Headed into the July evaluation period, all eyes were looking at the Peach Jam as the favorite to emerge as the showcase event off the summer. Sunday, day one of the event in North Augusta, S.C., the Peach Jam saved what had previously been a summer filled with relatively uninspired and mediocre play.
That's not to say that there weren't some ugly games or lack of effort, there was plenty of that. However, for the most part the kids really got after it and the talent level was off the charts. Not only that, the overall energy in the building from coaches, players, fans, scouts and everybody else in the gym was good.
Phog.Net was on hand to check out the action and here's some of the days more notable performers
Kansas Targets At Peach Jam
Harrison Barnes - Caught him in an evening game where he matched up with the physical DeShaun Thomas, headed to Ohio State. A very impressive performance out of Barnes who went for 28 points and eight rebounds. Cutting down on the ball handling mistakes that have bothered him this summer, he scored in the post, from midrange, from deep and played physical on both ends. He's still pretty lean, but getting noticeably stronger.
L.J. Rose - Bill Self made a special trip to Houston earlier in the week to watch Rose and other young Texas talent and it's easy to see why. Very mature, he's a terrific decision maker and poised floor general. Given that he's only going to be entering his 10th grade year, how well he handles himself says a lot. Has good size at 6-foot-2 and makes shots, even if his release is off of his right shoulder.
Brad Beal - The 2011 shooting guard had his way with the Houston Hoops 16's. Actually, the entire St. Louis Eagles 16's smacked the kids from H-town around for 32 minutes. For Beal, the offense came pretty effortlessly. Showing more explosiveness of late, he's really added to his game attacking the basket. The shot is money and his mid range game is on point. He's about as complete as you can get offensively for a kid that just turned 16 within the last month.
Rakeem Christmas - Both Bill Self and Joe Dooley were peaking in on the 2011 big man from Philly. He's not quite as explosive or big as Dwight Howard was at that age, but he plays a similar game. A natural shot blocker with broad shoulders, long arms and great timing, he tries to tear down rims on offense. Runs well, plays hard and is highly regarded for good reason.
Wayne Blackshear - Nobody can question the 6-foot-5 2011 SG's toughness after Sunday. He fought hard around the rim as the Mac Irvin Fire chose to post him up a lot. He's really starting to fill out his frame and has blossoming athleticism. He might really be more of a natural small forward than two guard.
Cameron Clark - Wow, talk about turning up the intensity a little bit. One of the questions some coaches had was how hard he'd play? Coaches got their answer on Sunday and it was pretty clear that he's willing to scrap and get nasty. Took over the game late in a tight one against a loaded Mac Irvin Fire team. He iced a deep three, drilled a tough pullup jumper off a crossover and then exploded for a monster dunk off of a steal. Big day for the Texan.
Other Sunday Notables
Gary Bell - Really liked what this young, class of 2011, point guard for Seattle Rotary Select had to offer. At about 6-foot-1, he's a sticky on the ball defender and a guy who can attack off the bounce and score. Draws fouls, plays hard and bangs home some jumpers.
Julien Lewis - Looks like Texas landed themselves a very good one in this 6-foot-3 shooting guard. He's got a great looking stroke from deep, is a speedy athlete, has a strong frame and plays steady in all aspects of the game. He certainly turned some heads on Sunday.
DeShaun Thomas - He's a tough guy to get a read on. At a little over 6-foot-6, he can really score it in the lane and can be a monster on the glass. He can also shoot the ball and has mastered the 94 foot post up. During that maneuver, he takes the inbounds pass and dribbles up the floor. When he gets to the foul line he turns his back to the defender and then backs him into the paint before turning for a layup. He's got some small forward skills, but he can be sort of Marcus Fizer like as a four.
Michael Gbinjie - 2011 wing from the DC area is a lot of fun to watch. A 6-foot-6 wing who is an excellent spot up shooter, his improvement off the dribble and how much harder he's playing was very noticeable. The kid admitted that he perhaps got a big head for a little while because of all the attention he's getting, but he's back on track. There aren't many kids who are willing to admit that and he deserves credit for taking an honest look in the mirror.