Commentary

Previewing the final games

Originally Published: August 1, 2008
By Christopher Lawlor | Scouts Inc.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Gauchos are a South Bronx-based powerhouse club team with a penchant for winning and producing top-flight talent, and Durand Scott isn't about to disrespect the Gauchos' uniform. He won't allow it.

Scott topped all scorers with 21 points, sinking 12-of-14 free throws during the AAU Nationals semifinals as the Gauchos held off SYF Players (Crown Point, Ind.), 67-60.

"When you're a Gaucho, you're playing for all the players that have made this organization the best in New York, the best anywhere," said Scott, a 6-foot-5 senior who attends Rice High in Manhattan. "We always have a target on our backs every tournament, every game we play."

Over the years so did former Gaucho players such as Felipe Lopez, Chris Mullin, Lloyd Daniels, Rod Strickland and Kenny Anderson. More than 30 Gauchos players have reached the NBA after prepping with the club housed a subway stop away from Yankee Stadium.

The Gauchos might be led by Scott, but they also rely on 6-2 junior guard Doron Lamb (who will likely transfer to Oak Hill Academy of Virginia in the fall), Tevin Baskin of Trinity Catholic (Stamford, Conn.), junior Russell Smith of Archbishop Molloy (Queens, N.Y.), 6-5 senior James Stukes of Rice (Manhattan), Taaj Ridley of IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) and senior Trevon Hamlet of Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.).

"We need to take a swagger (into games) and not disappoint the past teams or players," said Scott, a high-major prospect who will sign his national letter-of-intent in the spring.

That swagger will be necessary for the Gauchos in their AAU 17-and-under national championship gold medal game Friday against Team Breakdown of Florida.

"It will be a fast-paced game," said Team Breakdown coach Kenny Gillion following a thrilling 67-66 double-overtime victory over BABC Thursday. "We played them (Gauchos) earlier this year and know what to expect."

Team Breakdown won the previous matchup in April at the Real Deal on the Hill in Fayetteville, Ark. Kenny Boynton, who is considered the nation's top player, nailed a 25-foot jumper as time expired to win the semifinal game and Breakdown went onto to claim the championship. The South Florida club has also won the Breakdown Hoops Festival and taken second at two other major tournaments.

Boynton, a 6-3 senior combo guard from American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), teams in the backcourt with 6-3 Brandon Knight of Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale) and diminutive 5-6 point man Ray Taylor of American Heritage. The trio combined for 49 points on Thursday against BABC, with Knight scoring a game-high 23 points.

Boynton, rumored to be heading to Florida, missed the first five games of the tournament but returned for the last four games leading up to the final. Boynton was also a key member of last year's AAU 17-U national champions.

Bronze medal game
In the bronze medal game, BABC (Boston) must rebound against SYF (Crown Point, Ind.) after a tough loss. BABC features electric 5-8 junior Phil Pressey of Episcopal (Dallas), the son of former NBA player Paul Pressey, and frontline players 6-10 Alex Oriakhi and 6-7 Jamal Coombs, who say they'll sign with Connecticut.

"We had plenty of chances to win (last night)," said BABC coach Leo Papile, who is the vice president for basketball operations for the Boston Celtics. "We're 73-6 this summer and a 74th win is for a bronze medal; it's important."

Competing for fifth
Boo Williams Summer League (BWSL), which lost in the 17-U quarterfinals to BABC, plays Thursday for fifth place. Boo is synonymous with excellence. Marcellus "Boo" Williams, the founder and operator of the Nike-sponsored teams from Hampton, Va., has been a fixture since 1982 (a year following his graduation from Saint Joseph's University, where he was an all-conference forward).

Williams, who coached his girls' team at the Nike National earlier this week in North Augusta, S.C., flew into Orlando on Wednesday morning in time for the Round of 32 playoffs in the AAU 17U bracket.

"These are the final tournaments of the summer for both boys' and girls' teams; I needed to be in both places," said Williams, who owns a successful insurance agency in Virginia. "The most important thing is to give players exposure that they normally wouldn't receive. We're trying to improve their lives. That's more important than winning," he said.

The team features several future Division I players: 6-5 junior Andre Dawkins (headed to Duke), 5-11 senior Jontel Evans (Virginia), 6-3 senior Kendall Marshall (North Carolina), 6-9 senior DeShawn Painter (Florida), 6-5 senior Steven Pledger (Oklahoma), 6-7 Marshawn Powell (Arkansas) and 6-7 senior Tristan Spurlock, who is undecided but will transfer from Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) closer to his hometown of Baltimore.

In the quarterfinals, Marshall, who attends Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.), could have won it with four seconds left but missed a short jumper.

"Boo gets players ready for college," Marshall said. "I've played with other summer teams, but the competition here is the best. You can't duplicate this level anywhere."

Christopher Lawlor

High School Basketball
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. He also ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years.