Miller's time is now
NORCROSS, Ga. -- The Marriott Invitational, hosted by Norcross High School, brought together some of the top-rated programs in Georgia along with outstanding teams from surrounding states.
The premier matchup on the evening's card pitted Norcross versus Quality Education (Winston-Salem, N.C.). The fans got their money's worth in this 65-63 thriller that came down to the final offensive possessions for both teams. Trailing by three points with 23 seconds remaining, Quality Education brought the ball full court and quickly found junior phenom Quincy Miller (No. 7 ESPNU) who drilled a 22-footer to tie the game with nine seconds remaining. Against pressure, Norcross inbounded the ball and raced it up the floor and won the game on Malcolm McDonald's layup assisted from Connecticut-bound guard Jeremy Lamb.
2011, Winston-Salem, N.C./Quality Education
Miller showed why he is considered a top-10 player in the 2011 class; at 6-10, the skilled power forward plays more like a wing. He is always impressive with his all-around ability to rebound, defend, blocks shots, handles and shoots the ball from the perimeter, but what was most impressive about Miller's game was his ability to take over and dominate in end-of-game situations when his team needed it most. He is a cool customer who does not rattle easily. With his team down, he made three big plays on his team's final three possessions that tied the score each trip. A tough matchup for most power forwards, he understands how to use his dribble to get to his spot on the floor then utilize his length to shoot over his defender. He has also learned how to move without the ball to free himself for an open 3-ball. This young man just keeps getting better each time out. One area I would like to see him improve on would be to get in the trenches more often on offense and get himself to the free throw line more often.
Jeremy Lamb (6-4, 175) SG
2010, Norcross, Ga., committed to Connecticut
Lamb struggled scoring in the early going against the length and athleticism of Quality Education, but he settled down and found his rhythm in leading his team to victory. He has a scorer's mentality and uses his extremely long arms -- boasting a 7-4 wingspan -- to finish over bigger defenders. I like the fact that he took a pretty good chewing from his coach and responded positively with big plays in crunch-time both scoring and passing the ball. He is still thin through the shoulders and will need to develop his body through a good strength program, but he will provide instant help to Connecticut's outside shooting woes. He is an intelligent player that is deceptive with the ball; he has some point guard instincts off the dribble. His length allows him to rebound his position well and also the luxury to give ground when defending quicker players and still be able to contest the shot.
Corey Blackwell (6-5, 220) PF
2011, Lawrenceville, Ga./Peachtree Ridge
Blackwell is a beast in the low post. Moreover, he has continued to improve his shooting from the perimeter. He has a strong body and great hands -- averaging nearly 15 rebounds per game. Anything in his area that he gets his hands on is his. He knows how to seal his man in the post, he is surprisingly explosive and is able to finish through contact in both the low post and in transition. He is a little undersized as a power forward and will need to transition his game into more of a combo-type forward who can defend on the perimeter to play at the highest level. He did show good anticipation defensively off the ball in passing lanes and also played facing up where he stuck a 3. He is a tough kid with a strong work ethic; his development at the wing will tell a lot about his future.
Malcolm Brogdon (6-4, 185) SG
2011, Norcross, GA/Greater Atlanta Christian
Brogdon is going to receive a lot of attention as a catch-and-shoot 2-guard; he has good size, a strong build and showed a big-time stroke from behind the arc. He is an average athlete whose strength is spotting up in transition or knocking it down off penetration and pitch. He needs to improve his ability to make a play or create some space off the dribble; as teams crowd him to take away his jumper, he will need to be able to keep them honest. He handles it well enough in the open floor to be a secondary handler versus pressure. He is a worker on the defensive end that is fundamentally sound and rebounds his position.
Chris Bolden (6-2, 170) SG
2012, Norcross, Ga.
In a game full of high-level athletes (against Quality Education) Bolden showed a fearless confidence for a young player. He carried his team through some dry spells with his ability to consistently knock down key jump shots and was not afraid to take a bump while attacking the basket. The sophomore wants the ball in crucial situations and has the savvy to make the high percentage play. He is improving athletically with maturity; he is fundamentally sound on the defensive end and should develop as one of the next good ones to come out off Norcross.
• Greater Atlanta Christian School led by College of Charleston signee Trent Wiedeman (6-7, 210, PF), and juniors Brogdon and Paul Dawson (5-9, 150, PG) has a team ready to make a run in the playoffs in Georgia's AA Class.
• Green County (Ala.) took it on the chin in an 82-62 loss to GAC, but the Tigers have three solid players to regroup around in seniors Neiko Hunter (6-5, 210, SF), QuaShawn Carpenter (6-5, 190, SF) and Pierre Crawford (6-7, 225, PF).
• Quality Education (N.C.) has one of the deepest teams in the country with a junior dominated line-up that features 9 or 10 Division I players. Quincy Miller may be the biggest name on the roster, but colleges will be very active in trying to gain the services of 6-9 power forward Juvonte Reddic, who is one of the top unsigned post players in the 2010 class.
• Here's a look at the scores from the day's games: Peachtree Ridge High School 69-Berkmar High School 49; Centennial High School 76 - Daniel High School 64; Greater Atlanta Christian 82 - Greene County High School 62; Norcross High School 65 - Quality Education Academy 63.
Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.