It was only fitting that The Family and Indiana Red would be placed in the same pool during this weekend's Classic. The pairing allowed for a rematch between Robert Vaden and Malik Hairston. A few weekends earlier, Malik scorched Vaden for 38 points at the Spiece Run N Slam tournament in Ft. Wayne. The recent Indiana commit didn't have any better luck on the offensive end that game, netting only 13 points. At the start of Sunday's game Vaden seemed intent on turning the tables from the previous meeting. He displayed all of the skills that have made him one of the top rated wings in the nation. He was particularly adept at coming off of screens to knocking down jumpers. He was also very effective from long range. The part of his game that impressed me the most was his passing ability. The kid can really find the open man on the break AND in offensive sets. He can be just as effective as an assist man if a team pays to much attention to trying to stymie his offensive output. In the first 8 minutes of the game he dished 5 assists and netted 13 points, which include two three pointers from NBA range.
The normal script would call for Malik Hairston or Joe Crawford to answer the challenge issued by Vaden's play. Unfortunately, Malik had only 3 first half points and was off for most of the first half. He went out at the 9:30 mark and didn't return to the lineup until the half was almost over. Joe didn't have much better luck. He took the ball to the hole with authority, but the refs seemed to have swallowed their whistles for the contest. He was mauled on a couple of occasions without getting the benefit of a call. The fact that his jumper wasn't really falling didn't help matters, and he had only 6 first half points. That set the stage for the third prong in the Family's attack to step to the forefront.
According to the MDC roster, it was expected that Michigan State commit Marquise Gray would be playing the 5 for Durand Walker's team. He, however, was not in Bloomington over the weekend. Because of that, 6'7" Ronald Coleman was forced to man the pivot. He faced guys bigger than him all weekend and devoted a large amount of attention to his defense and rebounding. However, in this contest his team would need a major contribution from him on the offensive end, and "RC" was up to the task.
As mentioned already, Vaden had 13 points in the first 8 minutes. RC matched him almost point for point with 12 of his own in the same time frame off of two deep threes and a few authoritative drives. His offense really picked up when Hairston went out. This was by far the most aggressive I've seen him in any of the 10 or so contests I've seen him in this summer. He demanded the ball on offense and took it to the hole without hesitation when he didn't have a good look from deep. He drove for a dunk, pulled up on a few occasions, and even took the ball coast to coast at one point. All of his efforts earned him 21 first half points, pulled the Family within one point for a 41-40 halftime deficit.
In the second half Joe and Malik seemed to find their stroke, as Crawford hit 8 and Hairston 20 in the last stanza. Malik's second half performance was as impressive as Coleman's in the first half. He rained in the three pointers and got in the lane for short jumpers at will. RC hit only 3 second half points, but everyone in the stands saw what this kid could really do in the opening 16 minutes. His play kept the Family in the game and helped propel them to a 72-56 victory. The win set up a first round tourney match-up with Alexander Kaun's Team Florida.
When I witnessed Kaun match up with Kalen Grimes a day earlier, I saw a seven footer that didn't really establish himself in the post, was boxed out easily, and didn't like physical play. Against the Family, and the 6'7" Coleman, Kaun was a bit more aggressive. He hit the boards harder and showed some pretty good post skills. His height was a factor, as he blocked at least 5 shots. He probably could have been a bit more effective if one of his teammates actually found a shot he DIDN'T like. The Family, on the other hand, spread the wealth…and boy was it beautiful.
Joe-Joe Crawford was back in a big way! He found the touch that was missing in the early game versus Indiana Red. He hit 4 3's in the first half and 2 in the second, on his way to 28 points. Malik Hairston stepped up his production in the second half with three 3-pointers and 23 total points over the Team Florida player that many in the crowd affectionately dubbed "The Black Hole" (i.e. the ball goes in and never comes out). RC did his part by bringing Kaun out to the wing and taking him off the dribble for a few buckets. He also dropped in a few of his high arcing threes on his way to 18 points. Kaun finished with 17 in the 89-77 defeat.
The Family's next contest of the tournament tipped at 10:30 PM EST and the Illinois Warriors had seen enough over the weekend to put together a beautiful scouting report. They went zone on Walker's squad and the jumpers just weren't falling like they had in prior games and The Family was eliminated. A big man like Gray would've really helped at that point, but you'll hear no excuses from Speedy Walker's team.
We'll have more tournament notes in the coming days.
Memorial Day Classic, Day 2
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