HAMPTON, Va. – Between Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, All-Ohio has a big man and a leader that bring different strengths. Plus, see who stepped up for Team Stat in the semis.
Last year, Jordan Hulls became the glue to a studly Indiana Elite team and eventually worked his way into a prominent position in the senior class. This year's version of Hulls could be Aaron Craft. What he may lack in offense he makes up for with intelligence, toughness and defensive prowess. Austin Rivers was on a roll here but Craft made it difficult for him. Heck, Craft has carved out a defensive reputation that will follow him to Tennessee.
The kid is a leader, a winner. After the semifinal game, he made his biggest contribution of the day. Teammate Jordan Sibert was lost. His jump shot was gone and his confidence shattered. Craft put both arms around Sibert's shoulders, started him in the eyes and told him to forget about the game and that the next shot was going down. Some things you can't quantify in a stat sheet. The intangible of leadership is a significant part of who is Aaron Craft.
James Bell of Team Stat/Each One Team One emptied the tank against All-Ohio. Villanova is getting a jumbo wing with superior strength and sound athleticism. This weekend, Bell was the No. 3 man on a team that featured Rivers and Brandon Knight. He didn't complain and when Knight went down with an injury, he stepped in and rose to the occasion with the best game we've seen him play in a while.
Brandon Knight's a tough kid. He took a physical beating on Saturday and the effects of the pounding sunk in on Sunday. Knight started hot Sunday morning but finally sat with an ice bag attached to his hip after the first 10 minutes. He couldn't go but he gave it a shot. When you're watching him on the sidelines or in the game you get the sense he's a gamer who values winning. Some kids with his talent have a tough time balancing winning against individual accomplishment and hype. Knight seems to be very level headed.
Want a comparison for Jared Sullinger? How about DeJuan Blair? The size, the hands, the desire to be a great rebounder? Sullinger steals a lot out of the book of Blair and adds in even more offense. Plus, he's bigger. Regardless, you get the picture. This guy's a big man's big man. He put a lot of fouls on Team Stat and he knew what to do with fresh bodies when they came in.
Team Stat threw 7-0 center Ugo Okam into the mix against Sullinger and the Ohio State prospect smelled blood in the water. He immediately went at the big fella who hadn't played much for his team in the tournament. It took only a minute for Sullinger to hit him up for six points and he was in the hunt for more before they took Okam out of the mix.
Great players have their moments. LeBron's signature effort against Lenny Cooke will always stand out. Chris Paul winning the AAU title comes to mind. If Michael Gilchrist becomes one of the great ones, maybe today will become his moment. Few people can say they beat Boo Williams, in the playoffs, on Boo's court … at the buzzer!
Gilchrist's half court heave against hometown Boo Williams to beat the buzzer and put his squad into the finals is on his resume for life. "Never seen anything like that in my 27 years," Boo Williams admitted, nearly stunned still an hour after the game. Boo went down to Team Final in the semis of its own tournament as Tyreek Duren hit a half court with four seconds left and then Gilchrist's moment came at the horn.
Bradley Beal can hoop. The St. Louis Eagles weren't supposed to be in the finals of the 16-and-under bracket but they got their behind slippery guard Shaq Boga and Beal. In the finals, Beal went off in the second half. He's an unselfish kid who impacts when needed. He's good enough to hunt his shot more and he can smoke it from different spots on the floor.
It's going to be interesting to watch Kyle Anderson of the Playaz develop. He's 6-6 and currently playing the point. He's not strong enough, doesn't have a money jump shot yet but his ball skills and body haven't caught up with each other. He's got a significant ceiling. Is at the point? Maybe the small forward? Who knows, all I can say is that watching him the next few years should be a treat. Sometimes you have to remind yourself you're watching such a young player. He may have a baby face now but in time he could be a measuring stick prospect in his class.
Adrein Payne is a super prospect BUT you aren't going to get to see the full arsenal each time out. Over the course of the weekend, you saw glimpses but never full show. Maybe a big board here, a block shot there. Each time he flashed an aspect of his game it was at an athletic level superior to his peers. If he can string together more of them in a row then he'll be onto something big. …
Myles Mack is putting together quite an impressive AAU resume. He's an undersized guard who will need to transition to the point in college. In the meantime, he's out here raining 3s and tossing in haymakers at the end of games for the Playaz. ...
Look out Atlantic 10. Juwan Staten is going be faster and more slippery than most of the lead guard in said league. He's showing off a nifty floater that he's gaining confidence with. Dayton's got itself a jet. … Jordan Sibert went down in the championship game with a nasty injury and there could be multiple breaks involved. His spring and summer are likely over. …