Spiece Run and Slam: Friday's Action

InsideMichiganState.com's Doug Warren is on location this weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the 12th Annual Spiece Run 'N Slam All Star Classic. Get Inside for the scoop on Saturday's action with news and notes on, among others, Greg Oden, Ramar Smith, Deshawn Sims, Leon Freeman, Alex Legion, Darquavis Tucker and Tim Herzog.

It's another big weekend in AAU action as teams from all over the country converge on Fort Wayne, Indiana for the 12th Annual Spiece Run and Slam All Star Classic. I watched two of Michigan's finest squads, The Family and the Michigan Hurricanes, in action in the opening round of pool play Friday night. Here is the rundown:

Game 1 – The Family 106, Wisconsin Swing Black 101 (2 OT)

The game was not only long due to the two OTs, but it was further extended due to some indecisive officiating. I counted at least four different times that they stopped play for extended periods to discuss calls and/or correct scoreboard errors – NFL replay officials everywhere were smiling.

Oh yeah, about the game. Ramar Smith did all he could to keep The Family from falling to the upset minded WSB squad. He played a great all around game hitting shots from the perimeter as well as driving to the hole when needed, finishing with 28 points. His defense was sound too. The hightlight of the night was a thunderours tip-in dunk that brought the house down in the second half of regulation that gave his team at 64-63 lead.

Deshawn Sims struggled a bit at times offensively, but was solid on the boards and got to the free throw line quite a bit down the stretch as he began to wear down the WSB front line. Despite some missed shots, you could clearly see a strong player with a good low post game who will only get better as the summer progresses.

Leon Freeman played well in limited minutes. He was active on the defensive end and showed his athleticism with a nice tip in during the second half. He told me after the game that his is still bothered a bit by his sprained toe. He listed Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Cleveland State among some of the teams who have contacted him of late. He made it clear that he is in no hurry to make any decision at this time.

Tajuan Porter showed a good floor game for The Family. He ran the offense well and hit some key shots in the second half and during the two OTs, finishing with 20 points. He is a real good player, and should not be thought less of because he is only 5'9".

Overall, it was a streaky performance for The Family in their opening win. The fact that they were extended 2OTs by a team with limited talent in the front court should provide them with some incentive going into Saturday's action.

Game 2 – Michigan Hurricanes 86, Ferrari Youth 68

The Hurricanes were a force on this night. They gave an impressive overall team performance with unselfish passing, good floor spacing and solid defense. They gave themselves plenty of fastbreak opportunities due to their ball pressure and that resulted in a number of dunks and transition baskets.

Alex Legion was a man among boys all night, scoring 28 points from all angles and altitudes. His shot was smooth and he attacked the basket at will. He seemed to be playing in another gear from everyone else and showed exactly why he is currently one of the most sought after players in Michigan.

Another impressive performance came from Darquavis Tucker. He scored 15 points and also displayed tough defense as he and Legion created turnovers and filled the lanes on the break.

Tom Herzog chipped in with 13 points, many of which came from the line after he hit the glass and was fouled on putbacks. Tom also collected four blocks, one of which came from sheer hustle after he turned the ball over and then raced down the floor to block the layup attempt at the opposite end.

I was anxious to see Herzog square off with Ferrari big man Brian Carlwell. Both players displayed good lateral quickness for their size, and while they will both need to bulk up at the next level each player gave glimpses of what they could become. Carlwell ended up with just 4 points on the night, but showed good defense and solid footwork. He also made a couple of nice passes in the paint to cutting teammates.

I spoke with Herzog just before the game and he told me that his four schools of interest, in no particular order, remain Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Illinois. He was excited about this summer and just wants to work on his overall game and improve his consistency offensively. He is a very good defender with a natural feel for shot blocking and will get even better at both ends of the floor as his confidence grows.

Tory Jackson was extremely impressive running the point for the Hurricanes. He was clearly in control when he was on the floor, repeatedly finding the open man on the fast break and knowing the right time to look for the basket himself. He finished with 15 points and helped wow the crowed with an alley-oop pass which he bounced off the glass to set up a dunk by Darquavis Tucker.

Greg Oden Taking It All In

I spoke briefly last night with Greg Oden, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, as he was waiting to play his opening round game with his AAU squad, Spiece Indy Heat. In addition to his POY honor, the Lawrence North (Indianapolis) star was inducted into the Spiece Run ‘N Slam Hall of Fame with current Portland Trail Blazer, and former Marion, Indiana and MSU star Zach Randolph, earlier in the evening. More awards and attention are sure to follow as he enters his senior season (NBA Draft?) as Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wake Forest and the NBA all continue to jockey for his services. Despite all of the accolades and attention he has been getting of late; Greg was as unassuming as could be sitting quietly in the Fieldhouse snackbar a half-hour before tipoff. After introducing myself, it took all but two questions to see that this young man has everything in perspective.

I asked him about the possibility of the NBA instituting a 20 year-old age limit, which could force him the potential NBA talent to go to college instead of directly to the pros. His response, with just a hint of a smile on his face, was refreshing to say the least:

"That doesn't concern me. I'm still in high school."

InsideMichiganState.com will be on site at Spiece for all of Saturday's action.

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