USA Festival Wrap-Up

Nationally-recognized college basketball writer <b>Frank Burlison</b> provides his review of last week's USA Basketball Men's Youth Development Festival, which included most of the best prospects from around the country...

Any questions as to where the Power Forward capital of high school basketball world is located right now were settled over the weekend in Colorado Springs.
 
That's where Mike Williams, D.J. White and Richard Hendrix helped lead the South team to its second consecutive gold medal in the USA Basketball Men's Youth Development Festival.
 
Sweet Home Alabama, indeed.
 
The trio of 'Bama residents combined for 57 points and 39 rebounds as their team breezed 135-116 over the North in the final game Sunday morning.
 
"Me and Mike don't feel like we (prep hoopsters in Alabama) get the respect we deserve (nationally)," the 6-foot-8, 230-pound White said.
 
"Everyone thinks Alabama is all about football. We want to show that Alabama produces some pretty good basketball players, too."
 
Darn straight.
 
White is a senior at Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa but doesn't include the University of Alabama in a final three college choice list of Florida, Indiana and North Carolina.
 
Williams (Wilcox Central in Camden), who looks at least a couple of inches shorter than the 6-9 he was listed on the camp roster, committed to Texas over Memorial Day Weekend at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.
 
They're two of the Top Five power forward prospects in the national class of 2004.
 
And Hendrix (Athens High) has a shot at being ranked the No. 1 player at that position for the class of 2005 by August.
 
Along with one of the five best centers in the class of 2004 (Randolph Morris of Landmark Christian in Fairburn, Ga.), they pounded people silly inside the lane and along the baseline, as the South lost just once in five games, 137-134, to the West.
 
It was a defeat the South was able to avenge in particularly sweet fashion, 130-128, as guard Darius Washington (Edgewater High in Orlando) converted a spinning lay-up in a crowd along the left baseline for the deciding points with six seconds to go.
 
The North, with Peoria (Ill.) guard Shaun Livingston sidelined for the final 2 ½ games after spraining his left ankle against the West, upset the East in the other semifinal (119-113) on Saturday night before getting strong-armed by Alabama & Co. in the gold medal game.

BURLISON'S ALL-YOUTH DEVELOPMENT FESTIVAL TEAM
(based on weekend performance, not necessarily college/NBA potential)

MVP --- Mike Williams (South/6-7, 225/Camden, Ala., Wilcox HS):

He's not, in our oh-so-very-humble estimation, the down-the-road prospect that teammate D.J. White and at least four other players (we'll go with Shaun Livingston, Robert Swift, Marvin Williams, Sebastian Telfair) at the event appeared to be.
 
But no one played better, game to game, than he did while averaging 21.4 points and 14.0 rebounds. And his offensive skills (he was nailing turn-around jumpers from over either shoulder) appear to be improving rapidly.
 
Attention, Longhorns' faithful: James Thomas' replacement isn't going to representative any drop off in rebounding productivity.

FIRST TEAM:

Jordan Farmar (West/6-1, 165/Woodland Hills, CA, Taft HS):

He recovered nicely from an erratic opening-game performance (2 of 7 shooting, five assists but eight turnovers in a loss to the East) to cement his reputation as one of the top five point guards in the class of 2003.

He led the event in assists (46, including 21 over the final two games) but the most remarkable aspect of his weekend was his jump shooting: He hit 17 of 28 on 3-point attempts.
 
If you're assuming that his future college coach, Ben Howland, might be able to find a spot in UCLA lineup for him in the coming season, trust your assumptions. But, sorry, Ben: You're going to have to wait until November of 2004 to put him on the floor.
 
Malik Hairston (North/6-5, 175/Detroit Renaissance HS):
 
Like Jordan Farmar, he bounced back from a less-than-overwhelming opening-game performance (nine points and one rebound in a 23-point loss to the South) to play as well as anyone else in the gym over the final four games.

You can call Hairston (20.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game) a "wing", a "big guard" or a "small forward).

Call him anything you'd like as long as you also call him one of the 10 best players in the national class of 2004.

Jason Horton (South/5-11, 165/Cedar Hill, Texas, HS):
 
While his buddies were mopping up on folks down low, he was ever-so-efficiently dictating tempo and directing the offense from out top.
 
How does this suit you for an assist-turnover ratio for five games: 32-10?
 
He had seven assists with just one miscue in the title game and, until Sunday morning (blanked on six shot attempts), he wasn't missing many jumpers (10 of 21 on 3's in games 1-4).
 
