- Antonio Williams, Basketball Recruiting
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ORLANDO -- Led by ESPN No. 2 overall prospect 6-6 G/F Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City) with 32 points and high-flying athlete Terrence Boyd (Norman, Okla.) with 20, ultra-talented Athlete's First from Oklahoma City held off Illinois Warriors 67-62 to win the 17-Under Super Showcase Gold championship Sunday. Six-foot-5 WF Drew Crawford (Napierville, Ill., Central), the son on NBA referee Danny Crawford, led the Warriors with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.
Athlete's First advanced to the title game with a tough 61-57 win against BABC in the quarterfinals Saturday morning and had a difficult 54-49 semifinal victory over the New York Gauchos that afternoon. Boyd had 20 points and Henry 18 points in the second win. After a relatively easy victory over Howard Pulley on Saturday morning, Illinois Warriors survived and advanced with an exciting, come-from-behind, 63-61 semifinal win over Spiece Mo-Kan Elite from Kansas City. With the score knotted at 61-61, Illinois commit 6-4 2G D.J. Richardson took a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left, was fouled and made two of three free throws to win the game for the Warriors. Crawford was again the top scorer with 20 points.
Birmingham Ice beat Expressions Juniors from Rhode Island 70-65 in the 17-U Super Showcase Silver Division championship game. 6-4 G/F Nigel Ramsey (Gardendale, Ala.), our pick as the MVP, led the Ice with 22 points, and superlative floor leader, 6-1 PG Eric Bledsoe (Birmingham, Ala./Parker) had 16 points and 9 assists. 6-7 forward Tucker Halpern (Denham, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) paced Expressions with 20 points.
In Saturday's ESPNU televised matchups, the Boo Williams All-Stars defeated BABC 68-59, led by Oklahoma commit 6-5 G/F Steven Pledger (Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores Christian) with 15 points and Virginia Player of the Year, 2008 C/F 6-8 Ricardo Ratliffe (Hampton, Va./Kecoughtan, and headed to a junior college) with 12 points and 14 rebounds. 6-3 2G Gerald Coleman (Tilton, N.H./Tilton School) was the top performer for BABC with 18 points.
The second ESPNU game did not go according to plan. After leading 30-26 at the half, Athlete's First mostly played their reserves in the second half. Apparently wanting to save their legs for Sunday's Super Showcase championship game, Rising Stars Gold rolled to a 66-56 victory. After being stone cold in the first half, 6-6 G/F Nik Garcia (Stokie, Ill./Niles West) sizzled in the second half, draining six consecutive 3s and scoring 20 points to be the difference maker for the Rising Stars while 6-3 2G Marcus Jordan (Chicago/Whitney Young) added 17 points. Xavier Henry scored 17 points for Athlete's First, most coming in the first half; he did not play in the fourth quarter.
The first Sunday ESPNU game was scheduled to be a battle between two very talented teams with outstanding guards -- Houston Hoops, which finished second in the Main Event in Las Vegas, and Team Breakdown (Fla.), which won the Reebok Summer Championship in Las Vegas. Both teams took red-eye flights Saturday night to arrive in Orlando.
Unfortunately it did not go as anticipated since No. 3 overall prospect 6-3 2G Kenny Boynton (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) sprained his ankle in Team Breakdown's opening pool play game in the 17-U AAU Junior Boys National Championship Tournament earlier Sunday and did not suit up for the televised game. Nonetheless it was still a competitive game with Houston Hoops leading 54-52 after three quarters. Then highly-rated 2010 guard Brandon Knight (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Pinecrest), who had 18 points at the end of the third period, lost his shooting touch and went scoreless in the final period. Six-foot-7 PF Augustine Rubit (Houston/Smiley) had 23 points and massive 6-9 C Keith "Tiny" Gallon (Houston) posted 16 points and 14 rebounds for Houston Hoops. Knight and highly-rated 2010 6-1 PG Pe'Shon Howard (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy) both scored 18 points for Team Breakdown.
17-Under AAU Junior Boys National Championship pool play will continue Monday. Many of the opening round pool games on Sunday were one-sided as the lower seeds could not compete with the higher-seeded teams.
Xavier Henry, G/F (6-6)
2009, Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City
Henry was clearly the top player in this event and our pick as the MVP of the Gold Division. He is very muscular, physically mature and has amazing skills and athleticism. He is almost unstoppable soaring to the rim, and this natural lefty can score going in either direction. He is somewhat of a stronger version of Brandon Rush, only his all-around game is much more complete as a rising high school senior. With his height, physique and strength, Henry is a tough matchup for most wing players, both offensively and defensively. He did an effective job of shutting down Illinois Warriors' star D.J. Richardson in the championship game; Richardson scored just 8 points, his low in spring and summer competition. Henry plays with high energy, and despite Athlete's First not having a good playmaking point guard, he still creates his own scoring opportunities. He could very well be the most talented prospect in the Class of 2009. Reportedly, Henry will choose between Kansas and Memphis. My prediction he will go to the Jayhawks, where his father played.
