* Power Game. While Gary Johnson projects as a combo forward at the next level, he is the man in the middle for the Houston Hoops and appears more than capable of being a college power forward. At a strong 6-7, he is aggressive, explosive and productive. His stat line against the Tennessee Travelers on Wednesday night included 13 points (4-8 FG, 5-6 FT), 11 rebounds and five blocks. His game just exudes power, be it with vicious blocks, violent rebounds or hostile attacks to the rim. Johnson showed no perimeter skills in this game -- as his team needed him down low -- but they are there and developing.
* Getting Offensive. This wasn't one of his better games on the boards or on defense, but Duke Crews opened the game with a series of impressive offensive moves that led to baskets. First came the jump stop into the lane and 10-foot jumper, then the post-up and baseline spin, followed by a nice display of body control in finishing a fast break and finally a sky-high leap to put down an alley-oop. He totaled 18 points and 6 rebounds, as his BWSL squad rolled to yet another easy victory. A better test for Crews will be facing a talented opposing big man in a highly competitive contest.
* Making His Mark. The evening brought another opportunity to view Lance Thomas, who made it worth our while with a stronger performance than in the morning session. At his essence, Thomas is a very talented "garbage" player, using his quickness, size, and bounce to beat opponents to loose balls, rebounds, and put-backs, though he does have a nice mid-range game, particularly on the baseline.
He was aggressive and active tonight en route to 17 points and 12 rebounds (according to the official statisticians), including one impressive sequence that exemplifies his game where he shot from the left side, tipped his own rebound in a second shot attempt from the right, and then finally put the second carom back in the bucket, all while opposing forwards stood flat-footed waiting for the rebound.
Thomas' hustle is admirable and he has some nice skills, but as noted earlier, he seems to be a "tweener" and his best future position isn't clear at this point. Carolina assistant Joe Holladay was in the gym observing Thomas tonight, marking the third time that a UNC coached has watched him this week in North Augusta.
After three scintillating performances at the Peach Jam, Lawson finally ran into a foe he couldn't overcome when his previously undefeated DC Blue Devils played Louisiana Select.
It wasn't Baylor-bound point guard Demond Carter -- who played out of his mind en route to a career game, notching well over 30 points by our count (though he was only credited with 29 points officially) and distributing the ball with flair and efficiency -- that frustrated Lawson, though. It was foul trouble.
Lawson picked up two quick fouls in a first half marred by 25 total foul calls, the first a charge and the second a blocking foul where he appeared to have position to draw a charge. He exited the game with about 4:00 remaining in the half, and La. Select slowly chiseled away at the Devils lead until they overcame the deficit and led at the break -- all while Lawson watched from the bench.
The second half began and Lawson reentered the game, leading the Devils on a run only to be called for two more charges -- both of them questionable -- by the 12:46 mark. From there, he was resigned to watch as Select rebuilt and stretched their lead to a solid working margin. Lawson played sparingly the rest of the way and when he did play, he wasn't able to give the Devils what they needed -- someone to stop Carter -- because he guarded someone else for fear of picking up his fifth foul. By the time Lawson picked up his fifth foul (another questionable charge call) with 49.6 seconds left, the Devils were well on their way to suffering their first loss of the tournament.
Despite all his foul trouble, though, Lawson still managed a decent stat line, putting up 13 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in the loss, shooting 5-10 from the field (1-3 from three) and 2-2 from the charity stripe.
Hawes, meanwhile, endured what had to be one of his worst offensive performances on the summer in an 83-51 victory over Team Texas. After he hit a three-pointer on the second possession of the game, everything went downhill from there. He missed a dunk, missed two free throws, and things began to snowball as the frustration mounted.
His struggles from the field continued (3-9 FG, 8 points), including another missed dunk and several spin moves that ended fruitlessly. And his woes from the free throw line continued, as he finished 1-8 from the line for the game.
On the plus side, he did manage to corral nine rebounds and block one shot, so he was able to find ways to contribute other than just scoring.
Through it all, it was clearly a frustrating performance - and Hawes wears his emotions on his sleeve at times - but he refused to sulk, even encouraging his teammates from the bench.
And the first thing he did after shaking hands following the game? He began shooting free throws to regain his rhythm.
SIDE NOTE: Hawes' Friends of Hoop team has a play called "Carolina," in which Hawes sets a high screen and curls to the post for an alley-oop dunk or sets himself to receive an entry pass in the low post. At one point in the game, the FOH coach called the play, and just to be sure Hawes asked from the floor "Carolina? Carolina?" at which point several Carolina fans shouted from the stands - "Yes!"
* Sitting Courtside. UNC assistant coach Joe Holladay was present all morning, watching the NJ All-Stars (Lance Thomas), Athlete's First (Obi Muonelo), and then half of Houston Hoops (Gary Johnson) and half of Friends of Hoop (Spencer Hawes). Head coach Roy Williams returned from a brief stay at the adidas tournament in Suwanee, Ga. in time to catch the DC Blue Devils (Tywon Lawson) in the second set of games and then perched himself high atop the floor in between two courts [see photo, right] to simultaneously watch Friends of Hoop (Spencer Hawes) and the Murfreesboro Stars (Brandan Wright) games.