And to think some people had been calling him a "disappointment" in recent high-profile events . . .

Sebastian Telfair (East/6-0, 160/Brooklyn Lincoln HS):
 
As far as what national expectations are always going to be for this guy, his performance (14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists) during his team's 2-3 weekend could also be filed under the "ho, hum" category.
 
But his ability to handle the ball, create offense for himself and teammates, and deliver passes to spots that most other point guards don't even see was always evident.
 
And, although his jump shot didn't go in too frequently (he was six of 22 on 3's), his form, release and selection were all fine.

D.J. White (South/6-8, 230/Tuscaloosa, Ala., Hillcrest HS)
 
Don't hold us to this position but it's difficult to believe that anyone will be rated ahead of him as a power forward prospect --- unless, of course, you want to consider Dwight Howard a PF --- by August.
 
His numbers (18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game) weren't quite up to those accumulated by Mike Williams.
 
But he's springier, with longer arms and broader shoulders, than Williams and doesn't turn 17 until Aug. 31.
 
That being said: Both are locks to be McDonald's All-Americas and future college All-Americas, too.

SECOND TEAM:
 
Joe Crawford (North/6-4, 205/Detroit Renaissance HS):
 
Many of the better shooting guard prospects in the class of 2004 were in this event and none of them were more impressive than he was while averaging 21.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

The most difficult question to answer over the weekend was which one of the following players elevated higher and quicker on their jump shots: Crawford, J.R. Smith, Malik Hairston, Jason Rich or Arron Afflalo?
 
I'll give the edge to this future University of Michigan Wolverine.

DeMarcus Nelson (West/6-3, 195/Sacramento Sheldon HS):
 
Like a few other players in the event (most notably J.R. Smith and Jawan McClellan) settled too often for jump shots and other less-than-advisable shots.
 
But, also like Smith (who averaged 20.2 shots per game to his 21.4), he made enough of those shots to demonstrate why he's one of the best "scorers" in the country.
 
And he's also an impressive passer (34 assists) when the mood strikes him if also a bit high risk (24 turnovers).

J.R. Smith (East/6-5, 210/Newark, N.J., St. Benedict's HS):
 
Do you think launching (21 of 57 on 3-pointers in five games) from deep was on this guy's mind much?
 
Physically, no shooting guard that approximates his size has his innate athletic ability and (obviously) range on his jump shot.
 
He just needs to realize he doesn't need to cock and fire that wrist quite as frequently to show people what kind of high caliber player he is.

Darius Washington (South/6-0, 175/Orlando, Fla., Edgewater HS):
 
He didn't' shoot well from the perimeter (especially on 3's, where he was eight of 33) and had more turnovers than assists (18 to 16).
 
But his slick, spinning drive for the winning bucket against the West in the semifinals secured his all-tournament status.

By the way, Memphis fans: He looks like more of a "true point guard" than Dajuan Wagner was/is.
 
Dayshawn Wright (East/6-6, 235/Syracuse, NY, Fowler HS)
 
Wow! Pardon me if I'm way off base here, but this guy just has to be the second best prospect in New York's class of 2004, doesn't he?
 
He was every bit as efficient down low (34 of 55 from the field, almost all of those dunks or layups) as were Mike Williams and D.J. White while averaging 17.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The guy also blocked an event-high 13 shots.
 
The "Best of the East" tag will do just fine for this fellow.

WRAPPING THINGS UP:

-- Shaun Livingston (North/6-7, Peoria HS), Robert Swift (West/7-0, Bakersfield, CA, Highland), Marvin Williams (West/6-8, Bremerton, WA, HS), James Gist (East/6-8, Wheaton, MD) would have all made some form of all-tourney if not for injuries that either slowed them or bounced them out by midway through the weekend.

-- Livingston was spectacularly good before the ankle sprain against the West. He's as good a choice as any --- Sebastian Telfair and Dwight Howard --- to come out of the summer as a near-consensus choice as the No. 1 prospect in the country.

-- David Pendergraft (West/6-6/Brewster, WA, HS), Marty Leunen (West/6-8/Redmond, OR, HS), Cameron Stanley (East/6-6/Raleigh, NC, Millbrook HS), Josh Duncan (North/6-8/Cincinnati Moeller HS) and Dayshawn Wright were among those players who came in minus a lot of national hoopla. But they each have the opportunity to come out of the summer rated a national Top 50 player.


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