While KC Pump ‘N Run walked away with the titles in both the 16 and 17 under divisions, Team Kansas City Select avenged a Friday night overtime loss at the hands of Athlete’s First to capture the 15 and under crown. There were plenty of standouts for each of those teams and others as we look back on Saturday and Sunday’s action.
KANSAS TARGETS AT THE JAYHAWK
Cole Aldrich - Before taking off Sunday due to a variety of injuries, the 6-11 C had a much more productive Saturday. He still didn't look himself, but he was there on the glass, converted most of his opportunities and made opponents think twice before entering the lane. It was pretty clear that his foot was bothering him and he looks like he's carrying a few extra pounds. Speaking with him on Saturday, it was obvious that he was bummed about his game on Friday night and he admitted that sometimes you just have a bad game instead of making excuses about his foot or anything else.
Verdell Jones, Jr. - Little V put in some serious work at the Jayhawk as he helped carry Ft. Sooy No Limit -- coached by his father Verdell, Sr. -- all the way to the 17 and under championship game. The skinny 6-1 PG with a baby face and long arms doesn’t look dangerous in warm-ups, but blow the whistle and put the ball in his hands and this crafty kid starts putting in work. He wears #14 just like a guy he grew up around by the name of Shaun Livingston and he’s probably grown tired of the comparison, but it has to be made. The way he glides up the court with the rock in his hands, his feel for the game and the flair with which he makes plays is eerily reminiscent of a young Livingston. He’s growing rapidly and emerging as player to really watch in the class of 2008. He went for 20 of his 29 points in the second half of Ft. Sooy’s big quarterfinal win over KC Rocktown. His shots weren’t falling as well during the semis and finals, but it’s clear that the kid can play.
Tyrel Reed - A quiet and unassuming kid who doesn’t really seek attention, the 6-3 PG’s play on the court makes it so that he can’t avoid it. He scores easily on deep jumpers, has a killer mid range game and he can find teammates for easy baskets. But, to really understand his value you have to watch closer and realize how much better his team is with him on the floor. Whether he’s playing the point or sliding over to play the two -- as he often does with KC Pump ‘N Run because PG Lamont Austin needs big minutes as well -- Reed has an innate ability to make the game easier for those around him. He earned MVP honors in the 17 and under division and was fully deserving of them.
Xavier Henry - Just like he did on Friday night, the 6-6 lefty pretty much toyed with his competition on Saturday and Sunday while leading Athlete’s First into the 15 and under division finals. He’s far superior to most of his peers in terms of size, athleticism and shooting range and it isn’t exactly difficult to tell. Because the game comes so easily to him at this level, he sometimes settles for deep jumpers rather than using his size and strength advantages to attack the basket. But, to be very critical of his play would be getting into the range of nit-picking and it’s going to be interesting to watch his development over the next three years.
George Goode - As it can often be with Goode, his performance was a mixed bag. He’s got a very pretty stroke from deep, finishes well above the rim and swats some shots and he’s handling the ball much better than in the past. But, he went quiet at times and settled for some 17-21 foot jumpers against smaller opponents when he could have scored easily on the inside. He is starting to fill out a little bit up top, is an extremely underrated passer and it would be tough to complain about the job he’s done rebounding the ball. In fact, he probably deserves a bit more credit than he’s gotten for working on that aspect of his game. He still loses a few balls because of strength, but he’s rebounding in and out of his area and looks to be making a focused effort to become more of a factor on the glass.
Steve Moore - Nobody should ever expect a sophomore big man to be a completed product and the 6-8 lefty certainly isn’t finished. But, over the weekend he continued his steady improvement and he’s a guy that you have to continue to monitor on the high major level. He’s got big soft hands, runs the court extremely well and plays hard. He beats himself up a little too much for mistakes and is much more comfortable operating on the left side of the court right now. If he continues to improve as much over the next year as he has in the last one -- while presumably filling out -- things will get really interesting.
OTHER WEEKEND NOTABLES
Vondrae Tostenson - A super athletic and well built 6-4 WF/WG from Omaha (NE) Central, Tostenson earned MVP honors in the 15 U division while playing for Team KC Select. He threw down a few filthy jams over the weekend, but it was his ability to hit jumpers off the dribble and the pride he showed on the defensive end that really impressed. He’s certainly a Midwest kid to keep an eye on down the road.