D.J. Richardson, SG (6-4)
2009, Peoria, Ill./Central, committed to Illinois
The Illinois Warriors could not be as competitive as they have been in every summer tournament without the leadership, team play and key scoring of this ultimate court warrior. Richardson is a clutch performer with the confidence to take big shots and make game-winning plays. He is a tenacious defender and is adept at stripping opposing ball handlers. He has amazing foot speed and quickness and is a quick leaper. He has good 3-point shooting range. However, he is a master at penetrating and dropping his high-percentage soft floater. Richardson will give his Illinois a very versatile guard capable of playing both backcourt or wing positions. Richardson has had the most impressive summer of any 2009 player in Illinois.
Durand Scott, SG (6-5)
2009, New York/Rice
Scott is most definitely the glue guy for the New York Gauchos and has the talent to dominate games from his backcourt position. He is truly a winner and a fierce competitor. He is not a pure outside shooter and gets most of his points slashing to the hoop or getting fouled. However he has 3-point shooting abilities, as evidenced by the three trifectas he made against Athlete's First in the semifinals. Scott has excellent knowledge of the game, good court vision and the vision to find open teammates. He works hard defensively and can be a nightmare for opposing guards. He has the all-around game to be an immediate starter and impact player at the collegiate level.
Terrence Boyd, SF/PF (6-5)
2009, Norman, Okla.
Boyd was the most impressive athlete in this event. He is really an undersized power forward, but his leaping abilities, strength, determination and effort more than compensate for that. He is a very inconsistent outside shooter but is a very productive scorer. Boyd just finds a way -- if it takes second, third, fourth or however many attempts, he puts the ball in the basket. He teams with Xavier Henry to give Athlete's First a deadly duo of muscular, overpowering wing athletes. In that regard, they truly are first in athletes. Boyd played at Oak Hill Academy (Va.) as a sophomore and was ruled ineligible to play at Norman High during his junior year. He is eligible to play at Norman for the upcoming year (unless he chooses to enroll at another school).
Rodney Williams, SF (6-6)
2009, New Hope, Minn./Robbinsdale Cooper
The main man for the Howard Pulley summer team, Williams is a very talented athlete and a prolific points producer. He has an impressive variety of shake-and-bake moves off the dribble, including an amazingly-effective reverse dribble maneuver in the paint. He is a deadly 3-point marksman but needs to develop a more consistent medium-range jumper. Williams is a good rebounder from his wing position and plays excellent man defense. He is a terrific leaper and a master at soaring for alley-oop dunks. Williams was rated one of the top wing players at the LeBron James Skills Academy in each of the past two years. He has a bright future at the next levels.
A.J. Walton, PG (6-1)
Senior, Little Rock, Ark./Hall
Walton is a pure point guard who excels at pushing the ball down the court, penetrating and hitting open teammates with on-target passes. He is an accurate 3-point shooter, but usually looks to pass first. He has great acceleration, including an overdrive gear, which he utilizes to explode to the hoop. Walton is the team leader for the Arkansas Wings Elite Gold team and was one of the leaders in both assists and steals in this event. He can matchup with any of the top point guards in the Class of 2009.
Darius Smith, combo guard (6-2)
Unquestionably the best backcourt defender in this event, Smith personifies a true ballhawk. He has unbelievably quick hands and reactions and specializes in stripping opponents on the dribble or with the ball in their hands. He has long arms and is a fierce competitor. Smith has the knowledge and skills to play either backcourt position. He likely will play the point at the collegiate level. His list of schools includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Marquette and Bradley.
Jackie Carmichael, C (6-9)
Graduated Senior (2008), Manhattan, Kan.
Carmichael was the top surprise player of the Cinderella of the Super Showcase, the Spiece Mo-Kan Elite. He is now academically qualified for college. He is a long, strong, 235-pound post player with good moves, an effective drop step and impressive scoring skills. He is very physical and a strong rebounder. Carmichael is mobile and agile for his size and has much upside. He can play at the major college level. Reportedly TCU offered him, and after his play here, I think others will become involved. Those in need of a quality, productive big man should consider him.
Marcus Jordan, SG (6-3)
Senior, Chicago/Whitney Young
Jordan consistently leads his team in scoring, with most of his points coming from his power moves and persistent drives to the hoop. Being the son of the legendary Michael Jordan is a heavy burden for any young man to have to carry. However to his credit, Marcus plays his game, his way. His trademark is using his very quick first step and strength to power to the basket, and for the most part, he is successful. However he lacks a consistent outside shot, and defenders soon learn to stay in front of him and prevent his trademark hoop moves. Again to his credit, he has improved his outside shooting accuracy. Most of Jordan's current college suitors are mid-majors. In every event he has attended this month he has performed at a high level, so don't be surprised if he plays for a high-major college.
Torin Walker, F/C (6-9)
This long, lanky big man was most impressive for the Georgia Blazers. He is a very effective shot blocker, rebounder and high- or low-post operative. He has very good shooting range and accuracy for his size and exceptionally long arms. Walker has virtually unlimited upside and potential. In other words, the best is yet to come -- and he is very talented right now. Reportedly he has received offers from Georgia, Florida State, Clemson, Auburn, among others.
Bob Gibbons is a recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.
Xavier Henry's gutsy play helped his team to the Super Showcase title, writes Bob Gibbons.