With high flying jams, intimidating blocks and a thrilling ending to the three point shooting contest, there was a little something for everyone.
TOP WEDNESDAY PERFORMERS AT THE C.O.P.
Greg Monroe - Roughly ten minutes into his night ending game, a few onlookers could be heard wondering how the 6-10 lefty could be the top player in the class of 2008. Just a few minutes later, one of the most vocal detractors summed it up best when he proclaimed “F-it, I was wrong. That dude is the truth.” Such is life for Monroe. As much as he can dominate a game with his touch, skill, raw athleticism, rebounding or shot blocking, he can frustrate by being almost too much of a team player. But, when that light goes on and he gets upset about not being overly involved on either end of the court, it’s curtains for his foes. He swatted shots with ease, dominated the glass and was even throwing slick off (right) handed no look bounce passes while leading fast breaks. Put him in the high or low post and watch him dominate, this kid is a complete and total stud. 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists are fine numbers, but they really don’t tell half the story about how dominant he truly can be.
Nick Calathes - In the state of Florida, this 6-5 WG/PG is the closest thing you will find to Michael Jordan. He puts up huge numbers, wins lots of ballgames, has charisma to burn and gets all of the calls. All he did on Wednesday was torch a game Pittsburgh (PA) Schenley squad for 34 points and three assists and the scary thing was that he didn’t even have his “A” game. There isn’t a better player in the country moving without the ball and he’s got confidence to go along with everything else. Shortly after his 34 point outing, he pulled off a darn near miraculous win in the three point shooting contest. Trailing Taylor King heading to his final rack, Calathes drilled all five shots to tie things up at 19 points and force a shoot off. After King nailed another 19, Calathes tied that mark with one final shot remaining. After taking his time to size things up, letting loose and walking off waving to the crowed, Calathes looked up to see his shot end up a bit short, bounce a good six feet above the goal off the front rim and somehow settle into the net earning him a win and setting the crowd into a frenzy. Whatever “it” is, he’s got it. At least on this level.
Jerryd Bayless - Yeehaw, this dude can score at will. The future Arizona Wildcat ran through defender after defender en route to a hard earned and very impressive 31 point outing. He’s a confident -- in that Kobe Bryant, some people will hate on him and call him arrogant sort of way -- offensive performer who simply has defenders at the high school level praying they don’t get embarrassed each time he’s got the ball in his hands. His crossovers are swift, his poster quality jams come from way further away from the hoop than you’d think a 6-3 guard could leap from and he can free himself open for a look at the bucket at any time. Nobody would blame him for snapping at his teammates for continually blowing the esy scoring opportunities he gives them, but he never so much as gives them the slightest hint of an evil eye. O.J. Mayo and Eric Gordon are generally considered the top scoring guards in 2007, but Bayless isn’t far behind and is very close, if not, their equal as a talent.
DaJuan Blair - The official score sheet had the 6-7 workhorse with a very impressive 29 points and 14 rebounds. The official score sheet also short changed him no less than seven or eight rebounds as some courtside tally sheets had him with 22 boards including a mind boggling 16 boards on the offensive end. He probably needs to shed a few pounds and he’s not an above the rim finisher, but you’d be hard pressed to find a stronger set of hands on any level of high school, and maybe even college, basketball than Blair’s.
Terrelle Pryor - The 6-6 junior combo forward is still working to get into basketball shape after a deep run as the quarterback of his football team, but he showed little rust as he exploded off of one foot for towering slams. He’ll make some mid-range jumpers and is also an excellent passer off of straight line dribble drives. A wiry strong kid, he gets into a little trouble when he tries to mix things up and bounce from side to side off the dribble. Still, given that he’s only been hooping for a few days he was darned impressive in his 24 point and seven rebound outing.
Lewis Jackson - Standing all of 5-8 (maybe), this springy legged junior from Decatur (IL) Eisenhower finished with an impressive 31 points and six assists. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, though, they got run out of the gym during the second half. Still, it’s tough to take away from his performance. He’s not a deadeye shooter from deep by any means, but he’s so quick and electric off the dribble that he can make up for it. On more than one ocassion he would sky for cloud piercing alley-oop jams and he’s got confidence. A thing to watch carefully down the road for him is that all too often he flies recklessly into the lane without much of a plan relying almost completely on his athleticism, or a favorable whistle to make something happen. He’s a talent, but exactly what level program he’s best suited for in college -- an upper level mid major or a high major -- will be the subject of much debate over the next year and a half.
Lance Kearse - Tuesday night, Kearse and his teammates were run out of the gym in front of a decidedly pro Fort Myers (FL) High -- where the buff 6-7 BF is a senior -- crowd by Tyreke Evans and Aston (PA) American Christian. Wednesday, the future VCU Ram bounced back in a big way by going bonkers in a 43 point and 11 rebound outing in just 27 minutes of play. Normally a member of the local masonry union with his outside shooting, Kearse was stroking 12 to 17 foot jumpers while also dominating play in the paint. Bottom line, he dominated and it was nice to see him shut the mouths of a surprisingly vocal band of local haters.
