TEANECK, N.J. - Friday was loaded with great match-ups as long time foes met up again like Mike Conley and Willie Kemp while Taylor King continues to shine at his favorite event of the year, the Reebok ABCD camp.
We meet again
Mike Conley and Greg Oden can't get away from Willie Kemp and Wayne Chism. Since their days on the 13 and under circuit, the quartet has always had to battle each other. And keeping up with traditions, Conley and Oden won again.
The two sets of high school teammates, Conley and Oden at Lawrence North (Ind.) and Chism and Kemp at Bolivar (Tenn.), are very familiar with each other and it showed when the guys played on Friday morning.
The best battle in the first half was watching Oden and Chism battle it out inside the paint and on the blocks. Chism went right at Oden, kissing a pair of 10 footers off the glass and scored with a right hook on another play. The Tennessee native went right at the nation's best big man and played him incredibly physical from start to finish.
On a fast break, he scored with his left hand and showed off his passing skills from the block. But then Oden took over. He contained Chism in the second half and held him scoreless in the final stanza.
Oden does everything so well it's almost funny. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds and shot well from the line (5-6). Chism had eight points and three rebounds in the defeat. On the recruiting front, Chism said he's looking at a host of SEC programs including Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Alabama.
The intriguing match-up in the second half belonged to the two point guards, Conley and Kemp. Conley was the epitome of a point guard in this match-up, getting the best of Kemp.
Conley knocked down two three-pointers when Oden couldn't get open on the blocks. On the defensive end, he kept Kemp in front of him the whole time and got past the Tennessee off the dribble on the offensive end. Conley also had six assists to go with his 11 points.
One of the real measures of a point guard is his winning record. With two state championships and wins everywhere on the AAU and camp circuit, Conley is bringing a new mentality to Columbus next year.
Herzog shows offense, Harris says decision coming
When Paul Harris, perhaps the strongest guard in the nation, left the floor and jumped right at Tom Herzog, one of the skinnest kids in the nation, it had the potential to be very nasty at the rim. Instead, Herzog did what he does best and stopped the driving Harris at the rim and sent the muscular guard back. It was Herzog's best block of the camp and he's had plenty of them to choose from.
As good as Herzog's defense was on that play, the big Michigander had his best offensive game of the camp, too. He scored 10 points on Perry Stevenson, another thin center. Herzog hit all of his field goal attempts and sank four of five from the foul line to get his scores. He had a nice floater in the lane and worked hard to score his other two buckets. A quick call from home helped his self-confidence.
"I talked to my dad last night and he helped me get back into sync. I think I was just a little screwed up in my head," Herzog said. "I was just determined to play better today. It was just a mental thing I think. I knew that I had to play hard and crash the boards because the guards were going to do a lot of the scoring."
On the recruiting front, Herzog said he's looking at four schools Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois and Notre Dame. With a desire to stay close to home, Herzog said the four finalists all have the things he wants - a great location, good coaches and good players. He's already officially visited Michigan and wants to take officials to the other three in the fall.
Harris had a solid day at the office, putting in 10 points and seven boards. It was his lowest scoring total of the camp but he knifed his through the defense to get to the bucket and loves to attack down the baseline.
The Niagara Falls, N.Y. native said he's looking at announcing his decision in the near future at a press conference. Still a Syracuse lean, Harris said he's having a hard time picking between the Orange and Pitt.
2007 kids dominating
There is a heavy rising junior flavor to this year's ABCD camp. Several of the camp's top performers are from the class of 2007, making Saturday's underclassmen all-star game very interesting.
With guys like O.J. Mayo, Greg Oden, Paul Harris, Kevin Love and Damion James getting most of the pub from the camp, Taylor King has quietly moved into the camp's top scoring spot with Mayo at 15.8 points a game. King is doing it all, too. He's constantly crashing the boards.
"Look around. It's all of these people here," King said. "Why wouldn't you want to play good in front of them?"
King went off for 25 points and seven rebounds in the evening session.
For a guy that has only been in the United States for two years, Daniel Hackett has quickly put his name on the list of top guards in his 2007 class. He moved to California from Italy a couple of years ago and the son of former Syracuse player Rudy Hackett has caught onto the American game and has infused some big city toughness to his game.
He loves to put the ball on the floor and challenge defends with his dribble drive but he can also pull up and knock down the perimeter shot without even flinching.
Hackett said he's holding offers from Washington, Southern Cal and UCLA but his dream school is dad's alma mater. The Orange have been watching him play this week at the ABCD camp.
