame and Stanford, according to Kelly. Virginia, Virginia Tech, Richmond, Davidson and William & Mary are among the other others. Kelly will try and pare the list in the spring. …

This may have been the only game of the year Taft's Bryce Smith didn't make a 3-pointer. Programs need to step up and offer this kid; Jacksonville has already. Portland, Pepperdine, Gonzaga and Oregon are looking. …

Head Coaches – Roy Williams, North Carolina; Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State.

Assistant Coaches – Wake Forest.

SCOREBORD

  • Word of God 64, DeMatha 62
  • Northern Durham 79, Panther Creek 62
  • Ravenscroft 64, Jordan 47
  • Taft 62, Kinston 55

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