With nearly 300 games played Friday over 38 gyms in 19 venues, I wish I could say I saw all of them or most of them, but one can only do what one is logistically capable of doing. Still, I would find it hard to believe that there were many better games on Friday than the one played between California's EBO/EA Sports Team and the Michigan Mustangs, which featured three players that have have ties to the world of recruitment of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Guard Larry Wright and big man Josh Southern of the Michigan Mustangs took on Derrick Jasper (pictured below) and the EBO/EA Sports Team in what could only be called a good old fashioned shoot out. It did not start that way. EBO/EA Sports also featured the Stanford bound Lopez twins, book-end 7-footers Robin and Brook, as well as their high school teammate Quincy Pondexter.
From the opening tip, EBO/EA Sports took command and built a 21-8 lead behind penetrating offense of Jasper and strong breakaway finishes of Pondexter. Derrick Jasper, a Paso Robles High School California combo guard, played point guard during most of the first four minutes, and took the Mustangs' Larry Wright to school early.
Jasper has the whole package. He's big, between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5. He's fast, real fast, with a lighting quick first step that got him by the smaller Larry Wright and Laval Lucas-Perry almost effortlessly. He's strong. He overpowered the Mustang guards in the paint on both ends of the floor. He can rebound. This young guy has major hops and knows what to do with the ball once he sweeps it off the glass. He would either kick out an outlet pass to 3-point artist Travon Willis or Pondexter or bring the ball up the court for a strong finish or last minute dish.
Four minutes into the game, both Wright and Southern were pulled from the game and replaced with 6-foot-4 Chase Simon from Detroit Community and 6-foot-9 Ampey Wilbur from Mattawan and the tides began to turn. Southern had been having difficulty handling the Lopez twins and Wilbur's wide body made a difference. The Mustangs then mounted a comeback.
Wright had trouble getting into the flow of the game. His first shot was a running off-balance missed jumper with Jasper in his face. His second shot was a 3-point airball. His only point in the first four minutes came when he challenged the two 7-footers in the paint and picked up a whistle. He made 1-2 from the line. Later in the first half, with the Mustangs coming back, Wright did hit a key three pointer that pulled the Michigan team to within one at 28-27. Moments later he drove to the basket and hung, adjusting his fingerroll to avoid a defender, giving the Mustangs their first lead, 32-30.
Wright opened the second period in much the same fashion as the first, somewhat out of control and finding it frustrating to cover Jasper, who clearly had his number. On at least two occasions Wright was forced to foul Jasper, who had blown past him in a one on one situation. At some point in the second half Wright seemed to lose some confidence. With his team down 51-49 Wright passed on a wide open three pointer, stepped in, then traveled.
However, moments later, Wright stole the ball from Travon Willis and scored on a breakaway. And his final shining moment came when he took Jasper one on one, spun with a very Jordan-esque move and scored over the Californian to pull Michigan to within one at 60-59, with 2:31 remaining in the contest.
On the next play, however, Jasper returned the favor, blasted past Wright for a layup, putting EBO/EA Sports up 62-59. Jasper took over from there. Creating a steal, Jasper hits Pondexter for a layup, making it 64-59. Then he dished to Brook Lopez to make it 66-59.
Wright stopped the bleeding with a three, making it 66-62. With time winding down, the EBO/EA Sports Team played keepaway, getting the ball to Jasper, who calmly hit six straight free throws down the stretch to keep the Mustangs at bay.
Derrick Jasper was one of the more impressive players I saw on Friday, along with Perry Stevenson, Deon Thompson and several others. After the game, Jasper confirmed his interest in Kentucky, calling them an elite program and expressing his excitement to be involved with them. With regard to a visit, Jasper said it had not been discussed yet but he was very open to it. Although his current list of suitors on the Scout database includes California, Connecticut, Gonzaga, USC, Washington, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kansas, the prospect listed on Kentucky, Washington, Arizona and UConn to me after the game.
The play of the day from my vantage, came in the second half when Pondexter lofted a high alley oop to the cutting Jasper. The pass appeared to be way too high. Jasper lept and, at least 10 inches above the rim, caught the ball in his finger tips and slammed it through the hoop in a loud, rim-rattling, backboard shaking finish, drawing a loud cheer from the crowd.
I will have to see Josh Southern again. He was not much of a factor in this game. He was pulled early in favor of Wilbur and sat for long stretches as the Mustang coach tried to use smaller, quicker players to neutralize the lopez twins. He is not a physical specimen, but is graceful for a big guy in a Nazr Mohammed sort of way. It is obvious, even from limited play, that Southern has upside.
As to Larry Wright, I do not see him as a legitimate Kentucky target. This opinion has to be tempered with the fact I have only seen him one time and he was going up against a very polished player. Could be one bad game, but he just did not seem to be Kentucky caliber to me.
Travon Willis, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard is a player to keep an eye on. He has a tremendous long range stroke and is very quick. Quincy Pondexter was among the better wing players I saw. He is fast, an extremely strong finisher and has a nice long-range touch. The Lopez twins are solid, but one has to wonder if they would get near the publicity without the novelty of the twin towers effect. Quincy Pondexter (pictured) had an outstanding game and, in my opinion, has tremendous upside.
On the Mustangs, while one of my missions was to evaluate Larry Wright, I must say that I came away much more impressed with 2007 wing guards Chase Simon and Laval Lucas-Perry. Simon is a super smooth guard that uses a quick first step to create space between he and his defender. He is great at pulling up for a quick 8-foot shot. Lucas-Perry is a hard-nosed, grind it out guard with decent range.