The stars of high school basketball were on display at the Frank Erwin Center, but the biggest star shined the brightest. The 6'10", 325-pound Texas commit finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds as the South All-Stars defeated the North All-Stars 122-116, leading the his team to the second highest score put up by a South squad in the 59 years of the event.
Pittman forcing his will on the North team was largely expected, with 11 of the 12 players on the North squad listed as guards and no player taller than 6'5". It was expected he would do it through strength and size…but with quickness as well?
From the very beginning the new, slimmer Pittman wowed the crowd by also showing the feet of a ballet dancer. A very big ballet dancer. With the game tied at 2, he displayed excellent hands, grabbing a tipped ball under the basket and spinning past three defenders, then jamming it home on the other side.
Then with the South up 8-3, he stole the ball, threw down a cross-over dribble and delivered a no-look pass over the head of a defender (the teammate kicked it out to another player, who missed a dunk, but Pittman's role in the play was not lost on those in attendance).
"I could feel the change in my body," said Pittman, who has dropped 40 pounds over the last three months.
The North squad, knew they would have to run the floor if they were going to keep up with their dramatically larger opponents. They spread the floor, focusing on driving and dishing, but as Jay Mason, the other future Longhorn in the game and the North team's leading scorer, said:
"There were too many trees."
The Redwood of that forest was Pittman, who won the MVP Award for the South All-Stars. Winning the award was important to Pittman, who said he was under some pressure to get it.
Mason struggled early on to find his shot, but finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds and three assists. He acknowledged that he had trouble finishing and said it was difficult not having a single post player to dish to.
"I mean, I was one of the tallest guys we had," said Mason, who stands eye level with me.
From the beginning of the game, the Hack-a-Pittman was on. There were a lot of fouls across the board as well in the early goings, as players got into their rhythms.
After trailing at the beginning, the smaller, quicker North squad caught back up with some skillful shooting. Down 19-18, Mason squared up and took a high arching three with a hand in his face that swished home to give the north 21-19 lead.
The North All-Stars managed to come back and keep it close each time the South team surged ahead, thanks in large part to eight three-pointers made in the first half. The South took a 62-58 lead into halftime.
When the second half started, the bottom dropped out and the South team started to assert their size.
Pittman, looking fresh after getting some much-needed rest on the bench, stepped in, ran down the floor and put in a reverse lay up. The next possession, he grabbed a tipped ball and it passed around Mason's head off the steal.
The second half, especially the third quarter, was dominated by the South and it's easy to see why. The North All-Stars were out rebounded 35-20 in the last two frames and the South shot 24 free throws on the game, compared to the North's 11, primarily due to the fouls picked up by the big men down low.
The score had separated to 95-80 at the end of the third and at that point the game was essentially over. The North made an impressive push at the end, as Mason, who had been held scoreless in the third quarter, fired off 12 points in the final period. But the deficit was too great and the South All-Stars held on for the 122-116 victory.
South – Dexter Pittman
North – Michael Crabtree
Points - Pittman (30)
Rebounds – Pittman (12)
Assists – Danny Cloud (7)
Blocks – Pittman (3)
Steals – Danny Cloud, Brian Beasley (4)
Positives: He showed shockingly good hands and balance for a man of his size. His size is also something he's improved greatly. The weight he dropped has given his the ability to run the floor more effectively than I had anticipated. He even stepped out and defended the perimeter when necessary. Solid rebound who is able to effectively grab rebounds. Pittman's greatest skill is his ability to move in the paint. When he sees an opening (or creates one for himself) he aggressively attacks the bucket. Also has nice touch around the bucket and it payed off for him in the game as he shot 14 for 18 on the night.
Negatives: Although he has effective post moves, he shows a big time tendency to travel. He was whistled for it more than once in the game and should have been called for it more. He'll still need to lose some more weight to help gain speed and endurance. He struggled at the free-thowline, shooting 2 for 8 on the game, but insisted afterward that he's a better free-throw shooter than he indicated Monday night. Without a big man to post up to, much of Pittman's defense was reduced to him standing still with his arms up (on the positive side, this did result in three blocks). He's intense in bursts, but those bursts became fewer and further between as time wore on. He will need to be spelled for now while he continues to improve his endurance.
Overall: The improvements that Dexter Pittman has made since his last game of high school and Monday night were truly impressive and speak well for the future. But, there is still a lot of work to be done. He played against vastly smaller opponents in the All-Star game and he won't be able to do some of the things he did against players of his own height. It would have probably been best for Pittman to get a redshirt year, but with only four players from last year's Longhorn roster returning, Texas won't have that luxury. Expect the big man to play early and often.
