New Billikens Shine as All-Stars

Each summer, the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation All-Star Basketball Game in St. Louis gives local basketball fans a glimpse of the future with incoming recruits for Division I schools throughout the Midwest matched against the top local talent.

This year's contest was held on Saturday night at Harris-Stowe State University and was there to survey the incoming talent for schools like Saint Louis University, Missouri, Southern Illinois and Alabama-Birmingham.

The Game: The St. Louis All-Stars jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter, led 32-18 after the first 12-minute quarter and were able to hold off the National squad late in the fourth quarter for a 134-126 victory.

"We didn't have really good team chemistry and these guys, they looked like they've played together a couple times," said National team guard Marcus Relphorde, a SLU signee from American Christian Academy (Pa.). "We really didn't start gelling until the end of the fourth quarter and by then it was too late."

Belleville West (Ill.) grad Jeremy Felton, a 6-foot-7 power forward headed to Mineral Area Junior College, led all scorers with 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including six dunks. Felton helped set the tone for the St. Louis area All-Stars with 16 points in the first half.

East St. Louis (Ill.) guard Anthony Mitchell (Saint Louis University), St. Francis Borgia (Mo.) guard Paul Eckerle and Vashon forward Leon Powell (undecided) each added 20 points in the victory. Hazelwood Central guard Sam Pearson (Tennessee-Martin) added 19 points.

Terrence Roderick of Rise Academy (Pa.), a 6-6 forward headed to UAB, led the National All-Stars with 22 points. Roderick scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and helped keep the game close, cutting the lead to two points in the final two minutes before the St. Louis squad pulled away.

The MVP: Former Most Valuable Players at this game include New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson (1998), former Florida guard Anthony Roberson (2002), former Missouri State guard Blake Ahearn (2003), Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett (2005) and Mizzou guard Keon Lawrence (2006).

This year's MVP was probably a tough choice, as you could have made a case for Felton based on his first-half performance, Mitchell for his 13 points in the first half or Eckerle for his four 3-pointers and clutch fourth-quarter play.

In the end, it was Felton who took home the MVP honors — and stole the show with his power and creativity when attacking the basket.

The Players: Several players impressed, for a variety of reasons.

Southern Illinois signee Nick Evans, a 6-10 center from Carbondale (Ill.), has to get mentioned here. The big redhead scored 10 points, but was willing to dive for a loose ball going out of bounds in the first half and twice sprinted back on defense to try to prevent breakaway dunks.

Evans was posterized on a thunderous dunk by Felton in the second quarter, which may have been the highlight of the entire night, but he still chased down a player to block a dunk in the third quarter. This kid already shows the tenacity Salukis coach Chris Lowery's teams are known for and will be a big hit in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Missouri signee Justin Safford, a 6-9 power forward from Bloomington (Ill.) by way of Charis Prep in North Carolina, showed a strong all-around feel for the game. The lanky left-handed shooter is smooth with a solid face-up game and 3-point stroke. Safford scored 18 points on seven-of-12 shooting, including three dunks and a pair of 3-pointers.

SLU signee Anthony Mitchell, a 6-4 small forward, did a little bit of everything for his high school squad this past and showed a nice all-around game on Saturday night. Mitchell scored 20 points on nine-of-17 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, and did a nice job knocking down shots from the perimeter as well as going inside for tough buckets and rebounds.

"It was fun," Mitchell said. "That's the word to describe it all. It's supposed to be a fun game and it was. I had a lot of fun."

Paul Eckerle, a 6-1 combo guard who signed with SLU, had one of the most efficient performances on the night. Eckerle's 20 points came on five-of-seven shooting, including four 3-pointers. He scored six points in the fourth quarter, including four free throws, to help secure the victory for his team.

The third SLU signee, 6-7 wing Marcus Relphorde, played against Mitchell and Eckerle and came out on the losing end of the game. Relphorde showed nice shooting form, though his 16 points came on five-of-12 shooting. The 18-year-old solidly-built wing showed a nice feel for the game and should contribute right away for the Billikens this winter.

Leon Powell, a 6-7 forward, won two state championships during his career at Vashon High School and flashed some of ability on Saturday night in scoring 20 points on seven-of-18 shooting. He was clutch in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points, and converted a three-point play in the final minute to put the game way. Powell still needs to add weight and get stronger, but he will be a player to watch if he heads to junior college.

Felton has the college-ready body that Powell lacks and similarly explosive athleticism. He played at three different high schools in the last four years but will definitely be a player to watch on the junior college circuit for the next two years.

Sam Pearson, a 6-0 point guard who signed with Tennessee-Martin, had a productive offensive performance. The Hazelwood Central graduate scored 19 points on seven-of-15 shooting, including three 3-pointers.

Josh Harrellson, a 6-9 center from St. Charles (Mo.) High, originally signed with Western Illinois but decided to attend Southwestern Illinois Junior College instead. Harrellson scored just six points on three-of-seven shooting, but was active on the boards and the defensive end of the floor. He has a college-ready body and has only been playing basketball for a couple years, so he's worth watching at the JUCO level this winter.

Wisconsin-Green Bay signee Rahmon Fletcher, a 5-9 point guard from Paseo Academy in Kansas City, was impressive in scoring his 15 points in a variety of ways. He showed his quickness and toughness by driving to the basket and finishing over bigs who were sometimes a foot taller than him.

Roderick, the 6-6 forward headed to UAB, struggled with his outside shot — he missed all five of the 3-pointers he attempted — but impressed with his quickness and athleticism and his ability to get to the basket and finish.

Another UAB signee, 6-10 power forward Keenan Ellis, has a solid reputation after winning three Ohio state championships with O.J. Mayo before transferring to American Christian in Pa. Ellis is very skinny, but is active around the basket. His 15 points included five dunks and his athleticism will go well with Roderick's playing together at UAB under Mike Davis.

A third member of Davis's recruiting class at Alabama-Birmingham, 5-8 point guard Aaron Johnson from Chicago Hubbard, hurt his shoulder in the first half and did not return to the game. When he was on the floor, Johnson lived up to his rep for being a super-quick lead guard who can initiate the offense.

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