Point Guard Dual: Rondo vs. Tillford
Two of the best point guards in Jefferson County locked horns Tuesday night at Eastern High School. The Eastern Eagles, led by 6'2 junior All-America Rajon Rondo faced the Jeffersontown Chargers and 5'10 sophomore Dominic Tillford, in a good 7th region game.
Eastern dominated the first quarter getting easy baskets off its pressure defense. At the end of the first frame, the Eagles led 26-10 and the game looked as though it would get ugly. That's when the officials took over. Rondo picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and spent the last seven minutes of the half on the bench. He played a total of 6 first half minutes.
With Rondo on the bench, the Chargers went to work. Led by Tillford, the Chargers cut into Eastern's lead and went to the break trailing only 35-31 to the much more talented Eagles.
Tillford, one of the top freshman in Jefferson County last season at Jtown, transferred over the summer to local power Ballard. After his appeal for eligibility was denied by the KHSAA, he transferred back to Jtown in order to play this season as a sophomore.
Tillford, ranked as the second best sophomore point guard in Jefferson County by ITV behind Pleasure Ridge Park's JuJuan Spillman and named one of the Top 100 sophomores nationally by Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop prior to the season, is a quick and crafty ball handler who has no trouble breaking the press with his dribble. He 's equally good going left or right and can control the offense with his ability to handle the rock.
At 5'10 and maybe 140, Tillford clearly needs additional strength and size to reach his potential. His jump shot is something right out of an Alfred Hitchcock horror film too. It's not not fair to call it a jump shot. It's more of a one handed, leaning push shot with little or no elevation on his release. But he finds a way to put the ball in the basket.
On the night, Tillford was clearly the best player on the floor when Rondo was not in the game. He connected on 9-18 shots from the field and hit 2-5 three pointers and 2-3 free throws. He had 0 assists but should have had a half dozen if the guys he passed to could have knocked in some jumpers. Tillford, despite his slight build, went inside and pulled down 5 rebounds and had 2 steals as well.
A couple of plays were really impressive and demonstrate the potential Tillford possesses. On one offensive series, Dominic made a slick dribble move into the lane past Rondo, spun to his left and nailed a 15 foot jumper in the lane. His shooting form actually looks pretty good the closer he get to the basket. On another play, Tillford received the ball on the break on the left wing, spun away from the defender, elevated and banked home a 10 footer.
All in all it was a good effort and his performance did nothing to hurt his stock in the ITV rankings. I'd still have to rank him slightly behind Spillman at the point guard slot in his class because Spillman is more explosively quick and shoots the ball better from the outside. Tillford needs to eat, eat and then hit the weights hard. A growth spurt of a couple inches wouldn't hurt either. But he's clearly one of the top 4 or 5 sophs in the city and a nice player to watch.
Back to the game. Rondo joined the action two minutes after the break and Eastern regained control of the game. There's no questioning Rondo's ability. He is flat out the best player in Jefferson County and will battle Chris Lofton for the honor statewide.
At times, Rondo simply looks uninspired and bored with this level of competition. But when he has the ball in his hands the game and the opponent are at his mercy. He's powerful with the bounce and in total control of the ball and the game off the dribble. He can get into the lane off the dribble. He can break the press off the bounce and he finds open teammates after breaking down the defense.
Rondo is clearly an excellent athlete and seemingly can score at will against this kind of competition. His jump shot has improved leaps and bounds this season and he's added a consistent mid range jump shot off the bounce and displayed a spin move jump shot in the lane tonight on a few occasions.
On one offensive set late in the game, Rondo took the ball near mid court on the left side of the court, waived his teammates to clear the floor, and totally blew by his man with a left hand dribble and powered over two defenders and finished in the lane. It was one POWERFUL and AUTHORITATIVE drive to the hoop and proved to all in the gym who was in control of the game.
On the night, Rondo played only 20 minutes and drilled 6-11 shots from the field and 8-9 free throws for 20 points. He also had 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Despite narrowing the gap in the second half, the Eagles pulled away late in the fourth quarter and held on to defeat Jtown 72-66.