Tournament Of Champions Deserves Billing

The Tournament of Champions has become the premier high school Thanksgiving tournament in the nation. Each year, high school superstars are on display as their teams travel from far and wide to participate. Scott Burgess headed up to Washington, Illinois, to check out the talent.

Over the years the Tournament of Champions has seen many talented players come through the doors, and this year was no exception. Tournament Director Shawn Powell and Washington Head Coach Kevin Brown once again put together a tremendous event. The tournament featured many talented prospects and the #1 team in the nation, Findlay Prep, who was upset on Saturday night. Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard was among those observing the action.

Class of 2011 prospects

Kedren Johnson 6'5", point guard (Marshall County HS, TN - Vanderbilt)

Johnson was the most impressive prospect at the tournament. The 6'-5" point guard is physically very impressive with his combination of strength and speed. Johnson consistently throughout the two days weaved in and out of the defense to get to the rack and score on creative floaters. The most impressive aspect of Johnson's game was his acceleration with the ball in his hands.

"He was not bothered by contact at the rim as he consistently finished through it or got to the foul line. His perimeter shot is also a plus offensive threat. The point guard can distribute the ball well and has a good feel for the game.

"On Friday against Limestone, Johnson took over the game in his team's victory by posting a tournament record 42 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. Johnson was made aware toward the end of the game he was on the verge of tournament history, so he went to the hoop one more time.

"I really didn't know how many points I had until the last minute, so they told me to get another bucket," Johnson described afterward. He is going to be a star at Vanderbilt!

Max Bielfeldt 6'6", power forward (Peoria Notre Dame HS, IL)

The State Farm Tournament of Champions has been Bielfeldt's personal playground over the last several years. He owns practically every record in the event's history and was given an award as the TOC's all time best player.

The 6'-6" big man gets the job done and plays with tremendous passion. He has slimmed down considerably from last year, and it shows in his game. The most impressive aspect of Bielfeldt's game is how he creates space and boxes out on the boards.

Bielfeldt's lower body is very powerful, and he played well defensively against a much more athletic Torren Jones. He posted 6 blocked shots in Peoria Notre Dame's championship victory to go along with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Bruce Barron 6'-4", point guard (Brehm Prep, IL - Oregon)

Barron was the talk of the day Friday. Against Pennsylvania power Academy of the New Church, Barron took over the game. Brehm was severely undersized on the frontline against ANC's two high major big men and Coach Aaron Lee put his point guard in the middle of a 2-3 zone to defend the twin towers.

The Brehm point guard talked about how they defended against the size.

"They were really big, so we stayed in that zone the whole game. We had to box out. (Rakeem) Christmas and (Malcolm Gilbert) are tough so we had to be tough against them."

Barron led his team to victory behind a superior shooting effort from the perimeter. He consistently knocked down jump shots from all areas of the floor. The Oregon commitment is a power guard that is very quick off the dribble and can get in the lane with the ability to finish or kick to an open teammate. He has nice vision and can also contribute on the boards.

Barron plays with a swagger and has excellent leadership skills. He is a little reminiscent of Sherron Collins. Barron is excited about his commitment to Oregon.

"They have a new coaching staff, new facilities and new athletic director, so I feel like I can go change the program."

Myck Kabongo 6'-2", point guard (Findlay Prep, NV -Texas)

Kabongo was the highest rated player at the 2010 Tournament of Champions. The Texas commitment has a slender frame and is slick with the ball in his hands. His perimeter jump shot is streaky but has good mechanics. He works well around screens and showed the ability to play pick and roll.

Several times Kabongo would try to take over the game by himself against ANC. I believe the point guard is at his best when he is a distributer and looking to set up his talented teammates. He posted 14 points and 15 points respectively in the two games I witnessed him play.

Nick Johnson 6'-3", shooting guard (Findlay Prep, NV- Arizona)

Johnson is Findlay Prep's sniper from the wing. He can really shoot the ball but struggled in the first half of his team's loss to ANC. He did pick it up in the second half to end with 15 points on 5-12 from 3-point range. Johnson plays bigger than his size and when aggressive can attack the rim with authority.

Amir Garrett 6'6", small forward (Findlay Prep, NV-St. John's)

The recent St. John's commitment is a big wing with a nice skill set. He is good off the dribble and is a bouncy athlete that excels in transition. The lefty has a similar game to current Kentucky star Terrence Jones. Garrett posted 11 and 10 points in the two games I observed him play at the TOC.

Rakeem Christmas 6'9", center (Academy of the New Church, PA- Syracuse)

Christmas ranks as the top center prospect in the country. Physically he looks like Dwight Howard. Christmas is very strong and has nice length which allowed him to swat multiple shots against Brehm Prep. Around the hoop, he positions his body well and has a soft touch.

Although he helped his team get the win, Christmas was not impressive against the front line of Findlay Prep that he should have had a field day against. He shot 1-11 from the field and finished with 2 points, and 5 boards. He was a factor on the defensive end though by recording 3 steals and 3 blocks.

Malcolm Gilbert 7'0", center (Academy of the New Church, PA- Pittsburgh)

The Pittsburgh commitment is extremely long and uses that length great on the defensive end in his shot blocking. He tallied 7 blocks against Findlay Prep. The big man did not put up many field goal attempts but was effective none the less, going 3-3 and showing a soft touch and good face up jumper.

