RALEIGH, N.C. -- Celebrating its 38th year, the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational is considered one of the top tournaments in the country for good reason. The competition level is excellent; the crowds are standing-room-only sellouts each night and the tournament is highly organized and extremely well-run. The locals come out in full force to support their teams and the players who are moving on to the area colleges are followed like rock stars.
The best games of the day were a 61-60 nail-biter as Walton (Marietta, Ga.), led by NC State-bound Ryan Harrow, defeated Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) and Word of God's (Raleigh, N.C.) surprising scare in a 75-71 victory over well-coached Apex (N.C.) in which 6-foot-9 senior C.J. Leslie slashed and dunked his way to 31 points.
Reggie Bullock, SG (6-7, 200)
2010, Kinston, N.C., signed with North Carolina
Bullock made the game look easy, dropping 30 points in roughly three quarters of play before his coach pulled him for good during our first day of coverage at the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational. He knocked down open 3s from deep, scored in transition as a finisher, put back a few offensive rebounds and found open teammates for easy baskets. In a blowout he continued to hustle and do the small things that make a difference; he is not afraid to get on the floor and dive for loose balls. He covers a lot of ground off the dribble and can help break pressure with his ballhandling skills. Because of his length and intelligence I think he could be a very good defender with a little more focus, but he picks his spots to challenge his opponent at this level. The only flaw in his game on this night was that he missed a few too many free throws for a shooter of his stature.
Ryan Harrow, PG, (6-0, 160)
2010, Marietta, Ga./Walton, signed with NC State
After getting off to a slow start by his standards (10 first-half points), Harrow, who was frustrated by the officials consistently calling his hesitation crossover move a carry, caught fire and exploded for 25 second-half points in leading his team from a double-digit deficit to a one-point victory. With a big-time scoring pass on his team's last possession of the game, he showed a sizable NC State fan base, which was in attendance to cheer him on and catch a glimpse of the future, that the Wolfpack have a dynamic scorer who is tough as nails and has the stomach to make a clutch play at crunch time. He is just getting over being sick with a virus that took his legs and taxed his conditioning, but he found a way to fight through it and put his team in a position to win. Usually very accurate from the free throw line and behind the arc, he went an uncharacteristic 0-5 from 3-point land and 11-15 from the charity stripe.
Jeremy Jeffers, SF, (6-6, 190)
2010, Wilson, N.C./Greenfield, committed to Drake
Jeffers is a long wing with a smooth stroke from behind the arc. The left-hander, who scored 22 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in a win over Southern Wayne (N.C.), has upside and is a great pickup for Drake; his size and skill level are what the top teams in the MVC possess on the perimeter. He showed he is a good offensive rebounder, using his length and timing to his advantage while turning missed shots into scoring opportunities for his team. He can get to the rim from the perimeter off two or three dribbles and showed a nice feel passing the ball. Jeffers is, however, left-hand dominant and will need to improve playing with his weak hand. He is a solid defender who understands positioning and is effective in the press on the ball or in traps. As he gets stronger, he should be able to guard multiple positions.
• A couple of names to remember are Kinston, N.C., freshmen Donte Reynolds (6-6, 195, PF), who is a good athlete who competes, and Josh Dawson (6-0, 155, PG), a ball-quick guard who can create off the dribble.
• One way to measure the level of interest in basketball from the Tobacco Road area of ACC country is by the amount of media covering the event. Bryan C. Hanks, the tournament media coordinator, received more than 120 media requests for credentials to cover the tournament. The locals love to follow their basketball.
• United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) is loaded with about 10 future Division I players. Sophomore imports 6-8 Hanner Perea and 7-0 Peter Jurkin are two high-major bigs who will receive a lot of attention on the recruiting trail for years to come.
• Word of God is this tournament's version of Phi Slama Jama. The Rams play an up-tempo style that results in some spectacular dunks. C.J. Leslie, Bishop Daniels and Dezmine Wells provide most of the high-flying theatrics, seeing who can outdo the other with each flush.
Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.