It’s only taken five years for the Kingwood Classic to establish itself as the premier grassroots basketball event of the spring. Friday night, the Houston based tournament got off to a start and adding to the intrigue of guys like Kevin Love, Kyle Singler, Gary Johnson and a host of others taking the floor was O.J. Mayo apparently jumping the Reebok ship for Nike as he showed up with Art Alvarez’s Miami Tropics.
While many of the games didn’t quite live up to the anticipation, there was still plenty of action to take in.
KANSAS TARGETS ON FRIDAY NIGHT
Cameron Tatum - The 6-5 wing from Tucker (GA) High recently showed up on the Kansas radar after lighting up last weekend’s Real Deal on the Hill in Fayetteville, AR. Playing for the Atlanta Celtics, the former Charlotte commitment is hoping to qualify to attend college in 2006 but may end up spending a year in prep school. Friday night, the long and lean shooter was pretty quiet during the Celtics matchup with Minneapolis based Howard Pulley.
He’s got a pretty stroke that is deadly to 22 feet, but he didn’t use it near enough on Friday night. In fact, the long and lean athlete didn’t even play all that much and was quiet while he was on the court. It will be interesting to see how closely, or if, he’s watched by the Kansas staff this weekend.
Kyle Singler - Lined up across the way from OJ Mayo in the most highly anticipated game of the night, Singler never quite got rolling. As usual he was all over the glass, hit some mid-range jumpers and carried his share of the ball handling but neither him – nor anybody else on either team in this game – ever really seemed to get into it. Still, the 6-8 (maybe even 6-9) forward’s skill and ability to play either the wing or as a face up four man is quite evident and there are few players his size who can match his exquisite passing skills.
Samardo Samuels - The look at Samuels wasn’t quite as long as hoped for, but the 6-9 Jamaican looked terrific during a brief Friday evening viewing. He’s got terrific size and strength considering that he’s only a sophomore and he always goes hard. Some have questioned his explosiveness off the floor but he seems to be silencing those. He might not jump as high as some of the other top shelf athletes, but he gets to the rim in a hurry and finishes with a fury that few can match.
Copperyale Harris - The jury is still out in terms of exactly how aggressively Kansas is recruiting the 6-4 combo guard from Detroit. He’s extremely quick off the dribble, has long arms and has developed into an explosive leaper who can elevate in traffic. He’s got some shake to his game, but he lacks refinement and gets into the air way too often before making a decision which often leads to unnecessary turnovers. He’s proven that he is a legitimate high major guy and maybe even a top 100 type player, but he still needs a bit more discipline in his game.
OTHER KINGWOOD NOTABLES ON FRIDAY NIGHT
Brandon Jennings - Generally considered the top PG in the class of 2008, the 6-0 blur from Los Angeles didn’t do anything to hurt his standing on Friday night. He’s always been able to handle in traffic, find seams in zones via crisp passing and push the tempo but he’s adding to his already substantial game. His shot now features a very quick release and he gets plenty of elevation off the floor. Perhaps most notable though is that he has grown to a legit six feet tall and has explosive hops. He still lacks strength, but that extra gear to go over defenders in the lane that he used to be without, well he doesn’t have that problem anymore and he used those hops to grill the entire SYF team on an inbounds lob.
Robbie Hummel - A pessimist would point out that this 6-8 wing tends to push his shot from his right shoulder a little bit making it susceptible to smart shot blockers. Then again, most other people would drool over the sturdy wing’s fundamentally sound floor game and penchant for making the right play at the right time. You have to love the way he catches the ball and squares up in triple threat position giving himself the option to drive, shoot or pass. It sounds simple enough, but because of that he wastes zero motion and more often than not clowns guys who are perhaps more athletically gifted because they are wasting time trying to look pretty with what they do.
Trevor Mbakwe - The finishes weren’t quite there every time, but the intent to cause harm to the rim and anybody who stood in his way was. An explosive 6-7 BF with long arms and toughness, Mbakwe is in the process of rebuilding a reputation that took a pretty significant hit last summer. He’s not ever going to be skill guy, but he’s a hard worker around the rim who is a well above average rebounder and he finds ways to get to the foul line. Most importantly, he converts on those trips to the charity stripe and his fluidity from there suggests that he’ll eventually develop a dangerous 10 foot jumper. That’s really all he needs.
O.J. Mayo - If you only knew Mayo by his press clippings and magazine covers, you would justifiably wonder what all the hype was about after watching him struggle during the first half. Playing with his new squad the Miami Tropics, Mayo missed jumpers he normally makes and most of all he didn’t attack like he usually does. Then again, if you factor in the pressure and mixed emotions that he had to have been feeling after leaving his nearly lifelong team the D1 Greyhounds his tentative play was perhaps understandable. Instead of the attacking OJ who lives to cut out his opponent’s heart, the crowd saw a more docile Mayo that was willing to defer to his new teammates as he felt out new surroundings. It will be interesting to see how his play progresses over the weekend.