Commentary

Philadelphia outshines Jersey in Eddie Griffin Challenge

Originally Published: October 29, 2008
By Patrick Plunket | Special to Scouts Inc.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The Eddie Griffin Challenge is a matchup between the top players in Philadelphia and their New Jersey counterparts.

This year's event started with a wire-to-wire victory for the visitors in the sophomore game. The defensive pressure of the Philadelphia guards -- Joey Gripper (Abington, Pa./Abington Friends), Aquil Younger (Philadelphia/West Catholic), John Johnson (Philadelphia/Girard College) and Devin Coleman (Wynnewood, Pa./Friends Central) -- led to many easy transition baskets for The 215's Finest, who outpaced New Jersey's Own, 93-85. Juanya Green (Radnor, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) was named his team's MVP for his 18-point, 7-rebound performance, while Coleman contributed 15 points.

New Jersey was led by its MVP, sweet-shooting guard Myles Davis (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) who netted 24 points, including four 3-pointers. The Garden State team also received solid performances from guard Sterling Gibbs (West Orange, N.J./Seton Hall Prep), who scored 19 points, and guard Khalid Lewis-El (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic), who earned the Hustle Award with his 8-point, 8-steal and 7-assist effort.

In the junior game, after trailing by as many 20 points for much of the first three quarters, the Philadelphians tied the game at the end of regulation when guard Tyrone Garland (Philadelphia/John Bartram) found Dominic Morris (Wynnewood, Pa./Friends Central) underneath the basket to tie the game as time expired. Garland garnered the Hustle Award (16 points, 6 assists and 4 steals).

Philadelphia pulled away in overtime for a 98-93 win behind team MVP Markus Kennedy (Pennsauken, N.J./Living Faith), who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rakeem Brookins (Philadelphia/Roman Catholic) also scored 17 points.

The New Jersey team was led by a spirited and hard-playing Derrick Williams (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's), who had 14 points and 11 rebounds and earned team MVP honors. Forward Ron Roberts (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) contributed 12 points and guard Aaron Brown (St. Benedict's, Newark, N.J.) added 11 points.

[+] EnlargeDalton Pepper
Jason O. Watson for ESPN.com Class of 2009 prospect Dalton Pepper is committed to West Virginia.
In the senior game, Team Philly pulled more last-second heroics; West Virginia recruit and guard Dalton Pepper (Fairless Hills, Pa./Pennsbury) scored with two seconds left on an assist from Villanova-bound guard Maalik Wayns (Philadelphia/Roman Catholic) to give Philadelphia a 91-90 victory. Pepper finished with a team-high 19 points, while Wayns garnered the Hustle Award with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Future La Salle Explorer Nurideen Lindsey (Philadelphia/John Bartram) added 12 points.

Team Jersey was led by a trio of future All-State players and a potential All-American guard: Dexter Strickland (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick's), who will be wearing Tar Heels blue next year, scored 11; Tamir Jackson (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's), who will give the Rice Owls some scoring punch, contributed 19 points; one of the nation's top uncommitted players, Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's), added 13 points. One of the big surprises of the day was the MVP performance of 6-foot-3 Lance Brown (Patterson, N.J./Patterson Catholic), who scored 22 points and also had 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Brown has pledged to play for Derrek Wittenberg at Fordham, where he will join 2007 Eddie Griffin Challenge MVP Jio Fontan.

After the first sweep in Challenge history, Philadelphia now leads New Jersey 11-7 overall.

Standout players

Dalton Pepper, SG, 6-4
2009, Fairless Hills, Pa./Pennsbury
Pepper played a tremendous game on both ends of the court. He showed tremendous strength in grabbing rebounds in traffic and finished plays around the basket. The burly perimeter player should help WVU coach Bob Huggins over the next four years. He demonstrated the lateral quickness necessary to defend the perimeter. He physically reminds the casual observer of former Indiana star Damon Bailey, but he possesses the athleticism of another IU and Iowa star, Luke Recker. Pepper has a good first step and keeps the ball in front of him, which allows him to cover a great deal of ground and attack the basket effectively. He gets good lift and has a steady stoke. As he learns to shoot the ball a little more quickly, he should have no problem draining 3s in Morgantown.

Tamir Jackson, SG, 6-2
2009, Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's
This sharpshooter should help the Gray Bees of St. Benedict's contend for a state title this season. Jackson and his team will have to beat powerhouse St. Anthony's to do so. He is a very long player who can get from the top of the key to the top of the key with the ball. The heady athlete demonstrated the ability to move well without the ball, allowing him to get open. Jackson possesses a quick release, which he will need to be successful on the college level. Although he has a slight build, this scorer was not afraid to battle larger players on the glass.

