Felton puts on incredible show
During the long Memorial Day weekend, a majority of the nation's most promising high school juniors (rising seniors) and many other underclassmen played in either the eighth annual Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, sponsored by the BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation and held in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, N.C., or the Nike Memorial Day Classic in Bloomington, Ind.
We were at the Tournament of Champions (TOC), which had the lion's share of the truly elite talent, so we'll begin with that event but also summarize the Nike tournament, based on information provided by reliable sources who were there.
First, let's assert that at least five potential superstars performed in the TOC and arguably none in Bloomington, although four of our 2001 postseason top 14 juniors were showcased at the latter tourney. At the TOC, the potential supers (all playing in the 17-under division) were 6-1 Latta (S.C.) High junior PG Raymond Felton of the Beach Ball Select team from Myrtle Beach, S.C.; 6-6 1/2 Old Tappan (N.J.) Northern Valley Regional (though perhaps headed to St. Thomas More Academy in Oakdale, Conn.) junior SF Lenny Cooke of the Long Island Panthers; 6-10 Orlando (Fla.) Cypress Creek junior C/PF Amare Stoudemire of Fastbreak USA (based in Orlando); and Friends of Hoop -- Seattle identical twins Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, both 6-4 sophomore (!) WGs (or SFs or PGs) who attend Rainier Beach High in Seattle.
While none of the five played for the TOC National Tournament champion Michigan Hurricanes (who provided the 17-under MVP in blue-chip 6-1 1/2 junior PG Anthony Roberson of Saginaw High in Michigan), Felton remarkably carried Beach Ball Select to the semifinals, where it was edged 72-70 by the Long Island Panthers (with a loaded frontcourt of slick-passing Cooke, intimidating 6-9 junior C/PF Jason Fraser of Amityville High in New York, and much-improved 6-7 junior SF Curtis Sumpter of Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn) despite Raymond's 37 points, which happened to be his scoring average for the entire tournament. In fact, one of the most exciting games we've ever seen was the pool play matchup of Beach Ball Select, whose only other strong prospect (besides Felton) was 6-10 Florence (S.C.) Wilson sophomore C/PF Major Wingate, and the Raleigh (N.C.) Heat.
The Heat included not only 6-9 1/2 junior PF Shavlik Randolph (one of the nation's best six or seven prospects in the class of 2002) from Broughton High in Raleigh, but also touted junior imports 6-5 WG J.J. Redick of Roanoke (Va.) Cave Spring; 6-6 swing bomber Matt Walsh (committed to Florida) of Fort Washington (Pa.) Germantown Academy; and somewhat overrated 6-10 C Michael Thompson (who plans to join Redick at Duke) of New Lenox (Ill.) Providence Catholic; plus high-Division I-caliber in-state juniors Eric Williams (6-9, 305-pound C) of Wake Forest-Rolesville High and 6-2 combo guard Shawan Robinson of Leesville Road High in Raleigh. This was truly a David vs. Goliath battle, and if you know anything about the Bible, you know who won!
As sharp-shooting Redick (who wound up with 38 points) scored virtually at will, Beach Ball Select fell far behind early (as it did in all of its five games) but rallied from 17 points down to win 99-96 in overtime, thanks to ultra-quick Felton's clutch heroics and 45 points. You had to see it to believe it. Felton, who says his early commitment to North Carolina is 100 percent firm, drilled a contested 3-pointer in the final couple seconds of regulation to tie the game, and he mesmerized both the Chapel Hill crowd (at UNC's Dean Smith C) and the Heat with the game on the line. Note that a few hours later, in the playoff quarterfinals and Felton's third game of the day, he tallied merely 41 points to lead his team to a thrilling, come-from-behind 72-65 victory over an extremely athletic Grassroots Canada team from the Toronto area. Whew!
