PEACH JAM: Stars, Coaches Out In Force

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. --- The Peach Jam always brings out some of the best high school basketball talent in the nation for this four-day AAU event at Riverview Park. The stars were out on Day One Wednesday and so were the coaches. Go to any game in the four gymnasiums and the walls were lined with head coaches and assistants from nearly every top college basketball program.

Three of Scout.com's top six players are on showcase here along with plenty of other blue chippers. Number three Derrick Rose (6-2 point guard out of Chicago Simeon playing for Mean Streets Express), number four Kyle Singler (6-8 forward out of Portland playing for Portland Legends) and number six Illinois commitment Eric Gordon (6-3 shooting guard out of Indianapolis North Central playing for Mean Streets Express) are here along with notables such as number 12 Oklahoma commitment Blake Griffin (6-8 forward out of Edmond, OK Oklahoma Christian playing for Athletes First), number 15 Patrick Patterson (6-9 forward out of Huntington, WV playing for Boo Williams), number 17 Florida commitment Nick Calathes (6-6 point guard out of Casselberry, FL Lake Howell playing for Team Florida), number 22 Texas commitment Gary Johnson (6-8 forward out of Houston Aldine playing for Houston Hoops), number 23 Michigan State commitment Chris Allen (6-4 shooting guard out of Lawrenceville, GA Meadowcreek playing for Georgia Blazers), number 30 James Anderson (6-7 wing forward out of Junction City, AK playing for Arkansas Wings), and number 33 Georgia Tech commit Gani Lawal (6-9 center out of Norcross, GA playing for Georgia Blazers).

Some of the head coaches attending Wednesday were Lute Olsen (Arizona), Tubby Smith (Kentucky), John Brady (LSU), Jim Calhoun (Connecticut), Bruce Weber (Illinois), John Brady (LSU), Bill Self (Kansas), Al Skinner (Boston College), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee), Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Dave Odom (South Carolina), Stan Heath (Arkansas), Dennis Felton (Georgia), Frank Haith (Miami), Sean Sutton (Oklahoma State), Oliver Purnell (Clemson), Anthony Grant (Virginia Commonwealth), John Pelphrey (South Alabama), Bobby Cremins (College of Charleston), Buzz Peterson (Coastal Carolina), Eddie Biedenbach (UNC-Asheville) and Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech).

Name the program and chances are there was at least an assistant coach attending. The number of coaches is likely to double as round two gets started on Thursday.

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Playing without its two big men (7-1 Solomon Alibi and 6-11 Joseph Kautuka, both of Monteverde Academy) Team Florida split its two games on opening day, torching Team Texas, 93-73, in the morning Wednesday only to lose to Philadelphia-based Team Final, 73-57, in the evening session. Alibi has been called back to Nigeria to play for the national 19-and-under team for the remainder of the summer while Kautuka has a torn meniscus that will sideline him the remainder of the summer.

Even without the two big guys, Team Florida had no problems in game one, riding the 34-points of Chandler Parsons and a 22-point, 7-rebound, 7-assist effort by Florida commitment Nick Calathes to an easy victory.

Alibi and Kautuka were sorely missed in game two when Team Florida couldn't buy a basket from the outside. With no inside presence, Team Final cruised to a solid win behind the play of Memphis commit Jeff Robinson, who had 21 points and seven rebounds. Parsons had 27 points and four rebounds to lead Team Florida while Calathes turned in 14 points and seven assists.

Team Florida plays at 9 a.m. Thursday against Chicago-based Mean Streets Express.

Calathes, ranked five stars by Scout.com and the number 17 player in the nation, was watched by Florida assistant coaches Donnie Jones and Larry Shyatt. Head Coach Billy Donovan wasn't at Wednesday's sessions because he was in New York for the ESPY Awards ceremony.

The 61-point explosion by Parsons was a continuation of his hot play from the Nike All-American Camp last week. Parsons, who has risen in the Scout.com rankings to four stars and the number 86 player in the nation overall, got five offers on Monday of this week. After showing that he can create his own shots off the dribble, knock down the three and finish on the fast break Wednesday, his stock will rise even higher. It looks like an Arizona State-LSU battle is shaping up for Parsons with Tennessee trying to make a late move.

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Patrick Patterson scored 31 points and pulled down 26 rebounds in two games for Boo Williams of Hampton, Virginia. Patterson, from Huntington West Virginia, had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the morning session, a 64-49 Boo Williams victory over Howard Pulley Panthers of Minneapolis. In the evening session, he had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a 69-67 loss to Portland Legends of Oregon.

Patterson is rated five stars and number 15 in the nation by Scout.com. It looks like it's a four-team recruiting race for this 6-9, 235-pounder with Kentucky, Florida, Wake Forest and Duke all in the mix.

