Commentary

Nike Memorial Day Classic recap

Memphis lives up to reputation as hotbed with two division titles over holiday

Updated: May 31, 2011, 4:46 PM ET
By Michael LaPlante | ESPN Recruiting

SUWANEE, Ga. -- If you are the type that likes to get an early jump on recruiting then Georgia was the place to be over the holiday weekend as many of the top players from the 2013 and 2014 classes competed in the 2011 Nike Memorial Day Classic. The event, which is organized and run by Georgia Stars founder Norman Parker, brought together 100 teams over the four-day holiday while featuring some of the elite non-scholastic programs in the country in the U14 through U17 divisions.

The city of Memphis flexed its muscle during the competition, winning two of the four division championships including the competitive U16 division that was stacked with 44 teams. New Orleans Hornets star point guard Chris Paul's team, CP3, played inspired ball and won the U15 championship with their sponsor in attendance all weekend, while Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem's group, Team U, won the U17 division.

Standout players

Nick King (Memphis/East)
2013, SF, 6-foot-7, 205 pounds | Team: Memphis YOMCA 16s
King is a high-major prospect who was impressive throughout the weekend in leading the Memphis YOMCA to the U16 championship. He has great size as a big shooting guard or wing and showed consistent stroke from behind the arc. He plays with a nice pace, but took over games when his team needed him. When focused he can be a very good rebounder and defender at his position.

Jajuan Johnson (Memphis/Southwind)
2013, SF, 6-4, 185 pounds | Team: Memphis YOMCA 16s
Johnson is an athletic wing who is outstanding in transition. He runs the floor, finds seams in the defense and finishes at a high percentage. He needs to develop his perimeter skills and become a more reliable shooter, but he is a high-octane athlete who loves to attack the basket. He comes from an athletic family as former Georgia high school sensation Louis Williams is his cousin.

Tonye Jieriki (Miami/Champagnat Catholic)
2012, C, 6-10, 215 pounds | Team: Team U
This is the second opportunity this spring that we got a chance to watch the Nigerian import, and we continue to be more impressed each time we see him. Although he is capable of putting points on the board, he impacts the game without having to score with his ability to alter/block shots and rebound on both ends of the floor. He runs the floor effortlessly and is aggressive defensively. This is a kid that has a great chance to rise up the rankings as the summer progresses.

Breakout players

DeAndre Burnett (Miami/Carol City)
2012, PG, 6-1, 175 pounds | Team U
Burnett, who has the ability to take over a game at any time, was a scoring machine through much of the tournament. He is a strongly built combo-guard who is learning to pick his spots better and control tempo. He attacks the rim with an attitude and can absorb contact when finishing. He becomes an even more difficult matchup when he has his perimeter shot falling like he did during the weekend. We rated him a mid-major with a chance to be higher after watching him earlier in the spring; it now is safe to say he is deserving of some high-major looks.

Desmond Ringer (Stockbridge, Ga./Eagles Landing)
2013, PF, 6-7, 220 pounds | Team: Georgia Stars
Ringer is quickly gaining his old form as he continues to come back from a knee injury that kept him out of competition during the entire high school season. He said he feels like he is about 80 percent, but he dominated the 16-under division and played like he is ready to move up against the 2012 class in the 17-under grouping. He has a great feel while letting the game come to him and has that ability to make those around him better  rare for a post player.

Two to watch

Dakari Johnson (Brooklyn/St. Patrick's)
2014, C, 6-9, 255 pounds | Team: New York Gauchos
Johnson, who started for one of the top high school teams in the country as a freshman, is no stranger to playing up a division and dominated his position for much of the weekend. He is savvy for a young player and knows how to use his body to seal his defender. He has very good hands and is an improving finisher and passer out of the post. He needs to continue to improve his overall athleticism, but being so big and young with three more years of high school to develop he should be just fine.

Ledaryl Thomas (Memphis/TBD)
2015, C, 6-10, 220 pounds | Team: Memphis Wildcats
A quick look at this loaded14-under team and it is obvious why Memphis coach Josh Pastner isn't going anywhere too soon. Thomas is a raw rising ninth grader who is developing before our eyes. He is surrounded by future high-major prospects, but his size and potential make him stand out. He has a long way to go offensively, and he needs to learn to be more assertive, but the big fella gives good effort and seemed coachable, which will assist in his development.

Notes

• Auburn-bound Shaquille Johnson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) is one of the most entertaining players in the country. You know a player has a rep when other players flock to his games in the hopes of catching one of his jaw-dropping dunks.

• Two-thirds of the Atlanta Express 17s formidable frontline of Robert Carter (Thomasville, Ga./Thomasville), Chris Walker (Bonifay, Fla./Holmes County) and Quinton Stephens (Atlanta/Marist) could be playing down in the 16-under group. Walker and Stephens are 2013 players who could be dominating their own age group.

Charles Mann (McDonough, Ga./Union Grove) and Michael Ramey (Forest Park, Ind./Southport) continue to be an outstanding backcourt on the spring evaluation circuit and are still rumored to be atttending Milton (Ga.) next year.

• Texas Pro's Rickey Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy) is an undersized power forward with a surprisingly skilled game. The chiseled athlete is a solid mid-major prospect who could be an impact player in the right program.

• Atlanta Express 16s have a good core of players who should be on many elite mid-majors and high-major programs' radar in Derick Turner (Salem, Ga./Salem), Jabari McGhee (Albany, Ga./Monroe), David Onuorah (Atlanta/Marist) and Christian Kennedy (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside). • The state of Georgia again will be stocked with talented posts in 2013 with the Georgia Stars having their fair share of the top players. Players such as Ringer, Jordan Neff (Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb), Brandon Watkins (Kennesaw, Ga./Grady), Dante Ottley (Ellenwood, Ga./Morrow), Donnell Tuff (Tifton, Ga./Tift County), Logan Adams (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) all will be sought-after commodities at the mid-major level and above.

• The 14-under version of the Memphis YOMCA (aka the Memphis Wildcats) forces an evaluator to do a double-take as the team of rising ninth graders starts a lineup that features a 6-10 center (Thomas), a couple of 6-6 wings (Terrence Birdsong and Keelon Lawson II) and a couple of 6-4 guards (Donte Fitzpatrick and Dedric Lawson).