USA Basketball: Friday Morning

Forty-eight of the nation's finest prep players have assembled in Colorado Springs for USA Basketball's annual Youth Developmental Festival. Divided into teams from the East, South, West and North, action got underway on Friday morning.

The West took on the East on one court while the North and South got after it one court over. With a bevy of nationally recognized prospects in town, there are several reputations -- Brandon Rush, Tasmin Mitchell, Bobby Frasor, Vernon Macklin, Andre McGee, Greg Paulus, etc. -- on the line this weekend as everybody jockeys for respect.

MORNING SESSION TOP PERFORMERS

Brandon Rush- This is the Brandon Rush that everybody wants to see on a consistent basis. The 6-7 WF from Durham (NC) Mt. Zion had an overall poor showing at last week’s NBAPA camp and needed strong outing in Colorado Springs. Playing for the North, Rush had his way with South wing players like C.J. Miles, Keith Brumbaugh, Tasmin Mitchell and Tyler Smith.

He hit for pull up jump shots, knocked down a three, and threw down some of his trademark jams. Rush also got after it on the boards and used his athleticism to impact the game. The question will be whether he can play like this all weekend, but 28 points and eight boards against the caliber of wing he was playing against is a good start.

Richard Hendrix- Talk about total and complete domination, Hendrix was a complete bull in the paint with incredible efficiency. Playing for the South, the 6-8 BF from Athens AL) High did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to do it Friday morning as he brought the low post pain.

Try 12-13 shooting (his only miss was on a half ending three), for 30 points and 22 rebounds and four blocked shots. Without Tyler Hansbrough here to prove otherwise, Hendrix has cemented himself as the premier big man, if not premier player, in the class of 2005. He’s too fundamentally sound, too quick, too strong and now that he’s added some explosiveness off the floor, Hendrix is unstoppable.

Eric Devendorf- The 6-3 PG/WG from Bay City (MI) is one of the toughest dudes that you will see on a high school basketball court. He was arguably the top player at NBAPA and picked right up where he left off. Playing a lot of point, Devendorf  also provided the North with plenty of fire power.

He stroked home five deep threes, got into the lane at will and created for others when needed. As he transitions into more of a PG role, his name will be in the mix when the debate about top PG’s comes up.

Brandon Wright (2006)- Everybody knows that Greg Oden is the #1 prospect in the class of 2006, but Wright could make a strong case for #2. The Nashville (TN) Brentwood lefty is a 6-9 BF who has all the talent in the world and showed it this morning for the South.

He’s a gifted scorer on the offensive end and will beat you with an equal dose of athleticism and skill. He is on the slender side and can be pushed around some, but he makes up for it with impeccable timing and quick hands on the defensive end. For an unknown reason he only got 14 minutes of run, but that didn’t stop him from racking up 13 points and five boards.

OTHER NOTABLES

No doubt about it, Louis Williams is a gifted scorer of the basketball. He’s a 6-1 freak who gets to the rim and plays a very creative brand of ball that is tough to defend. However, the Snellville (GA) South Gwinnett product got off to a slow start for the South. The reason? The North’s Dominic James, James harassed him from end to end as he forced Williams into 5-18 shooting from the field in a 15 point, eight assist and nine (!) turnover morning. Speaking of James, he is making sure that people don’t forget how nice of a prospect he is himself. The 5-11 PG out of Richmond (IN) High is a great defender, super athlete and finds ways to get things done. You can’t argue with 16 points seven assists and only one turnover.

Playing for the West, it is obvious that Kansas bound Mario Chalmers is much more comfortable when the offense is running directly through him. He isn’t exactly selfish, but does like to get himself involved. The Anchorage (AK) Bartlett product was in full shot creation mode during a 15 point morning. He plays with a tremendous amount of confidence and that is good, but the vocal guard is also developing a reputation for being a little too chatty and that isn’t good. Also getting it done for the West was 6-7 BF Jon Brockman. Brockman got down and dirty for 24 points and eight boards in his typically inspired fashion. His second jump is quick and explosive and it helps him to dominate the offensive glass where he has an uncanny ability to track down his own misses and scores. This guy shouldn’t play in a uniform, he should play in flannel, jeans and steel toes because he plays lumberjack basketball.

Duke bound PG Greg Paulus scored an impressive 26 points during the East’s victory over the West. However, the point total was slightly inflated as he spent a lot of time on the free throw line as the West fouled in an attempt to get back into the game. He dropped off seven dimes which is nice, but the nine turnovers he had doesn’t make for an ideal assist to turnover ratio. Still, he did a better job of getting into the lane and had an overall sound game. Also impressing for the East was 2006 big man Curtis Kelly from Manhattan (NY) Rice. A 6-8 bundle of energy, athleticism and arms, Kelly converted on 12-15 shots en route to 27 points.


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