The Peach Jam morning session featured the best game of the tournament thus far, with Houston Hoops and Athletes First battling to overtime. Athletes First came out on top thanks to excellent rebounding and a stifling zone. For this morning's wrap-up, we'll take a look at the matchups from that exciting game.
This matchup was probably the best of the bunch, as both players were operating at a very high level.
Clark, known for his long-range, volume shooting, displayed more PG skills than he has in the past. He broke down Reese consistently on the dribble and made a quality pass after quality pass to open teammates down low. He operated out of the pick-and-roll often, and found the cutting big man - whether it was Shaquille Morris or Jordan Kaufman - with surprising ease. At his height (5'9 or so), Clark needs to be a PG at the next level and today was a great step in that direction.
While Clark was able to control the offense on his end, Reese did the same for Houston Hoops. When Reese got the ball at the top of the key, he was an absolute terror for Clark to guard. Reese's lateral quickness is impressive, as he uses his shoulders, hands, and hips to really shake off defenders, repeatedly leaving them in the dust with quick crossovers. His deep shot didn't fall well today and while Athlete's First used a zone to stifle his penetration to the lane, Reese was a huge reason why Houston was able to push the game to overtime.
For this morning, the verdict has to go in favor of Clark, who dominated the game at times.
Rasheed really struggled at times today. His jumper was off and Woodard really got into him with some excellent pressure defense. Rasheed is excellent at shooting off the bounce, however too many times today he took shots off-balance leaning one way or another. He did attack the rim a bit in the second half, overpowering Woodard at times, but it just wasn't the Duke commit's best game.
Jordan Woodard, however, continued his string of strong performances in front of high profile coaches. When Athlete's First went away from their zone, Woodard's pressure defense was evident. He moves well in a defensive stance and has really quick hands, getting a number of steals and tips throughout the game. He scored well getting to the hoop, using his shoulders well to hold off his defender once he's in the lane. His jump shot is still a work in progress, though he did hit a deep jumper or two to keep Sulaimon's defense honest.
Overall, this matchup probably would be scored a draw. Neither player was a huge force offensively, though Jordan was the star alongside Clark in the overtime period.
Probably the most impressive half of this game came from James Woodard. While his younger brother and Clark stole the show overall, James put his stamp on the first half with hardcore rebounding and some fantastic defense. As was said at the beginning of the article, Athlete's First won this game because of rebounding, and Woodard was the key to it. He has really long arms and strong hands, which allowed him to forcefully rip away boards from the big guys down low. His ball-handling looks improved from earlier in the summer, and his jumper looks smooth inside the arc. His range will have to improve, especially as a set shooter, but his midrange game looks college-ready. I don't think a comparison to former Athlete's First wing Josh Richardson (2011 Tennessee commit) would be too far off, however Woodard looks to me to be the better player.
L.J. Rose was steady throughout the game, but he seemed to be tripped up the most by the zone defense of Athlete's First. He thrives on playing solid isolation basketball, allowing him to get a defender on his hip and force a help defender to commit to him, which in turn allows his superior vision and passing to shine. With AF not allowing Rose to get deep in their zone, he was relegated largely to moving the ball around the perimeter and taking contested jumpers. He also struggled with the superior athleticism of James Woodard, unable to keep his feet in front of Woodard when he attacked the rim.
Athletes First got more from its bench than Houston Hoops, as big guys Shaquille Morris and Jordan Kaufman provided some good scoring off the bench. Matt Christiansen was key with tough defense and rebounding against 2013 standout Brian Bridgewater down low.
Justin Jackson usually is instant offense off the bench for Houston, but he couldn't get anything going against the zone. Athlete's First did an excellent job preventing Jackson from doing his usual damage along the baseline.