Clarke Struts His Stuff at Hoop Classic

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Once again potential Maryland forward target Chris Clarke showed he deserved high-major offers with a big game at the Nation's Capital Hoop Classic.

Washington, D.C. -- I've seen some really good high school basketball games this year, but the Jan. 25 tilt between local power Clinton Christian and nationally ranked Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.) was a classic. The Dolphins from Virginia Beach outlasted the Eagles, 86-84, in triple overtime. There were Division I prospects all over the place, the crowd was going crazy, wild shots were going in, players were cramping up -- this game had it all. The bout was part of the Nation's Capital Hoop Classic, and was held at spacious Coolidge High School in D.C.

Clinton Christian is largely composed of players formerly of DC Assault, now known as DC Premier. Their entire starting five is composed of D-I prospects:

Jon Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard who has committed to DePaul; LeRoy Butts, a 6-7 forward who committed to Rutgers; Byron Hawkins a 6-0 point who pledged to Towson; Develle Phillips, a rapidly improving 6-8 forward; and 6-6 athlete Allante Holston.

Davis and Hawkins were tremendous throughout. Davis had 30 points, Hawkins 25, and both hit a number of clutch shots coming down the stretch, especially the bomb by Hawkins at the end of regulation to tie the game at 58.

For Cape Henry, they were led by 6-5+ junior Christopher Clarke, a Maryland target who we will discuss in a bit; senior Jimmy Paige, a 6-4 forward who recently popped to Jimmy Patsos' Siena squad; senior Ayron Hutton, a 6-3 guard committed to Quinnipiac; junior point Marcus Evans; and 6-5 senior David Terins.

Hutton in particular was strong down the stretch, scoring 27 points, and coming up big when Evans and Clarke both fouled out in the first overtime. Evans finished with 18, and Paige had 17, which included four treys, including a huge one in the second overtime that brought the Dolphins within one point.

Both squads were very well coached, and this was action packed from start to finish.

As for Clarke, this was our second look at him this year, and despite a poor shooting night (5-of-15 field goals), in which he missed a number of shots he normally makes in close, he once again showed his value to this team.

Clarke picked up two early fouls in the first quarter, and missed a good bit of time early on. However, guarding the 6-7 LeRoy Butts, he immediately made his presence felt defensively and on the boards. Butts finished the night with three points.

This explosive junior notched 13 points, was the best rebounder on the court (I had him for 17 rebounds), picked up three assists, had four steals, and committed only two turnovers. He did take an outside jumper that missed, and it's kind of a push shot that he shoots off his shoulder. We watched him closely, though, in warmups and he was knocking down outside shots pretty regularly, with excellent ball rotation. I'm not sure he'll ever be a classic long range sniper, but this wiry strong leaper brings so much more to the table.

For a program in desperate need of defenders, athletes, and competitors, Clarke would seem like a perfect fit at UMD. Add in the fact that he's got a tremendous handle, passes the ball well, has a lethal first step that can penetrate zone or man defenses, well, let's just say I'm a big fan.

In other words, Chris Clarke brings to the table a lot of what's missing in College Park, and we might also add he brings a good deal of "hoops IQ" along with his explosiveness. I don't know if/when the Terps will offer, but I can guarantee you a whole slew of other high majors will.

We also got a second look at Suitland (District Heights, Md.) sophomore shooting guard Darryl Smith, and the Rams put on a lackluster performance in a 64-48 loss to a solid High Point Christian (N.C.) team. Smith, 6-1, finished with nine points, shooting 3-of-7 from the field. Smith has some talent, but is mainly known for his ability to shoot the ball. When the shot isn't falling, we haven't seen a lot of other skills to suggest he's a high-major prospect, but again, he's only a tenth-grader.

In an earlier game, St. Andrew's (Middletown, Del.) easily defeated Norfolk Collegiate (Norfolk, Va.) 53-30. Maryland had recruited 6-8 forward Ben Bentil from St. Andrew's, and he's a manchild. He signed with Providence over Georgetown in November. Their 6-4 junior two-guard, Myles Stephens, has Ivy League grades, but mid/high major skills as well. He's a very good prospect.

We also got a look at 6-6 sophomore Marquis Collins from Chester HS (Chester, Pa.). Collins has gotten some buzz as the next big thing out of this traditional powerhouse, but he didn't show a lot in the Clippers' remarkable come-from-behind win over Capitol Christian, finishing with six points and four rebounds. The Clippers got a huge game from 6-2 guard Mahir Johnson, as the senior went for 38 points and hit from all over in the fourth quarter, as Chester came from 17 down to win 78-72.

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