Positives: Mason has great shooting range which goes exceptionally well with his speed off the dribble, allowing him to effectively create open shots. He has good hand and footwork on defense and is able to generate steals. He's an intense, fearless player who is very aggressive in the lane and often times is able to get rebounds over players taller than himself. Very solid free throw shooter.
Negatives: Mason consistently had trouble finishing plays throughout the game. He'd effectively drive the lane, but then pull up and miss an off balance shot. He went 2 for 4 from three-point range and 5 for 6 from the free-throw line, but overall shot 5 of 14 for the game and looked off his game. Looked very talented, but also very inconsistent.
Overall: With the ability he has to drive the ball and get it to the open man, Mason looked more like a point guard than a shooting guard. Just like Monday's blockbuster performance by Dexter Pittman may not be a true indicator of his ability because of the competition, Mason's underwhelming performance may not be a true indicator of his ability either. Throughout the game he seemed to be looking to pass the ball to post players that didn't exist. He was also starting as a forward for the North All-Stars because of the lack of height at the position and tried to mix it up down low more often than he will when he's playing for the Horns. As rough as his night looked, he still managed to lead the North All-Stars in scoring, putting in 17 points for the game. Overall, Mason showed great potential, but the shots were not falling and he needs to improve as a finisher to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The halftime of the THSCA game featured a slam-dunk competition and a three point shooting competition. The first two contestants, Nick Okorie and Bryan Beasley eliminated themselves from competition by missing two of their three dunks. The rules were rather stringent, especially when you compare them to most slam-dunk competitions. You had 45 seconds to attempt three dunks, if you missed more than one of your dunks, you're out.
The next up was Nick Mosely, who's feature dunk was a successful through the legs jam coming from along to baseline. He was immediately topped by the next competitor, Texas Tech commit, Michael Crabtree. The 6'3" Crabtree threw down a simple reverse jam before pulling off an ally-oop-to-himself windmill. However, the final competitor blew everyone else out of the water. Quenton Kirby of 2A Weimar High School started with a basic windmill (as if executing a windmill dunk is a basic thing), but then capped the competition off with an ally-oop reverse slam that showed of his impressive leaping ability. The trophy for Texas' top dunker in 2005 went to Kirby.
The slam-dunk contest may have been won by the last competitor, but the opposite was the case for the three-point shootout. Arizona commit Nic Wise set the bar with 17 three pointers made in 45 seconds. No other competitor was able to clear it and Wise walked away with the hardware.
Three-pointers made in 45 seconds:
Nic Wise – 17
Jake Hoelting - 14
Danny Cloud - 12
Collin Mangrum - 11
Collyn Kelly - 6
Ivory McGilvery - 9
3 Michael Crabtree G 6-3 200 Dallas Carter - Texas Tech
4 Brody Greene G 6-1 180 Bullard – Texas A&M (Baseball)
5 Bryan Beasley G 6-0 170 Pflugerville - Texas A&M
13 Ashton Mitchell G 5-10 165 RR Westwood - Sam Houston
15 Collin Mangrum G 6-5 190 Howe - UNT
20 Clay Roberts G 6-2 150 Glen Rose - Lubbock Christian
21 Ivory McGilvery G 6-1 185 Arlington Seguin - Prairie View A&M
22 Matt Messer G 6-0 160 Gruver
24 Justin Mason G 6-2 180 Palo Duro - Texas
25 Daniel McPherson G 6-2 175 Ponder - Grayson
30 Shawn Schepel G 6-4 200 Flower Mound – Texas A&M (Walk-on)
32 Jake Hoelting F 6-3 175 Nazareth – Tyler JC (Tennis)
Head Coach: Jeff Evans
Assistant Coaches: Gregg Moreland, Mike Jackson
5 Danny Cloud G 6-0 160 Brenham
13 Nic Wise G 5-9 180 Kingwood - Arizona
14 Nick Okorie G 6-0 175 Kempner - South Plains College
15 Collyn Kelley G 6-2 175 Goliad - Schreiner
21 Michael Harrison PG 6-5 185 Axtell – McLennan (Baseball)
22 Nick Mosley PG 6-9 200 Bellville - Houston
23 Darryl Ashford F/G 6-4 185 Cypress Falls - Texas Tech
34 Dexter Pittman C 6-10 320 BF Terry - Texas
41 James Williams F 6-7 200 Goodrich - Brown
44 Quenton Kirby G 6-3 190 Weimar - McLennan
45 Sha Cameron G/F 6-2 220 SA Cole - Ranger Jr. College (Football)
50 Josh Lomers C 7-1 260 Boerne - Baylor
Head Coach: Bruce King
Assistant Coaches: Brett Mouser, Scott Barrett