Dominic Cheek, SG, 6-6
2009, Jersey City, N.J./ St. Anthony's

This athletic wing makes it all look easy. Cheek plays with the tenacity and passion that have made coach Bob Hurley a potential Hall of Famer and made St. Anthony's one the top teams in the country year and year out. Cheek possesses the rare ability to play every position on the floor. Few players at his age push the ball up the court and execute offense in the half court as well as he does. One of the reasons Cheek is one of the top players in this year's senior class is his ability on defense to keep players in front him and his ability on offense to get by most defenders. This high-IQ player never forces the issue; he takes what the other team gives him.

Lance Brown, SF, 6-3
2009, Patterson, N.J./Patterson Catholic
This high-IQ player showed that your game can surpass your name. A known commodity in the area who is lesser-known nationally, Brown played terrific by being in the right place on the court and taking what the defense gave him. Brown is a long, lanky 2-guard whose range starts as soon as walks in the gym. He has a quick release and gets his feet underneath him when he shoots the ball. As Brown tightens up his handle, he should be a very effective scoring guard at the next level.

Maalik Wayns, PG, 6-1
2009, Philadelphia/Roman Catholic

Wayns is the next in a long line of great Philadelphia PGs who will be part of a solid rotation next season at Villanova that features Corey Fisher, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding. He is a solid lead guard who sees the court well, shares the ball, finds people when they're in a position to score and knows how to use his dribble to push the ball up court and get to the basket. Wayns is fiery competitor who takes a great deal of pride in his defense.

Biggest Surprises

Juanya Green, WF, 6-3
2011, Radnor, Pa./Archbishop Carroll
Green is an impressive, athletic wing player who garnered MVP of the sophomore game. The J.R. Smith-type player is a true scorer who can light up the scoreboard in a variety of ways. He has good ball skills and possess the rare ability to avoid dribbling for the sake of dribbling. Green demonstrated good foot speed and hustle; he rarely let the ball beat him down the court on offense or defense. Green should help Archbishop Carroll challenge the traditional Philadelphia Catholic League powers.

Markus Kennedy, F, 6-8
2010, Pennsauken, N.J./Living Faith)

After a so-so summer, Kennedy finally lived up to the reputation that he established during his freshman and sophomore years while playing at St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, N.J. Kennedy is a wide body with great hands and the ability to play facing up or with his back to the basket. His game reminds fans and coaches of a less athletic version of Pitt sophomore DeJuan Blair. If he continues to improve, this big man with a feathery touch, quick feet and passion for the game may become a top-50 player nationally.

Dominic Morris, PF, 6-7
2010, (Wynnewood, Pa./Friends Central)

This sure-handed power forward knows how to use his body to create space and establish position to become an effective low-post player. The Delaware transplant who is now going to school at Hakeem Warrick and Mustafa Shakur's alma mater can step out to 10-12 feet to knock down jumpers. He has surprisingly quick feet, allowing him to defend the perimeter. He is somewhat limited athletically.

Derrick Williams, F, 6-6
2010, (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's)

This undersized forward played very hard. Derrick is an explosive player who is effective at using his body to create space on the low block. Williams is very quick for his size and possesses a great first step. He demonstrated the ability to step away from the basket and the skills to handle the ball on the perimeter.

Jalen Bond, F, 6-6
2011, (Lafayette Hill, Pa.)
His game reminds observers of a young version of Miami star and NBA player John Salmons. Ironically, Jalen now attends Salmons' alma mater after transferring from La Salle High in Philadelphia. A blossoming frontcourt player with good athleticism, Bond has great potential because of his hustle, work ethic and basketball IQ.

Notes

•  This was the Sixth Annual Eddie Griffin Challenge hosted by Jim Salmons' Playaz AAU team. The event is named in honor of the late Eddie Griffin, who played for the Playaz before starring at Seton Hall and in the NBA. The games have become a tremendous measuring stick for the top high school basketball players from the New Jersey and Philadelphia area.

•  Past MVP performances have been turned in by; J.R. Smith (Denver Nuggets), Wayne Ellington (UNC), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Jeff Robinson (Memphis), Samardo Samuels (Louisville), Rick Jackson (Syracuse), Corey Chandler (Rutgers) and Corey Fisher (Villanova).

•  Legendary hoop guru Howard Garfinkel served as PA announcer for the senior game. He addressed the enthusiastic crowd and exhausted players after the thrilling nightcap by telling them he was sad to see such an outstanding game end.