King City Classic: Day 1 Blog

Day one of the King City Classic featured 80 of the top 2011 and 2012 high school basketball prospects from across the country. There were eight action packed games followed by the tip-off of the first round of the King City Classic Tournament. GoBlueWolverine was on hand in Cleveland as John Beilein watched three prime targets go to work Thursday evening.

(Cleveland, OH) Invitationals and tournaments, like these, can sometimes quickly turn into run-and-shoot horse races where guards take over the show and little offensive system is truly set up and run.  They can be a nightmare for forwards and centers that are essentially left to practice their conditioning and hoping for an occasional rebound opportunity.  This year the coaches appear to be demanding much more from their squads in terms of running an offense and being patient in their play and it is directly showing up in the realism of the game action.  That made observing Michigan targets Gary Harris, Trey McDonald and Amir Williams very worthwhile.

With Michigan Head Coach John Beilein looking on, the competition seemed to bring things up a notch for Gary Harris, Trey McDonald, and Amir Williams.  There was a noticeable increase in intensity throughout all three of the games that each prospect played in.  (A half day break from the three-workouts-per-day pace of the Skills Academy surely helped as well.)

Gary Harris played exclusively on the at the three during all action in Cleveland.  Thursday he was off-and-on with his shot again, but he definitely hit his fair share.  At 6-4, he runs up against taller players at the three, but that could work to his advantage should he begins attacking the basket more. His passing again looked almost effortless and accurate.  Without the ball, Harris continues to play well when his shot is on.  When it's not, though, he becomes a tad stagnant.  Overall, though, he acquitted himself well.

Amir Williams picked up his game Thursday also, and it was refreshing to see.  He looked fresher and there didn't appear to be any lingering effects from what looked to be a sore lower right leg earlier in the week.  He ran the floor pretty well and he seemed to defend his position solidly.  He was presence on the offensive boards, especially when following up his own misses.  On a down note, toward the end of the evening Williams got twisted up with an opponent during a scramble after a miss and rolled an ankle.  He limped and trailed plays noticeably after that but stayed in to finish the game.

Harris and Williams play on the same team (team Duke, in this setting) and their team struggled Thursday.  They split their early games and then lost their opening tournament game fairly decisively, sending them to the consolation tourney bracket.  Team Duke, by the way, is coached by former Duke player Greg Paulus who has been quite energetic all week.   Overall, his team is just not that fleet of foot and tends to trail the action, rather than dictate it.  If Jakarr Sampson has an off game the team seems unable to overcome it.

McDonald's team (Team North Carolina) is racking up the wins.  North Carolina won both of their morning contests and, more importantly, their opening round tournament game - and they advanced in style.  The team attacks in a very balanced manner and has really good chemistry that shows up in their passing and spacing.  Considering that these teams have only been together for about three full days, that's impressive.  Two players of note for this team include Jahaii Carson (who looks like he can drive and score on just about anyone right now), and an absolute man child in 2012 prospect Ricardo Gathers.  Gathers is listed at 6-6 235 and looks every bit that if not a touch more in both categories.  He attacked the lane and simply took it over on the offensive end whenever he wanted. 

For McDonald's part, he really picked up his game, and that is saying something considering his strong showing at Lebron.  His increase in level of play came at an opportunistic time since John Beilein seemed to have his attention directed in the Battle Creek Central star's direction more often than not.  McDonald continued to stand out as one of the hardest workers on the floor.  He moved well and worked himself to openings that at times seemed to be so wide open that he had time to hesitate.  His shot looks very nice for a big, and he'll need to let it loose more often if he is going to be that wide open.  Defensively, McDonald held his own for the most part, but struggled against the more athletic foes.   Opponents with quick spin moves or first steps is definitely gave him a little trouble.  Still he has a nice, strong, wide base that he uses well to hold out guys that simply try to back him down. In addition, his seven-foot wing span erases a kit lot of mistakes.

Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more King City Classic coverage in the coming days.

Blog by Ben Krasner

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