The Michigan Hurricanes were seriously challenged in a pool game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium against the Illinois Fire. Roberson (considering Michigan and Duke) was outplayed for the first three quarters of the contest by 6-2 junior PG Sean Dockery (likely to commit soon to Duke) of Chicago's Julian High before turning it up a notch down the stretch. Otherwise, the strong Hurricanes pretty much cruised into the final, where they were severely tested by the Panthers before Roberson (who outclassed his backcourt opponents) scored nine consecutive points to pull out a 67-64 win.
In addition to Felton, Cooke, Stoudemire (a low-post beast who scored 41 points on opening night and seems headed directly to the NBA despite a commitment to Memphis), the Stewart twins, 17-under National Tournament MVP Roberson, Redick, Randolph (slowed by a bone chip in one leg), Fraser and Dockery, the 33-man 17-under All-Tournament team at the TOC consisted of the following individuals:
Besides Sumpter, the most notable omissions from the 17-under All-Tournament team at the TOC were 6-8 Starkville (Miss.) High sophomore PF Travis Outlaw (a spectacular leaper) of Fastbreak USA and heralded 6-10 Inglewood (Calif.) High junior C/PF DeAngelo Collins (who has had recent problems with the law) of the Los Angeles Paladins.
Riverside Church triumphs in Bloomington
The Nike Memorial Day Classic in Bloomington, Ind., may not have had potential superstars, but it offered plenty of excitement as the perennially powerful (but not exceptionally strong this year) Riverside Church Hawks from New York City utilized teamwork, balance and a stingy defense to win the Senior Division (17-under) championship. After drubbing the upstart Emerald City (Wash.) Pioneers 82-66 in the semifinals, the Hawks had to come from behind in the final minute to defeat the Boo Williams All-Stars of Hampton Roads, Va., 68-62 in the title game. In its semifinal matchup, Boo Williams nipped the Wisconsin-based Playground Warriors 58-56 in a barnburner.
Interestingly, Riverside Church doesn't have a single player this year who is a clear-cut big-time prospect, but it has lots of quickness and athleticism throughout its lineup. The best college prospect may be 6-1 junior PG Jason Wingate of Rice High in Manhattan, while 6-3 junior WG Ricardo Soliver of All Hallows High in the Bronx amassed 20 points to lead the team in the title game.
The most impressive performers in Bloomington were 6-7 Baltimore Blue junior SF Carmelo Anthony (verbally committed to Syracuse), who is transferring in the fall to famed Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy from Towson (Md.) Catholic; 6-4 The Colony (Texas) High junior WG Bracey Wright (who led all scorers with over 27 ppg) of Team Texas; and (arguably) husky 6-8 Bloomington (Ind.) North junior PF/C Sean May (son of former Indiana All-American Scott May ) from Bloomington Red. Both Anthony (who torched Team Texas in the playoffs with 37 points while stifling Wright in the second half) and May averaged 23.9 ppg for the tournament.
Other standouts included 6-1 Milwaukee Vincent junior WG Greg Brown (23.7 ppg) of the Playground Warriors; 6-4 junior combo guard Jarrett Jack (who'll likely transfer to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts from Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C.) of the D.C. Blue Devils; and 6-9 Newport News (Va.) Warwick senior PF/C Elton Brown (a Virginia signee who scored 17 points in the final) of the Boo Williams All-Stars.
Relative to reputations, the biggest disappointments were 6-4 New Hampton (N.H.) New Hampton School junior WG Rashad McCants (committed to North Carolina), a big-timer who averaged 16 ppg for the Charlotte Royals but failed to take over as he has in other events; and surprisingly ineffective 6-11 Gary (Ind.) West Side junior C Chris Hunter of Bloomington Red. The Royals, incidentally, won the strong Boo Williams Invitational Tournament earlier this spring but in Bloomington fell to the unsung Indianapolis Warriors in the Round of 16.
Let's continue to focus upon late signings by prep seniors and junior-college products, early verbal commitments by high school juniors (2001-02 seniors) and even sophomores, and announced transfers by collegians.
Brick Oettinger is talent evaluator for the Prep Stars Recruiter's Handbook and recruiting columnist for the ACC Area Sports Journal. For more information on either publication, call 1-800-447-7667.