Roosevelt Jones 6'-5", small forward (O'Fallon HS, IL- Butler)

Roosevelt Jones is one of the most well rounded players in the state of Illinois. He is a stat sheet stuffer, and that is exactly what he did in his matchup with St. Louis Eagles teammate Shaq Boga.

Jones is so much physically stronger than any perimeter player trying to check him, and this allows him to bully his way through traffic and get to the hoop. At 6'-5" he dominates in the paint at the high school level.

Many of his points were simple cuts down the middle of the lane where he received a pass and put it in. The O'Fallon wing is an elite defender. He is a good on-ball defender with the ability to guard multiple positions.

Jones's stat line for the night was 26 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks in the victory. The Butler commitment also played well in the final game of the event against the host Washington Panthers. He is going to be a great fit for the Bulldogs.

Charles Joy 6'5", small forward (O'Fallon HS, IL- SIU-Edwardsville)

The future SIU-Edwardsville wing has improved his consistency throughout his career. Joy put together two very nice performances at the TOC. In O'Fallon's game against McCluer he posted an efficient 14 points (5-7 FG) and 9 boards. He also played well against Washington.

Joy is a very good athlete who is improving his skilled game. His jump shot is showing more consistency and can attack the rim off the bounce. He will be a nice addition for SIU Edwardsville.

Class of 2012

Savon Goodman 6'6", small forward (Academy of the New Church, PA)

Savon Goodman was named the MVP of the Team Works National Classic. Goodman is a 6'-6" wing who is super strong and extremely athletic. He uses both of these attributes to his full advantage.

Goodman is a monster on the glass from the small forward position. He is aggressive and fights hard for position. Goodman knew his team had the advantage against Findlay on the boards. He hit them hard, grabbing 15 rebounds to go along with 25 points in the upset of the top team in the nation.

Offensively, Goodman attacks the hoop well and has a nice-looking stroke. He talked about his team's game plan.

"The number one thing our coach told us not to do was get into an up-and-down game with them."

Goodman said he felt going into the game ANC had what it took to pull off the upset.

"I told them before we got out of the locker room we have size and they have guards. If we didn't get into a fast break game, we had a good chance at winning this game."

Goodman has seen his recruiting stock rise over the last year and is considering a long list of schools including Villanova, Texas, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Duke, Miami, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, North Carolina as well as other ACC and Big East schools. All have offered except Kentucky, Duke, and UNC. With more performances like this Goodman's stock will continue to rise.

Hanner Perea 6'9", power forward (La Lumiere School, IN- Indiana)

The future Indiana Hoosier had the dunk of the tournament when he slammed home a one-handed jam off a Bobo Drummond assist! After that dunk he dominated on the interior. Perea said those type of plays jumpstart him.

"Every time I dunk it gets me hyped. I want to get every rebound."

Perea is extremely long, possesses a grown man's body and has outstanding athleticism. Defensively is where he really shines by blocking shots and altering others. I really liked the intensity Perea brings to the game. The big man is aggressive when attacking the glass and is a big time rebounder.

Offensively he is more skilled than I had previously thought. He showed some quick footwork and an improving skill level. In the two games I saw him play, he posted 15 points and 17 rebounds against Findlay Prep and 14 points and 13 boards against Brehm Prep.

The Indiana commitment is excited about the recent recruiting success of the Hoosiers and how his AAU friends will be joining him in Bloomington.

"When I heard Cody (Zeller) committed to IU, I got so happy that day. Then later on someone told me that Yogi (Ferrell) committed. I got super happy because I love playing with Yogi. He is a really good point guard, and he knows everything about me."

Winston Shepard 6'8", shooting forward (Findlay Prep, NV)

Shepard is very strong and has great athleticism. He is still raw as a player, but has a ton of upside. Although he says he is wide open, Shepard is considering offers from Texas, Louisville, Memphis, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., UCLA, UNLV, and Texas A&M.

Willie Wiley 6'-7", power forward (Springfield HS, IL)

Wiley is a 6'-7" athlete who is a SF/PF tweener. He is very thin but fights hard on the boards. The junior plays hard, runs the floor well, and is active. I liked his presence on the floor, recording 5 blocks and 13 rebounds (7 offensive) in his team's game against Washington.

My concern with Wiley would be he needs to add strength to be able to play the forward position in college. Willie told me he is being heavily recruited by many of the Missouri Valley schools.

Class of 2013

Nigel Williams-Goss 6'-3", shooting guard (Findlay Prep, NV)

I have always enjoyed watching Williams-Goss play. He is a leader and winner who does whatever his team needs him to do to get the victory. He does the little things well and plays smart. His jump shot has a nice stroke to it, and he has nice bounce. The young guard is not a huge scorer for his team, but leads by example and has a very bright future. Williams-Goss says his top five schools in no particular order are Arizona, UNLV, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State.

Torren Jones 6'-8", power forward (Basha HS, AZ)

The super sophomore has great athleticism and size. His post game is very skilled for such a young player. He showed good footwork and a soft touch around the rim. Jones runs the floor well and is active on the defensive end, including getting in passing lanes. The big man had foul trouble in both games he played, but the skill set is obvious.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories