TOC: Horner Scores 27 As SJS Falls In Opener

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Wolfpack signee Dennis Horner torched the Pittsburgh JOTS for 27 points, but it wasn't enough as his overmatched South Jersey Select AAU team lost in its opener to the Pittsburgh JOTS, 86-66.

Dennis Horner, playing in front of a small contingent of Wolfpack fans, came out shooting and his stroke was on from the beginning. The 6-foot-8 wing knocked down two 3-pointers to start the game, and after two free throws South Jersey Select led the favored JOTS 15-9.

Listed as the tallest player on his team, Horner is much more comfortable playing on the wing, where he can take open jumpers or attack the basket down the baseline. But South Jersey Select is thin in the frontcourt, and the athletic JOTS found the weakness midway through the first half and started attacking.

Led by a frontcourt that features top 25 junior Herb Pope and impressive bruiser DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh dominated the paint.

DeJuan Blair
Blair was the difference. Listed a generous 6-foot-7, but appearing all of 250 pounds, the Pittsburgh (PA) Schenley junior bullied his way for 25 points and a game-high seven boards. He knocked down 11-of-15 shots and was extremely nimble around the basket. The main concerns college recruiters may have of Blair are his height, he plays center for the JOTS, and his inability to stay healthy. Blair has already had two ACL injuries prior to his senior year of high school, and that is something colleges will have to overlook, but you can bet at least one Division I program will do just that because he is very efficient in the paint and a load on the block.

Pope goes about his game in a different manner. The 6-foot-9 combo forward is skilled and can play on the perimeter or in the post. He's very skilled and has improved his ballhandling over the past year, although at times he can overdribble. Tabbed the No. 9 player in the country and No. 4 power forward by, Pope is an outstanding talent and terrific athlete, and tonight he flashed his ability on different occasions but appeared to be pacing himself as there is a lot of basketball left to be played this weekend. We had him going for 14 points, five boards, and five assists.

Herb Pope
South Jersey Select simply had no answer for the duo.

With Blair and Pope going to work, Pittsburgh started to pull away in the second half. SJS started to get frustrated and after a rash of turnovers they trailed the JOTS by 15. However, Dennis Horner continued to play hard... extremely hard.

Still thin, Horner has put a little weight on his 6-foot-8 frame, but not much. However he still got it done against the JOTS. He finished with a game-high 27 points while hitting 6-of-7 3-pointers and 3-of-4 free throws. He hit 9-of-15 shots from the field and also added four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

South Jersey Select wasn't sure they would even be playing in the tournament this year, and it appeared the players wore down, especially Horner. He looked winded and out of shape, but he still exerted maximum effort. He hit the deck for loose balls, battled on defense, and mixed it up in the paint, trying to do all he could to help his team win.

Dennis Horner
With the game out of reach, Horner received a technical after complaining about a no-call, and appeared surprised that he received the technical. On the ensuing possession, he caught the ball on the wing with elite '08 prospect Tyrelle Pryor in his face, but Horner used an explosive first-step to blow by Pryor and finished the play with a thunderous right-handed jam. It was his final two points of the night, but the aggressiveness he showed on that one play sums up Horner as a prospect as he is a fearless competitor.

He has a nice stroke from the perimeter, great length, and good athleticism. Horner still needs to add weight to his slight frame, but he figures to be a key contributor down the road for the Wolfpack. With his family and some friends in attendance, Horner all but stated to reporters after the game that he will definitely be wearing a NC State uniform next fall.

South Jersey Select (0-1) will complete pool play tomorrow at 2:00 pm against the Arkansas Hawks and at 7:00 against the New England Playaz. The JOTS (1-0) is one of the tournament's most talented teams figures to be the favorite to win Pool D.

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