Marcus Butler - A native of the Detroit (MI) area, Butler isn’t well known around Kansas City yet but that should be changing for the 6-3 sophomore WG from Kansas City (KS) Washington. He’s long and spidery athlete, has a nice mid-range game and is a very capable playmaker for others off of the dribble. He won’t be a secret next winter.
Marcus Denmon - The MVP of the 16 and under division, he’s another guy you read about first on Phog.net last fall. A 6-3 WG from Kansas City (MO) Lincoln Prep, he’s instant offense for the KC Pump ‘N Run 16 and under group. He’s a clever driver who switches speeds and hands to find ways to get to the glass and he’ll burn you with the deep jumper. The best part of his game is that he uses his exceptional defense to create easy scores in transition.
Quincy Owens - A former commitment to Seton Hall, the Milwaukee native is a free agent and looking for a new prep school after a year at Cincinnati (OH) Harmony. The 6-7, maybe 6-8 BF, has a motor that doesn’t quit, gets on the glass and he plays tough defense. The most notable part of his game is the muscle he’s added and how well he’s starting to shoot the ball from mid-range and beyond.
Justin Bocot - A super athletic lefty, the 6-3 WG threw down one of the most vicious jams we’ve seen all spring when he took off on his left foot from just outside the right block and cocked one back, right handed, and grilled Rocktown’s Justin Hurtt. He’s got a slick crossover, is extremely quick off the dribble and he’s got a gift for scoring the basketball with drives and jumpers. But, he isn’t always aware of what the situation is and forces a few bad shots along the way.
Alex English - A well built freshman from Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley Northwest, the 6-5 WF was generally regarded as the best prospect in his class at the start of his freshman year. Then, he struggled with playing time and consistency as a freshman and lacked the production to back up the claim. Well, if his inspired play in Lawrence is any indication, he’s right there in the conversation when talking best freshman in the metro. He’s an absolute man off the dribble who goes hard and his jumper is developing. His strength on the boards allows him to go and get the ball like a much bigger player and former Oklahoma State Cowboy Victor Williams and Northwest’s Ed Fritz are doing a nice job in preparing him as a player.
Jarryd Cole - How can you not enjoy watching Cole play? He’s a blue collar guy who beasts people around the hoop and he firmly believes that he’s got first dibs on every rebound. He’s quite happy knocking over teammates and opponents to go and devour rebounds and his offense is coming along nicely. The well built 230 pounder has added some spring in his step and is starting to knock down 12 footers with much more regularity.
Leon Powell - The 6-7 combo forward from might St. Louis (MO) Vashon admitted that he was worried about how he’d fit in with Rocktown, but he did just fine. A super athlete around the hoop, he uses his cat quicks to get from one side of the lane to another and he’s an excellent defender in space. He doesn’t handle the ball much, if at all, but he can knock down jumpers from 17 feet and he’s only going to get better.
MORE NOTES FROM THE JAYHAWK
It was pretty clear that Travis Releford still isn’t 100% and there was some rust on his game. But, it’s also pretty clear that he’s extremely talented and has the ability to change almost any game he’s in. As much as he’s been hailed for his offensive game, his defense is terrific and he’s got the look of a lock down wing defender.
Team Kansas City Select has a very talented group of freshman, but maybe the most impressive thing about them is how tough they are on the defensive end. It can’t be easy to get kids that young to really buy in defensively, but coaches Kirk Ferguson and Mike Dixon, Sr. have done just that.
Sticking with KC Select, how about the unbelievable alley-oop finish by Liberty (MO) High freshman Shaun Adams? The 6-6 WF caught a backside lob off the right baseline with his right hand and unexpectedly completed a 270 degree rotation before hammering it home.
Want a guy to keep an eye on in the Kansas City area? His name is Willie Reed and he’s a L-O-N-G 6-9 sophomore at Hickman Mills. He probably doesn’t even weigh 185 pounds, but he gets better each week out, runs the floor pretty well and may be a seven footer by the time he finishes growing.
Another metro area player coming out of nowhere to make an impression was 6-3 lefty WG Tyrone Hooker. The sophomore at Kansas City (MO) Don Bosco is a freaky athlete with loads of offensive talent and he and fellow sophomore wing, 6-5 WF Dominique Lane from Northeast, carried the KC Bruins into the finals of the 16 U division.
Speaking of the Bruins, give it up to local product Earl Watson for not only giving back to the community and backing some teams, but for showing up and giving them support in person. You don’t always see that from NBA guys who are team benefactors.