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Keep an eye on James Anderson, an athletic 6-7 small forward from Junction City, Arkansas who plays for the Arkansas Wings. Anderson had 36 points in his two games Wednesday, knocking down 19 in a win over Houston Hoops and 17 in a loss to SYF Players of Indiana.

Anderson, who averaged 32 points per game in high school last year, is rated four stars and the number 30 player overall in the nation. He's being heavily recruited and while Arkansas and Oklahoma State have been leading the way it appears that the Florida Gators may be working their way into the mix. Florida has offered Anderson and apparently the Gators have his attention.

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Kansas Coach Bill Self was a college roommate at Oklahoma State with former University of Florida strength and conditioning coordinator Rob Glass. Glass is now the strength and conditioning coordinator at Oklahoma State.

Self and Glass were good buddies in college with an unknown singer that played on the Oklahoma baseball team named Garth Brooks.

"Garth wasn't country in those days," said Self. "He was kind of a Jim Croce, James Taylor-type guy."

Brooks sang regularly at the student frequented watering holes around the OSU campus in Stillwater. Glass and Self, along with their buddies regularly showed up to support their good friend.

"We had T-shirts made up that said Garth Brooks World Tour," said Self with a laugh.

Those T-shirts might be worth something if Self and Glass still had them. Brooks, who bombed out the first time he went to Nashville to try to earn a recording contract, is semi-retired from the concert scene but he's still one of the most popular country and western singers in history.

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The Sultan of Sweat looked like the coolest character in a rec center that was packed with games going on in four different gymnasiums. Dressed in sandals, shorts and an orange shirt, Bruce Pearl didn't look anything like the coach that set sweat records on the sidelines in the O'Connell Center back in the spring when Tennessee beat the Gators in Gainesville.

Pearl was standing in front of me watching the Tennessee Travelers against Houston Hoops in the final game of the evening when I checked my cell phone to discover that Hollywood Bob had called. I returned the call and Bob asked what I was doing at the Peach Jam. I told him I was standing right beside Bruce Pearl and Bob asked immediately "Is he sweating profusely?"

Pearl didn't hear what Bob had said but he did hear me say his name. Before I could answer Bob, Pearl grabbed my phone and said, "Yes this is Bruce Pearle and no I am not sweating!"

When I finished talking to Bob, I talked with Pearl for about four or five minutes. He's a funny guy who just shakes his head when he talks about how he sweats during games.

"I'm not sweating tonight," he said.

I told him he wasn't wearing a suit tonight and he laughed and said, "That's it! It's gotta be the suit!"

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In the stands watching his son Jai play for Houston Hoops was former NBA point guard and coach John Lucas. Lucas was a two-sport All-American at Maryland, earning honors in both basketball and tennis. He actually played professional tennis for awhile, too, while playing in the NBA.

When he was still in high school at Durham Hillside, Lucas and Rocky Mount's Phil Ford hooked up in one of the great scoring battles in North Carolina prep history. Lucas scored 56 points to Ford's 47 to lead Hillside to victory in a game that long time followers of prep basketball in North Carolina still remember as one of the greatest games in state history.

What made Lucas' scoring outburst so memorable was that he didn't have a jump shot and couldn't have dunked if you had let him bounce on a trampoline first.

"I couldn't jump a lick," said Lucas. "I shot a set shot and knew how to score but I could hardly get off the ground."

Lucas has a rehabilitation center that he runs in the Houston area for athletes that are trying to kick drug habits or come back from devastating injuries.

"Some amazing things are happening," said Lucas. "We've had some real success stories."

We'll have an in-depth feature on Lucas later this week in which the former NBA star talks about how he kicked his own addictions and how he's dedicated his life to helping others make drugs a thing of the past.

* * *

I am getting old. How do I know this other than what looks back at me in the mirror?

I can remember writing about LSU Coach John Brady pitching a perfect game for his Dixie Youth Baseball team in McComb Mississippi. I remember writing about this freshman point guard from High Point College named Tubby Smith back in November of 1969. I wrote stories about John Lucas both when he was in high school at Durham Hillside and the University of Maryland. I remember when Dave Odom had hair and coached the least talented, athletic team in the state of North Carolina to 24 wins at Durham High, where his team was the only one that held Phil Ford under 20 points not just once but twice in the same season.

I had a chance to remind all four of them Wednesday night that not only am I older but so are they.

"I'm 55," said Tubby, the University of Kentucky coach. "I still can't believe that it's been 36 years since I was a freshman in college."

Neither can I, Orlando. That was the name in the scorebook that night back in 1969 --- Orlando Smith.


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