Nike Memorial Day Classic report

BLOOMINGTON -- The emergence of the rising sophomores and rising juniors was the theme this weekend in the Nike Memorial Day Classic.

Some of the top players included rising juniors Daniel Gibson, Brandon Rush, Tyler James, Isaiah "Zeke" Swann, Al Jefferson and Cornelious Ingram.

However, the final four teams had some older flavor as the semifinals pit the Athletes First vs. Louisiana Select and the Illinois Warriors vs. Houston Hoops.

The Warriors and Hoops was a classic shootout with rising senior Taurean Minor scoring 35 points and rising senior Shannon Brown equally dominant with 35 points. Minor had at least three games in the tourney where he scored 35 points, proving unstoppable on his drives to the basket.

However, Illinois players such as Collin Falls (18 points) and Charles Richardson (12 points) both came through with several clutch baskets down the stretch to lead the Warriors to a 91-88 victory.

Ndudi Ebi tried to hit the tying basket but his 3-pointer clanked away harmlessly. After an up-and-down weekend, Ebi did have a strong game vs. the Warriors getting 24 points (3-of-6 on 3s), 11 rebounds and nine blocks.

A dejected Ebi couldn't muster going through the post-game handshake like the rest of his teammates. He also was assessed a technical foul on Friday, after throwing his headband to the floor when he was whistled for a foul. The "T" and foul call proved costly as it was his 4th and 5th fouls, causing him to foul out with the 8-plus minutes remaining against the Jackson Tigers.

Athletes First was impressive in defeating Riverside Church in the quarterfinals but struggled to score against Louisiana Select, losing 66-56.

Other than Kansas recruit Jeremy Case (14 points, 4-of-5 on 3s), no one else cracked double digits for the Oklahoma-based squad.

Louisiana Select was led by Paul Milsap's 15 points and eight rebounds, and Jourrius Jackson, Troy Aaron and Johnny Hodge scored 10 points apiece.

Unfortunately, the title game between the Illinois Warriors and Louisiana Select was a bust as the Louisiana squad forfeited the game.

As for potential North Carolina targets Gibson, Chris Richard and Brian Johnson, it was a mixed bag.

Of the three, Gibson easily played the best, proving unstoppable at times while going one-on-one. He also routinely hit multiple 3-pointers and unofficially averaged around 20 points a game (unofficially). His best game was perhaps against the Wisconsin Playground Warriors when he hit six 3-pointers en route to 26 points.

About the only negative about the talented shooting guard is that he isn't learning how to play team ball as the Hoops basically let Minor and Gibson go one-on-one all game long. But it does score points and Minor, Gibson and Ebi are all likely threats to get 20 points.

Johnson, who has added muscle since last summer, played a lot of power forward for the Potomac Valley Blue Devils. Maybe not of the 6-9, 250-pound variety, but he'd struggle on defense playing small forward.

Johnson was more a luxury than a necessity for the Blue Devils. He didn't need to score 15-20 points a game. In their last game against the Illinois Warriors, Johnson went 3 of 5 for seven points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, losing 68-63.

It wasn't Johnson's best weekend but he is still a quality prospect to watch for the future.

Richard did not have a good weekend, scoring zero points in one game and two points in another. He did score 14 points.

The Floridian is likely to stay in the deep south with Florida, Florida State and Auburn as his likely choices. He's a legit 6-foot-8, 240 pounds and should develop into a solid rebounder/shot blocker with a little offense.

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