Terps Targets Galore in Va. Hoops Tourney

SUFFOLK, Va. -- One of the more intriguing matchups at the XTreme Sports Tip-Off Classic in Suffolk this past weekend featured Life Center Academy (N.J.) against Quality Education Academy (N.C.). It gave us another opportunity to check out Terps signee Trayvon Reed, and also junior Malik Ellison, who is fast becoming a prime target. Also, check out Painter's news and notes at the end:

SUFFOLK, Va. -- One of the more intriguing matchups at the XTreme Sports Tip-Off Classic in Suffolk this past weekend featured Life Center Academy (N.J.) against Quality Education Academy (N.C.). It gave us another opportunity to check out Terps signee Trayvon Reed, and also junior Malik Ellison, who is fast becoming a prime target. Trust me, we got more than our money's worth in this one.

QEA was a combative (more about that later) opponent to be sure, as they rolled out 6-foot-10 Ibrahim Diallo, 6-9 Papa Ndiage and 6-7 Khalil Rasheed at times together on their huge front line. Clearly, this presented a strong challenge to Reed, who stands (in our eyes) a legit 7-1.

LCA had looked a bit lethargic against a strong St. James (Md.) team a few weeks ago, but that was not the case today. Both teams came out in a "chippy" mood from the opening tip, and this was a war throughout.

The bottom line is this: LCA was leading 55-44 with a little over three minutes left in the fourth quarter when a QEA player threw an elbow at Ellison during a scuffle for a loose ball. Ellison, understandably, took exception to the play, and what started out as some trash talk quickly elevated into a full scale brawl. Players from both sides were throwing punches, from one end of the court to the other.

Luckily, Suffolk police were present, and after a couple minutes of mayhem, order was restored. I noticed two players (one from each squad) being taken away in handcuffs.

After a 15-minute delay, the decision was made to halt the game. Shortly thereafter, both teams returned to the court , and both head coaches (Pervis Ellison is the LCA coach) addressed the crowd and made public apologies. Then the teams shook hands and things got back to normal. Believe me, it was quite a scene.

Now, from a performance standout, the good news is that both Reed and Ellison were outstanding. The long and athletic Reed was a disruptive force all day, blocking eight shots, altering others and grabbing 12 boards, while scoring six points (3-of-6 field goals). He doesn't get many touches at all offensively, so his points mainly come on offensive boards, or alley oops.

He still needs to get stronger, as he got his hands on several balls but couldn't quite "corral" them, but make no mistake, with his length and timing, he automatically is a factor. In fact, from my standpoint, he controlled this game defensively from start to finish. Trayvon Reed still has a long way to go, but again, he has some tools athletically and defensively, which simply cannot be taught.

As for Ellison, after watching the 6-4+ swingman in action two times early in the season get in major foul trouble, he did a much better job of not forcing things -- and he let the game come to him. When he plays within himself, he's a VERY talented prospect.

His numbers were solid: 17 points (4-of-7 field goals, 0-of-2 3s), 9-of-12 free throws, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and only two turnovers. Ellison has a solid handle, shoots it pretty well and is very creative. He's pushing 6-5 now, getting stronger, and with ice packs on both knees after the game, is obviously going through another growth spurt.

In the end, you're possibly looking at a full fledged 6-6 wing. Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli is the recruiter for Ellison, and all signs point to the Terps making a good run at this talented, and still developing, swingman.

***

Besides that Life Center-Quality Education game, it was a full day of basketball in Suffolk Jan. 4. Here's a quick synopsis of what we learned there:

First, Chris Clarke (Cape Henry Collegiate) is a viable high major recruit in our eyes. From his elite athleticism to his skill level, this 6-5 junior was very impressive. I'd expect a Maryland offer could be coming in the not too distant future, and I'd expect many other schools to jump on board as well. If you're the Terps, better offer sooner rather than later. This kid is really good.

Anthony Cowan showed again why he got a Maryland offer prior to his sophomore year, and why he has such a bright future. Size and strength are the only real questions right now. He will get stronger, so we wait to see if he grows. At 5-10, another inch or two would serve him well, but again, his quickness and end-to-end speed are awfully good, which negates the height question. We see no reason to think Maryland won't continue to pursue this St. John's product, who could possibly be running the show in College Park in a few years.

We hadn't heard of Shaun Kirk before. Who you say? He's a 6-7 re-classed sophomore from Whiteville, N.C. (home of Chris Wilcox by the way), who plays for Flora MacDonald Academy in Red Springs, N.C. FMA is not a strong team, and were easily handled here by an average Fredericksburg Christian squad, but Kirk caught our eye early on.

Kirk's a wiry, thin explosive small forward, who shoots it pretty well, handles it some, and simply jumps out of the proverbial gym. He had several plays which could be described as "jaw dropping." We hope to see Kirk some more down the road, but you will hear more about him in the future -- he 's a big-time athlete.

Did the Terps miss out on Dwayne Morgan? The word continues to be "upside" on this talented 6-8 forward. He'll get his chance to shine at UNLV, and he's going to be a very good player. Maryland never really made much of a push according to some St. Frances sources, with the Rebels and Georgetown going toe to toe for his services, although UNLV was considered the favorite all along.

Morgan has yet to put it all together on a consistent game by game basis, but he'll do good things in Sin City. At this tournament though, foul trouble and tough defense (mainly applied by Clarke) kept him in check.

This event brought out the best in Life Center Academy's Trayvon Reed and Malik Ellison. We're still waiting to see some offensive moves from the 7-1 Reed, and yet it seems like he has some touch offensively with the few shots he takes.

Ellison, when he plays as he did in Suffolk, is a very good high-major prospect who is going to get better. Here, he let the game come to him, and didn't force things as he did in two earlier looks. He's got a handle, he shoots it pretty well, he can create looks for himself and others, plus he's got some serious hops, as she showed on an alley-oop finish in traffic. From all reports, the Terps staff is very high on the nearly 6-5 junior.

One more note on Cape Henry Collegiate if any Terps fans want to take a look at Clarke in person. They will be in the D.C. area on January 25th to play Clinton Christian. That game is part of a tournament being held at Coolidge HS.

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