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Plenty to talk about as bracket play opens in Orlando

7/30/2008

ORLANDO -- Bracket play began Tuesday at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex for the teams still in the playoffs of the AAU Junior Boys' National Championship Tournament, and there were some shockers. The biggest surprise was the SYF Players (Ind.) upsetting one of the tournament favorites, Houston Hoops, 94-82. N.C. State commitment 6-foot-5 second guard Scott Wood (Marion, Ind.) put on an amazing shooting performance, hitting six of eight 3-point point attempts and 15-of-16 free throws for a tournament-high 39 points, to lead SYF to the win. 6-9 C Keith Gallon (Houston, Texas) had a good game for Houston Hoops with 20 points and 14 rebounds. N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe has to be feeling great right now, getting recent commitments from top-rated players Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell, and then seeing Wood, his earliest 2009 recruit, shoot the lights out here.

Other top seeds fell on Day 3 as well. The Georgia Stars went down, 58-48, to the Arkansas Wings, and All-Ohio Force lost a close 75-73 game to the Richmond Squires (Va.). The Wings were again led by superb point guard 6-1 A.J. Walton (Little Rock, Ark./Hall), who had 18 points, eight assists, and six steals. The Stars simply could not make shots and Georgia Tech recruit 6-5 G/F Glen Rice Jr. (Marietta, Ga./Walton), was their only player in double figures with 10 points. The Squires were led by two North Carolina residents, sensational 2010 player 6-6 WF Mychal Parker (Pantego, N.C./Terra Ciea Christian) with 18 points, and 6-1 1/2G Akeem Richmond (Sanford, N.C./Southern Lee) with 15 points. 6-3 2G Allen Roberts (Middletown, Ohio) had 23 points for the Force.

Bracket Play Notes
• One of Day 3's most entertaining games was the matchup between Birmingham Storm (Ala.) and Metro Boston (Mass.). As expected, Birmingham was led by one of the nation's premier big men, 6-11 DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore), who had his best game to date in Orlando. Cousins played hard, maintained his composure and showcased his scoring, rebounding and passing skills. He was dominating on the glass with 18 rebounds, scored 24 points, had three blocks, five assists, four turnovers, two steals and took two charges. However, unheralded 5-10 1/2G Shabazz Napier (Charlestown, Mass.) was equally impressive, draining nine 3-pointers and scoring 35 points in Metro Boston's 79-72 loss to the Birmingham Storm.

• Another interesting contest was the matchup between intra-state rivals the Charlotte Royals (N.C.) and the Carolina Celtics (S.C.). The Celtics had a 45-41 third quarter advantage but committed too many turnovers and were outscored 18-4 in the fourth quarter, as the Royals advanced with a 59-49 victory. Powerful South Carolina-bound 6-5 G/F Lakeem Jackson (Arden, N.C./Christ School) was the leader for the Royals with 19 points. Texas A&M recruit 6-6 WF Khris Middleton (Charleston, S.C./Porter Gaud) had 17 points, including five straight three-pointers, for the Celtics, and hardnosed 6-7 P/WF Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) added 11 points and nine rebounds.

• The Birmingham Ice (Ala.) reached the final 32 with an ugly 56-46 win over the New Jersey Roadrunners. There were simply too many turnovers and bad shots. We were disappointed with the play of usually-impressive 6-1 PG Eric Bledsoe (Birmingham, Ala./Parker), who had seven assists but committed six turnovers, made poor decisions and scored only two points. St. Joseph's commitment 5-11 PG Justin Crosgile (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic) had a good performance Tuesday morning but forced too many shots and had numerous ballhandling miscues. The top performers were 6-7 PF Edward Daniels (Birmingham, Ala./Hayes), who led the Ice with 29 points, and prime-time 2010 prospect 6-0 PG Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), who scored 19 points for the Roadrunners.

• We came away disappointed with 6-9, 250-pound center Thomas Knight (Dixfield, Me./Dirigo) after seeing him for the first time. Several major-college head coaches told us about Knight's abilities and he had the perfect proving ground here, as his NE Maine team played BABC and Knight went head-to-head against Connecticut recruit 6-8 C/F Alex Oriakhi (Tilton, N.H./Tilton School). To put it mildly, Oriakhi totally dominated Knight, not allowing him to get to the basket or rebound effectively. This matchup proved that Knight is at best a low-to-mid Division I prospect. He lacks the quickness, athleticism, foot speed and vertical jump to be a major-college player. Knight finished with eight points and seven rebounds, most coming after Oriakhi went to the bench. Oriakhi had 16 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks in about 18 minutes of playing time as BABC won, 69-45. Surprise player 6-5 WF Keegan Hyland (South Portland, Me.) led NE Maine with 25 points, including three 3-pointers.

• The Boo Williams All-Stars kept rolling onward and upward as expected, moving into the field of 32 with an easy 80-57 win over the local Kissimmee Wildcats. 6-7 PF Marshawn Powell (Charlottesville, Va./The Miller School) topped all scorers with 24 points, while 2010 Duke commitment 6-5 Andre Dawkins (Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores) had 16 points and Florida recruit 6-9 C/F DeShawn Painter (Norfolk, Va./Booker T. Washington) scored 10 points.

• Highly-rated 2010 Illinois recruit 6-7 WF Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) showcased his athletic abilities and all-around game, getting 21 points in his Rising Stars Gold team's 70-50 trouncing of the Oklahoma Rams. Sharp-shooting 6-6 WF Nik Garcia (Skokie, Ill./Niles West) and 6-3 2G Marcus Jordan (Chicago, Ill., Whitney Young) both had 15 points for the Rising Stars.

• The R.E.A.C.H. Legends from Southfield, Mich., moved into the final 32 by nipping the Jackson Tigers (Miss.), 62-59. Leading the Legends were outstanding 2010 prospect 6-2 1/2G Keith Appling (Detroit, Mich./Pershing) with 19 points, 6-6 WF Dion Sims (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's) with 17 points and Michigan State-bound 6-9 C Derrick Nix (Detroit, Mich./Pershing) with 16 points.Talented 2010 player 6-5 WF Rashad Perkins (Starkville, Miss.) paced the young Tigers team with 18 points.

• A candidate for the "Surprise Players" list is 6-7, 200-pound forward Nate Hutcheson (Marion, Iowa, Linn-Mar), who showcased his all-around skills in his Martin Brothers Select team's 81-67 triumph over the Westchester Hawks (N.Y.). Hutcheson played good defense, rebounded well, found open teammates and shot well from all ranges while scoring 18 points. We now rate him as a High Major-minus prospect.

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.