Oden & Co. Too Tough Inside

O.J. Mayo led a 3-point barrage for Team USA Blue Saturday night. Ultimately, though, Greg Oden, Paul Harris and Bill Walker were just too powerful inside the lane and Team USA White came away with gold medals during the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival/International Sports Invitational at San Diego State.

SAN DIEGO – When can a basketball team cruise to a 22-point victory despite missing 16 of 20 shots from behind the 3-point arc and committing 19 turnovers?


When it's got an overwhelming offensive attack inside the lane (or, as Hubie Brown is found of calling it, "the painted area").


That's what Team USA White had throughout the week at San Diego State during the seven-team, USA Basketball Youth Development Festival/International Sports Invitational.


Five opponents were victimized by it, the last of those being Team USA Blue Saturday night in the gold medal game. Despite having, arguably, the two best offensive backcourt players anywhere on the school level for next season, the Blue squad was overwhelmed, 107-85, by the White, just like China (112-59), Canada (105-69), Team USA Red (103-83) and Russia (105-86) were the previous four evenings.


Team USA White center Greg Oden came into the event hyped as the most overpowering post player on the high school level. He left San Diego with his gold medal and his No. 1 big man credentials ever the more etched in stone.


The Indianapolis resident, who was perfect from the field in the championship game while leading the Spiece Indy Heat to the Reebok/Big Time Tournament title in Las Vegas last July, was just as near-flawless in his Saturday night performance in Cox Arena.


He converted all nine of his field-goal attempts and all three of his free throws for 21 points to go with 11 rebounds. He was credited with just one assist and two blocked shots but those totals should have been more like three or four assists and four or five blocks.


Paul Harris and Bill Walker, who have the frames and physiques of NFL outside linebackers, scored 28 and 18 points, respectively, with Harris also doing a more then commendable 1-on-1 defensive job on Team USA Blue standout O.J. Mayo.


How offensively skilled is the 6-4 Mayo? Harris' defense on Mayo couldn't have been any better yet the junior-to-be from Cincinnati scored 31 points despite missing the final five minutes of the second quarter while receiving five stitches over his right eye, courtesy an inadvertent elbow from Harris (who was dribbling against Mayo's defense at the time).


Wayne Ellington (27 points and 12 rebounds) also had a marvelous game for Team USA Blue. Maybe something – more accurately, someone – will change my opinion in July but the four games he played in San Diego convinced me that he's clearly the best two-guard in the national Class of 2006.


But while Mayo, Ellington and Tory Jackson (a very good point guard prospect from Saginaw, MI, Buena Vista) were combining to cast off 31 3-pointers (hitting 10), Team USA White was pounding the ball into the post to Oden.


And Harris and Walker were driving at will or overwhelming defenders inside the lane.


Game . . . set . . . match.



(As selected by Frank Burlison)



Greg Oden (Team USA White/Indianapolis Lawrence North; 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game)

Frank Says: There are a lot of very, very good players in the national Class of 2006. But, literally and figuratively, Oden towers everyone. His offensive skills still need a lot of polishing but he's made huge strides in that area over the past year.



(Oden included)

O.J. Mayo (Team USA Blue/Cincinnati North College Hill; 27.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 6.0 steals per game)

Frank Says: He's the most offensively skilled guard on the school scene today. And his defense isn't bad, either. He scored 31 points Saturday night, despite the cut over his right eye. But he could have done a better job of getting his teammates (other than Ellington) involved in the offensive flow, too, in the title game.


Paul Harris (Team USA White/Niagara Falls; 17.8 points, 9.0 points and 3.6 assists per game)

Frank Says: His jump shot (to a great degree) and his decision making with the ball are going to need a lot of refinement if he's going to be a full-time guard on the college level. But he's 6-3 and about 225 pounds, and he gets maximum results out of all of that bulk and strength.


Wayne Ellington (Team USA Blue/Merion, PA, The Episcopal Academy; 20.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game)

Frank Says: Offensively, he's nearly as complete as Mayo. And there wasn't a player with more fluidity, be it his velvety jump shot or slick/keep the defender on his heels/drives. He is North Carolina's next All-America caliber guard.


Daequan Cook (Team USA Red/Dayton, OH, Dunbar; 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game)

Frank Says: He doesn't have nearly the offensively versatility or fluidity of Ellington but he's a more explosive (at least, vertically) athlete. With some ball-handling polish, he'll be an All-Big Ten performer at Ohio State before too deeply into his college career.



Bill Walker (Team USA White/Cincinnati North College Hill; 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game)

Frank Says: No matter how well I'm able to describe the way this guy jumps, you'll still be stunned the first time you see him elevate with both elbows above the iron to darn near shatter a backboard. He has off-the charts strength and improving ball-handling, passing and jump-shooting skills.


Kyle Singler (Team USA White/Medford, OR, South; 14.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game)

Frank Says: This 6-8 wing has more long-term potential than any player in the event besides Oden and Mayo. Along with fellow junior-to-be and Portland Elite Legends teammate Kevin Love (Lake Oswego), he'll go down as one of the all-time best ever out of Oregon.


Gerald Henderson (Team USA Red/Merion, PA, The Episcopal Academy; 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game)

Frank Says: The only thing he lacks right now to be among Mike Krzyzewski's better players very early into his Duke career is the kind of legitimate jump shot that can keep defenders honest. "Unorthodox" describes his jumper right now.


Maxim Sheleketo (Russia/Petrovsk; 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game)

Frank Says: He's listed at 6-10 on his team's roster but looks a lot closer to 6-8. Never mind, though: He could be in the NBA one day.


Chen Jianghua (China)

Frank Says: Listed at 6-2 (probably very generously), his point guard skills surpassed any of his event counterparts other than Mayo. If he wasn't the quickest player with the ball in his hands in the event, he was certainly the fastest. According to the team roster, he turned 16 on March 12. Relocate him to the United States and he'd be a McDonald's All-America in a couple of years.


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

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