White and Blue for the Gold

As expected, the two superior USA teams -- the White and Blue -- face off Saturday night in the gold medal game of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival/International Sports Invitational, featuring the young stars that have carried them...

SAN DIEGO – What seemed like the inevitable very early in the event will take place in the gold medal game of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival/International Sports Invitational Saturday night.


The Cox Arena (located on the San Diego State campus) showdown between the two overwhelmingly best teams in the event, the White and Blue squads of Team USA, promises to be one of the prime-time June/July match-ups in high school hoops.


White, a team that is made up of a whole lot more than just the best center prospect (Greg Oden) to come down the U.S. high school pike in a while, has rolled to four victories by an average margin of 32 points. It hould be given the edge if you're more attuned to teams led by dominant presences inside the lane.


But Blue, which has tattooed its three foes by 34.7 points per outing, should be called the favorite if you take kindly to teams with high-octane backcourt performers.


The teams rolled along by margins of 19 (Team White over Russia) and 22 (Team Blue over Team Red) in Friday's semifinals. But both games seemed on the verge of being honest-to-goodness, down-to-the wire affairs.


Well, at least they did for a quarter or so each.


Russia, slicing up Team White's full-court pressure, raced to a 22-15 advantage before the U.S. lads cut their deficit to 28-25 after the first 10-minute quarter.


But then came a 31-point outburst in the second quarter and any anticipation of a major upset was snuffed out with the efficiency of all of those 40s and 50s film noir private detectives slamming their way thru packs of cigarettes.


Foul problems – he picked up his third early in the second quarter and fourth early in the third period – limited Oden to 18 minutes and just 12 points and three rebounds (although the official stat keepers may have been a bit lax in tallying that total).


And Kyle Singler (Medford, OR, South High), a 6-foot-8 junior-to-be whose performance has been a revelation to only those in attendance who didn't check him out in tournaments in Las Vegas, Houston and New Orleans in April and May, dropped in 16 of his 19 points after intermission for the winners.


Jarvis Crittention (Southwest Christian Academy in Atlanta), one of the very best of the "scoring" point guard prospects in the national Class of 2006, had his best outing for the White with a game-high 21 points despite missing all three of his 3-pointers and four of his 11 free throws.


And, arguably, the most physically imposing (maybe 6-3 and about 230 pounds) guard on any level of high school basketball did some stat-sheet stuffing for the White, too.


Paul Harris scored 12 points while grabbing 14 rebounds (he's averaging an event-best 9.8 per game) to go with five assists and three steals.


Forwards Maxim Sheleketo and Igor Smyghin, both of whom we could see playing in the NBA four or five years from now, continued to demonstrate slick offensive games with 19 and 15 points, respectively, and combined to hit six of 12 3-pointers for Russia.


Then the action (which also included an 83-76 victory by New Zealand over China) moved across the street from Cox Arena to Peterson Gymnasium.


By the time most making the trek to the other gym found their seats, huffing and puffing (including you-know-who), into Peterson, Team USA Red was up over its Blue counterpart, 10-0.


Any concerns that the Blue squad was going to be upset, though, were, at best, premature.


After all the Blue is led by O.J. Mayo and Wayne Ellington who, along with Tory Jackson, may comprise the most dynamic trio of guards on any team this summer.


The North Carolina-bound (in 2006-07) Ellington had 13 of his 18 points in the first half while Mayo, who also grabbed a game's best 11 rebounds and was credited with six assists, scored 11 of his event's best 29 points in the fourth quarter.


And just in case, based on what you've read here and elsewhere, you've been wondering if the guy's game is flawless, Mayo was guilty of 12 turnovers. But he got the ball back after a lot of those miscues as he was credited with another event's best – eight steals.


An interesting game-within-a-game Friday night took place whenever Brook Lopez (for Team Red) and Robin Lopez (Team Blue) were on the floor at the same time.


They matched up on six or seven possessions and the Stanford-bound twins from San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno both had their good and bad moments – although Brook has been on the "good moment" end of things more often than his brother this week.


Robin, who is much less offensively polished than his brother (especially on the perimeter), missed both shots from the field and hit just one of four free throws to go with two rebounds. But he was credited with six blocked shots.


Brook was four of seven from the field and three of five from the free-throw line for 11 points. He grabbed seven rebounds and had a couple of steals.


Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com

The Devils Den Top Stories