Josh Sain - There was nothing regular about the 6-5 combo forward from Jackson (TN) Liberty Tech’s Wednesday performance. Basically unknown – other than to the staff of Southeast Missouri State who long ago offered a scholarship – he went off for 35 points and eight boards as his team surprisingly wiped out heavily favored American Christian. He hit 15 foot jumpers, leapt over people’s backs for tips and outworked everybody on the floor. A long and wiry kid, he’s got a legit shot to develop into a full time wing once he hits college and actually gets to play with some guys who don’t have to fudge roster stats to claim heights north of six feet.
Taylor King - Sure the 6-7 lefty has his athletic limitations and he’s a bit awkward at times, but man oh man can he shoot the rock from deep. His most endearing quality is that he doesn’t remember if the last shot went in or out and because of that he’ll keep on firing when open. He’ll occasionally force a shot and sometimes will shoot from a little too deep but he’s a player. The most underrated part of his game you ask, his rebounding. 27 and 11 on day where several shots rattled out is getting it done.
David Wear and Travis Wear - Just to keep things brief, be sure to remember these twins from the class of 2009. They’re both quite skilled, have legit 6-9, and growing, size and they are competitive. It’s not their time yet, but they will be heard from a lot down the road.
MORE NOTES FROM THE C.O.P.
He hasn’t exactly gotten a chance to show it yet, but Jacksonville (FL) Arlington Country Day freshman James Bell has a chance to be one of the top prospects in the class of 2010. An athletically gifted 6-4 wing with a baby face and long arms, he soared above the crowd for hanging finishes and picked his spots to finish with 10 points. He’s understandably rough around the edges, but he’s just as full of potential. … A teammate of Lewis Jackson’s, big man Jeremy Robinson is another to watch. Generously listed at 6-8, he’s a hard working big man who surprises with his ability to elevate for jams despite looking a bit flat/lead footed while running the court. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but then again he also deserves recognition for understanding that his strength is playing within eight feet of the hoop. Despite getting torched at times by Kearse (just like the rest of his team) he was good for 19 points in only 17 minutes of action. Like his teammate Jackson, he’s another guy talented enough to play for a high major but it could be argued that he’d be better served going to a high level mid major program where he could contribute a little more regularly at an earlier stage in his college career. … With the departure of Road Show favorite Kiwan Smith from the prep ranks after what seemed like an eternity, somebody had to fill the role of combustible high flyer who can seemingly be a member of whatever class he needs to be. Seton Hall bound power forward Michael Glover has officially taken over Smith’s role. A 6-5 beast who lives for dunks, trash talk and the occasional skirmish under the hoop, he’s the type of dude that you don’t want to run afoul of inside the lane and he’s loads of fun to watch. … If you are wondering just how far Jerryd Bayless can be away from the hoop and still dunk on somebody, just ask Taylor King. Bayless’ facial on King wasn’t the cleanest dunk ever, but man oh man was it vicious and completely unexpected. …
The army that Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei travels with has to be seen to be appreciated. Fully decked out in the latest Nike duds -- much of it shoes and gear that hasn’t even been released to the general public yet -- Mater Dei rolled into Fort Myers with their entire varsity and jv squads, several managers and at least eight or nine coaches. All told, there had to have been at least 40-45 people in town who could claim a legit affiliation with the program. Odds are, no other program at the event had more than 18-20. … Another Mater Dei product impressing was 6-2 combo guard Kamyron Brown. A noted defender, he had to be switched away from Bayless but he made up for it with his offense. In a bit of a bizarro world outing, he went for 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds during an offensive explosion that more than made up for his unusual defensive struggles. … Chalk up another monster outing for Pompano (FL) Ely sophomore WG Kenneth Boynton. This time the 6-2 gunslinger was good for 32 and five assists. … Punta Gorda (FL) Charlotte junior wing Dago Pena is a bit of a wild man, but he has lots of talent. At 6-5, he’s got range on his jumper and is an excellent passer who can also handle the rock. Now he’s just got to tone it down and make better decisions. … Super sophomore Lance Stephenson’s 28 points and eight rebounds sure looks impressive, and it was. However, it is important to note that a sizeable portion of his points came on layups where he leaked out into the open court after his team’s game against Greg Monroe and Helen Cox was way, way out of hand. …
As impressive as Nick Calathes was, he might not have been the most impressive performer on his own team. 6-8 wing Chandler Parsons went for 27 points and seven rebounds of his own but only needed 15 shots to do it. The tall and slender scoring machine is the proud owner of perhaps the prettiest stroke in the class of 2007 and he’s only going to get better once he gets some dedicated time in the weight room. … Finally, there aren’t many wings left worthy of legit high major looks but Schenley lefty D.J. Kennedy should get some of them. The 6-6 wing is a high flyer with a workable jump shot and the dribbling skills to be isolate and blow by would be defenders. …
- Total teams seen- 112
- Total games watched- 68
- Total miles traveled- 5, 566
Up Next- Academy National Invitational, Houston, TX, Dec. 27&28.