Leo Criswell looked the part of a kid you want coming to your team in need of a power forward. Leo, who looks at least 6`9" showed his athleticism while scoring 16 points, including three very nice dunks with feeling. However, you could tell that it was an All Star game to Leo at times including when with about 5 seconds left, he and Marcus Walker left the bench to attempt an ally-oop dunk off the back board. Luckily with the game well decided no one took offense. Criswell did display his good hands, ability to face the basket and score and nice passing ability. Criswell does have the ability to get up and down the floor quickly in an up tempo game. Both he and Thomas already play well together and show nice passing ability.
Lawrence, Thomas, McKinney, Criswell
DeAndre Thomas also had a nice game. He was officially credited with 19 points, but on at least one occasion Illini recruit Charles Jackson was credited with one of his hoops. Jackson is built somewhat similarly to Thomas.
DeAndre does not appear to be in the best of shape at around 6`7", but still showcased good quickness and footwork for a man his size. Unlike Criswell, Thomas seems to be a more intense player at all times and loves the one on one aspect of the game. He displayed very nice moves around the hoop and while he didn`t show any range shooting the ball, aside from a baby hook, Thomas is good to score around the basket. He uses his size to create space for himself and score or get fouled. He showed good form and touch from the line making 5 of 8 attempts. Thomas also has no problem making a lay-up. Something the Tiger bigs seemed to struggle with at times last year. He played hard for rebounds and on defense (until he ran out of gas in the second half) and possibly the best thing about his game was his interior passing. Tiger players will need to be ready and hopefully will take advantage of Thomas` passing. Still, he`ll need to really work on getting in shape or else he will probably only be good for 15-20 minutes a game if the pace is fast.
Matt Lawrence was forced to play inside due to the lack of size on the STL team, but still had a nice game hitting a few threes and scoring around 12 points. Matt played hard as always and really got after it on defense. Tiger fans and coaches will like his hustle. Matt was telling me that all the Tiger players are in Columbia and that workouts are very intense. "I spent the entire first week in ice tubs I was so sore." said Lawrence.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE ON HAND:
Tommie Liddell 6`5" WF heading to SLU will finally provide SLU with a true scoring threat if Soderberg turns him loose and amps the games up from being 50 point affairs. Liddell`s future is as a three unless he can improve his shooting ability and ball handling against quicker guards. Liddell had his way with WF Mike Roll (heading to UCLA), but the true guards like Marcus Walker and others picked his pocket and forced numerous turn overs. Otherwise he could slash and score at will.
Martellus Bennett 6`7" PF/WF Headed to Texas A&M, but declared for the NBA draft was the MVP of the event. Bennett, who actually had Mizzou on his list for football before the season actually happened, is among the top HS athletes out there. He displayed power, speed, shooting ability to three, good ups on the dunk and hit his free throws while scoring 28 points. I don`t know if he is NBA ready, but the kid has a nice future in football if that doesn `t work out.
Marcus Walker had a nice game and will undoubtedly haunt the Tigers for however long he is at Nebraska. He looked good playing with Criswell and Thomas. He played his typical game using speed and quickness on offense and defense while showing nice three point shooting.
David Devezin 5`11" will be a nice player for Texas A&M.
Of the Illini recruits that played Charles Jackson 6`8" 275 had the best game using his size and strength inside and got up and down the floor pretty well for his size. Him and Thomas could have some nice battles over the next few years. The other Illini kids Jamar Smith 6`3" and Charles Frazier 6`2" did not do much to impress me during the game. They won`t make fans forget Deron Williams and Dee Brown.
Eric Jones 6`5" WF Webster Groves heading to SEMO showed off his explosive athleticism with some showtime dunks.
I think SLU missed out on a nice big kid in O`Fallon`s Chris Kellerman 6`8" F heading to Central Michigan. Kellerman showed a nice inside/ out game including his ability to hit the three.
On a couple of side notes, current Tiger captain Jimmy McKinney was there to watch his future teammates.
Tiger football recruits Adrian Clayborn and Keith Williams were also in attendance to take in some hoops. Clayborn and Matt Lawrence have played on the same summer team in the past.