Athletes First found itself at a decided disadvantage early as stud center Daniel Orton found foul trouble. He looked outstanding but had to watch the last 10 minutes of the game from the bench. With Orton on the pine and Xavier Henry trying to gut it out on a bum ankle, the crew from Oklahoma was outmanned.
As Deshawn Painter and Marshawn Powell held it down early, Ratliffe came off the bench and went right to work. With fresh legs he attached inside and was a valuable scorer around the rim. Pledger dropped in 14 of his own.
Terrence Boyd, SG/SF, Athletes First – Last year Boyd was a transition bucket scorer with a game more suited for AAU ball than anything else. His improvement on the wing stems from working on his jump shot. His accuracy over the weekend was one of the tournament's hot topics. Combine a much-improved stroke with his body and ability to attack and you a young man who will play at a high level.
Marshawn Powell, PF, Boo – His post offense was a saving grace – especially early – in the semifinals.
Keith Gallon, C, Houston Hoops – Much like the Cactus Classic last year, Gallon waited until the final day to mount his charge inside. Until Jaquon Parker, an undersized defender, took on the task of slowing him down, Gallon had Boo on the ropes all by himself.
Will Barton, SG, Baltimore Stars – The last time we saw him (late in the season), Barton was 6-foot-3. Fast forward to April and he's closer to 6-5! He's got great pace to his game, can score from all over the court and as a scorer, he's becoming ultra-reliable.
Andre Dawkins, SG, Boo – His apprenticeship with the older group means fewer minutes but higher-level action. On Sunday morning he had fresh legs and came off the bench to spark Boo. Upon insertion he dropped 3 trifectas and hammered one down in transition to spark up the offense. Gifted and sporting a quick release, Dawkins justified the hype.
James McAdoo, PF/C, BWSL 15 – Both parents played at Old Dominion and the Monarchs would have to tug at his heartstrings to keep this kid home. He's got the look of the next big thing to come out of the Tidewater area in terms of size and skill. In the first half of the semis he scored over each shoulder. Plus, he grabbed a traffic rebound and went coast-to-coast and deftly laid in a soft finger roll.
Austin Rivers, CG, Team Stat 16s – What a weekend for this kid! By our count he was responsible for finishing off two games. In the semis he pumped in 30; 23 in the second half. Remember, he's playing up in age but that mattered little as he dumped 16 on the stars to win the 16 and under title.
Kyle Simmons, PG, Team Florida 15s – Deaunte Saunders drilled 3s on Sunday but we thought this young man drove the bus. Think Drew Neitzel meets Teddy Dupay. His club upset Boo, largely in part of his ability to take care of the ball and create. Love how he shoots it on the move and has that fearlessness to his game at such a young age.
We don't spend a lot of time talking about kids who aren't in high school but Justin Anderson commands attention. The 6-5 lefty wing was one of the top performers in the 15 and under bracket. …
Boo's Kendall Marshall was up and down in the tournament. He never seemed quite comfortable which is uncharacteristic for the gym rat. As Marshall searched for a comfort zone, 2009 point guard Jontel Evans came off the bench and did an impressive job running the offense. In Evans you have a trustworthy speedster who is thinking hoops over football. His stock rose this weekend.
We caught Jordan Morgan's first game of the day with King James. He's more aggressive than a year ago and gives Michigan a low block presence. … Daniel Orton was the rave with a fadeaway baseline jumper. He's a massive human being and a load for high school kids to body up. …
King James 2009 forward Jonathan Smith relayed offers from Bowling Green, Kent State and James Madison (new staff). He admitted most of the MAC wants to sign him. … Within hours of the event's conclusion word was Steven Pledger collected offers from Oklahoma and George Mason to go along with interest from Wake Forest. …