MDC: Day 3 Report

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Martin Brothers Select boys basketball team from Iowa left many a team shaking its head Monday en route to the Nike Memorial Day Classic championship - including Brian Johnson and the DC Blue Devils.<p>

Martin Brothers Select defeated D.C. Blue Devils and North Carolina recruiting target Brian Johnson in the semifinals, 62-61, and convincingly defeated the Illinois Warriors in the title game, 73-61.

Martin Brothers was challenged early in the first half against the Illinois Warriors but smoothly built a double-digit lead in the second half. Martin Brothers' Jimmy Binnie led the way with a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds, and Alex Thompson added 16 points. The Warriors' De'Aaron Williams added a team-high 15 points in defeat.

Martin Brothers doesn't have any household names for recruiting fans but Thompson, a University of Iowa commitment, is a strong candidate for the top 75, while swingman Biddie and point guard Trent Meachum will both have several schools chasing them in July. For his efforts, Meachum was rewarded the MVP award.

Meachum, who attends Champaign Centennial High School in Illinois, once played for the Warriors.

"It was great defeating them," Meachum said. "I know a lot of their players and coaches. Coach (Larry) Butler was saying I couldn't stop any of their players before the game, and that I wasn't going to do anything."

Meachum mentioned Illinois State and Kansas State as some of the colleges showing interest, but that will change for the heady point guard.

Against the Blue Devils, Martin Brothers overcame a 28-point performance from rising post-graduate Isaiah Swan, who connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers. Thompson and Meachum had 17 points apiece, and Binnie added 12.

With the game tied at 61-all, the Blue Devils patiently waited until there was 10 second left, but after a pass to Johnson at the free-throw line, the UNC recruiting target had his pass knocked away by Thompson, who raced up court, and was fouled on his breakaway layup. Thompson hit the second free throw after missing the first, and Johnson's half-court heave never had a chance.

The loss capped an up-and-down tournament for Johnson. Against Martin Brothers, Johnson scored eight points, all in the second half.

Vanishing on offense for long stretches was a common theme for Johnson, maybe due to the unstructured offense which is commonly featured in traveling basketball. While Swann freelanced and created, and teammate James Gist (a Maryland commitment) hit the boards and ran the court, Johnson, often stood around.

No matter what college he decides on, he's going to have to learn a lot about offense because he's a tweener at forward. Against more athletic inside players, he struggled to get his shot off, and needed time to gather himself and spring to rim when he tried to power his way inside. On the perimeter he was unsure with his dribbling ability against smaller, quicker foes and wasn't hitting his jump shots.

He does score extremely well with his intangibles. He hustled hard and hit the deck for loose balls, which was an uncommon aspect for the most of the big men at the tournament. And unlike fellow highly-ranked inside players like Kalen Grimes and Ra'Sean Dickey, even when Johnson struggled, he didn't let it affect his on-court demeanor.

One of those games where he struggled was Sunday night when he went scoreless against Grimes (three points) and the St. Louis Eagles. At the start, it looked like both big guys would be having an interesting duel, but instead, both players spent as much time on the bench as playing.

Against the super-athletic Memphis YOMCA on Sunday, Johnson played his second best game of the tournament as he scored 14 points on 7 of 9 shooting, including 0 of 5 from the free-throw line. Johnson was aggressive and scored three baskets off of offensive rebounds (seven boards total).

To put Johnson in a historical perspective, it appeared he would be an absolute lock to be a top 10 player in the 2004 class after playing so well at the Nike Camp during the summer before his sophomore season. However, at least 10 players at the MDC played better than Johnson, making him a likely top 40 candidate nationally.

Yet, several elite colleges have tried to recruit him or currently are, such as UNC and Duke. That's a credit to his attitude and intangibles as he's been under a microscope the last three years.

Bottom line, if a college expects him to come and play 30-plus minutes and solve the team's inside woes, they'll be in trouble. But by his junior year, he should be a solid role player for a top 25 team. One wise Tar Heels fan in attendance hoped for a George Lynch-type of career, and by George, he could be correct.

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