There were only two games Friday night at Sovereign Bank Arena, but what a tune up for Saturday's basketball extravaganza. To start the evening, we were treated to a double overtime thriller between Camden (NJ), yes that Camden Louisville fans, and Scotch Plains (NJ), which featured 6'9 sophomore Derrick Caracter.
Caracter had a big game scoring and rebounding around the basket but fouled out to start the second extra frame and the Panthers simply turned up the full court pressure to pull away for a big win over one of their chief in-state rivals.
Six-foot-one inch Camden guard Wayne Smalls played extremely well. He scored in a variety of ways and came up big on defense forcing turnovers all night. But it was 5'9 point guard Shomari Moore, the cousin of Dejuan Wagner and a University of Kentucky football signee, who took home MVP honors for his performance in the nights first game.
In the nightcap, 6'9 University of Louisville signee Brian Johnson and his Oak Hill teammates knocked off one of the better teams on the west coast, Mater Dei (CA) in relatively easy fashion. As usual, 6'9 Warrior power forward Josh Smith wowed the crowd time after time with his aerial display and rim-rattling dunks and Rajon Rondo continued to show why he'll likely make the McDonald's All-America team later this month.
As for Johnson, he simply couldn't find the range with his medium range jumper tonight. He had several good looks from inside fifteen feet but made only a slam in transition of a nice feed from Rondo, and perhaps the night's most authoritative offensive rebound putback. Despite his offensive struggles, Johnson was solid on defense and was extremely active with several deflections and three blocked shots. He also pulled down 7 boards to go with his 4 points (2-8 FG).
Rajon Rondo, Oak Hill – What more can so you say about this guy? He's clearly one of the better point guards in the class and repeatedly made crowd-pleasing plays with his passing and penetration skills. There's always been a question about his outside shooting but tonight Rondo made 1-2 three pointers. His release looks more fluid, too. He had no problems getting into the lane when he wanted and Mater Dei point guard Mike Garrity had no chance to keep Rajon in front of him. He's a good one. No doubt.
Josh Smith, Oak Hill – He dunks. And then dunks some more. All kinds, all varieties. He's freaky athletic and even drained a couple jumpers tonight, including one from the deep baseline. He's so quick off his feet, he routinely beats people for offensive rebounds. No chance he plays a second in Bloomington, Indiana.
6'9 Derrick Caracter
Taylor King, Mater Dei – One of the top freshman in the class and if you've followed these reports you know we've been high on King since last spring. If you're not aware, he's a multi-skilled 6'6 forward who's already committed to UCLA. The best part about King has always been his passing ability and the little hook shots and floaters he drains around the basket. Sure he has range on his jumper but tonight he struggled because he glued himself behind the three point line and hoisted three pointer after three pointer. Can't recall many going down either. Still got his points, though, with a nice spurt in the first half.
Wayne Smalls, Camden – Smalls deserves props for a game well played. He had numerous steals, finished in transition and scored in a variety of ways. He drained a couple treys, banked in a mid-range jumper from the wing and finished with a nice little reverse layup.
Brian Johnson, Oak Hill – The last time we saw Johnson at the Marshall County Hoop Fest, he did his offensive damage around the basket. Tonight, Johnson simply took what Mater Dei gave him and that was the medium range looks he's capable of burying. And despite some good looks from the baseline and just inside the free throw lane, he just couldn't get one to go down. He did have an impressive finish with a flush on the break thanks to a sweet pass from Rondo and had a monster putback. He's a throw back player, probably one of those 10-12 point, 8 rebound guys at the next level. His athleticism sneaks up on you, though.
Everywhere you looked tonight inside the arena you saw a swoosh…..in fact, there might have been more Nike reps than fans….George Raveling was in the house and showed lots of love to 7'0 sophomore center Brian Zoubeck of Haddonfield (NJ)….University of Louisville assistant coach Reggie Theus is expected to be in attendance tomorrow….He'll get to watch Sebastian Telfair, Tello Palacios, Brandon Rush, Brian Johnson, and Javaris Crittendon, among others…..we've heard Rajon Rondo will be named to the McDonald's All-American team.