Fayetteville didn't have the manpower to keep pace, especially inside, with Calvary. Fayetteville's standout sophomore, wing Jonathan Rice, handled the ball most of the day. His be everything role for his team means tons of responsibilities in a game of this magnitude. A stellar student, Rice is tracking as a mid-level wing prospect at this stage.
After exiting the Raleigh venue, myself and former Marquette academic advisor Denny Kuiper jumped into the car. We pointed ourselves in the direction of Charlotte where the ME-CA 7 conference semifinals squared off.
Coach Kuiper, the former head man at Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High, saved the day. The 3-hour ride was eased by a CD of prank calls from Roy D. Mercer, an extremely funny human being and combative personality from the Midwest.
The ME-CA 7 Conference, in one man's opinion, is the gold standard for public school talent in the state. In the Charlotte Observer poll, Hopewell (No. 1), Vance (3) and North Mecklenburg (4) dominate the landscape.
Game One was the rubber match between Vance and North Meck. Still stinging from a tip-in by North Meck freshman Bernand Sullivan earlier in the year, Vance led from the early going and held on.
While the league has numerous state title contenders, Vance may be best suited for long term success due to the team's guard play. Coach Will Robinson can roll out Marquis Rankin (2011), Jacoby Davis (2011) and Daryl Traynham (2010). Anthony McClenny (2008) is the "father figure" of the club and best shooter. Against North Meck, this quartet got it done.
McClenny (12 points) was on from deep in the first half, Rankin (6 points) heated up after the break and Davis (13 points) got his in the second half as well. The final nail was applied in the fourth quarter when Vance spread the floor Phil Ford style, spaced North Meck and handed the ball to Traynham. The 5-foot-8 point man attacked and either scored via tough hits inside or carved up the Vikings for lay-ups. He scored 8 points and dropped 6 assists in the 57-43 win.
Traynham, a Washington, D.C. product, is a leader with a tremendous feel for the position. He forces tempo and is a pesky defender. Size will play a role in his long-term college choice but if he tightens up his stroke it'd be hard to pass on him.
At the very least, he's an elite mid-level point man; guys who don't mind smaller points will love what he brings to the table. He's a one-man press breaker. With points, you look for kids who take ownership in their team and have presence; Traynham has both and is a winner.
North Meck boasts a roster chocked full with talent. Junior small forward Kyle Gaillard made 2 3's but couldn't get it going. Forward Andre Marhold, also a junior, had 10 and 5 but North Meck was unable to establish an inside game to counter Vance's guard play. The aforementioned Sullivan, a freshman, was held in check with 2 points. Sullivan has battled issues with his knee much of the year but is tracking as one of the state's finest freshman.
The nightcap featured top-ranked Hopewell against Mallard Creek, which was playing on its homecourt. After dropping the hammer and cruising to a 41-29 lead at the break, it began unraveling in the 3rd for Hopewell.
Mallard Creek, sparked by freshman Marquise Williams' 24 points and 12 boards, took the lead 56-55 at the end of the third quarter. The top seed was in trouble.
Enter Brandyn Curry, a 6-foot-1 junior point guard. Calm and cool with the game on the line he began attacking and did everything in his power not to lose. Curry defended, passed and finished. He hit for 21 points.
Curry, a 4.65 student, is a lock mid-major prospect. As the year wears on and his game continues to expand, the lefty will receive looks from a number of levels. Like Traynham, he brings intelligence and presence at the position to his team.
Senior Corey Whitehurst, a 6-foot-7 bouncy power forward, scored 16 points. There's a school of thought that he's coming around (he played well in December when we saw him) and Division I is a possibility, especially for a lower level program that can bring him a long. Sophomore Jordan Downing and junior Alex Godette are both strong students and good players.
Between Hopewell, Vance, Mallard Creek and North Meck, you can make the case that atleast 10 D-I prospects are spread out amongst those rosters, most of which are young players. The Charlotte 49ers, the lone program in attendance, got a great look at the city's young talent.