Dartavius Tucker was outstanding in the afternoon session as he was pinned against Mayo and company. The live wire athlete went off for 18 points and snatched 10 rebounds in defeat but he's showing his complete game all week.
Michigan State and Cleveland State are his only two offers right now. The Saginaw, Michigan product has a lot of interest from Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Missouri, Syracuse and Arizona, he said.
Pittsburgh got a great one in Herb Pope. He's a jack of all trades forward at 6-foot-8 and he's helped take a team that many didn't give a lot of credit to an impressive 4-1 record. Pope does it all. He had 15 points, 10 boards and six blocks in the afternoon game.
Alex Tyus has really put himself onto the map this week. He's one of the most athletic guys here and knows it. His game isn't just dunking. He can play the midrange, works the ball inside and uses his huge wingspan on the defensive end of the floor to control his man. He's headed to Harmony Prep in Cincinnati, Ohio with a school list that includes some of the top programs in the country. He's got interest from Syracuse, Arizona, Texas, UNLV, Miami and North Carolina.
James Harden, a 6-foot-4 lefty shooting guard from Artesia High School in California, had his best day of the camp on Friday. The class of 2007 prospect shot the ball well, sees the court and handles well enough to run the point guard spot for the majority of the game. He had a game high 17 points in the game everyone wanted to see featuring Oden and Caracter. Pac-10 programs are starting to build their interest in him.
A lot of people are going to be talking about Zach Graham after the ABCD camp. The 6-foot-5 small forward from Peachtree Ridge High School in Duluth, Ga., is pouring in the points. The one thing he does well is getting to the free throw line.
2006 kids are too shabby either
Well Darrell Arthur finally decided to bring his 'A' game. The five-star big man has been simply non-existent here at the ABCD camp but he erupted for his best game yet with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting against his AAU teammate Bryan Davis, who's had himself a nice camp this week too.
Arthur was doing what he does best, running the floor, playing above the rim and using his college-ready body inside the paint. His AAU/camp season this year though has been too up and down for a lot of people's liking.
Playing in front of strong pro-Lance Thomas crowd, the Jersey native went to work in the evening game. He went back to his bread and butter by aggressively scoring inside and outworking the competition. He's an energy guy that just outworks everyone that gets in his way. Thomas went on for 20 points and six boards.
No one is shooting the ball better than Philip Nelson here. And what's even more intriguing about him is his great length at 6-foot-8. The Oregon product hit five of seven threes against Davon Jefferson and Paul Harris's team and putting in 57.1 percent from the floor for the entire camp. In the evening session he struck for four of six.
Nelson is pulling up from NBA range and creating space for himself to score from all over the floor. With offers from Gonzaga and Washington and interest from Arizona and Connecticut, Nelson should be collecting more 'ships after this week.
The camp style of play is a perfect setting to see Davon Jefferson at his best. The wiry athlete has had plenty of highlights and he's crushed a couple of kids' self-confidence by dunking all over them. He had 19 points, four steals and three boards when we watched him this morning. He shines in the open floor and above the rim.
Defensively, he's a great shot-blocker because he skies so high off of the floor. From 17 feet and in, Jefferson is money and for whatever reason people have overlooked just what kind of shooter he really is.
It has been thought Jefferson will be headed to South Kent for prep school but don't just too fast to that conclusion. He may not even leave the West Coast for prep school. Details on that end are still developing.
College coaches have been impressed by the physical play of California big man Alex Stepheson. He's in great shape and using his body to just out rebound everyone around him. Stepheson said he's focusing on Arizona, Connecticut, Norht Carolina, Georgia Tech, Washington, UCLA and Wake Forest right now. All of the programs have offered, he said.
Odds & Ends
Darius Gabriel continues to drop dimes. He had a camp high 11 in the afternoon session. He's leading the camp at 6.5 a contest. Not bad for the newly reclassified 2008 kid.
As Chism and Oden battled inside, Christian Polk quietly had his best game of the camp. The future Arizona State guard hit three of four from three-point land en route to 15 points.
The knock on Seth Tarver is that he can't shoot from the perimeter. He hit two of three from deep this morning.
As Oden and Derrick Caracter battled it out in the showcase game, Jodie Meeks was on the other end of the gym floor tearing it up. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Norcross (Ga.) dropped in a camp high 28 points on 10 of 20 shooting and six of nine from deep.
The all-hustle award goes to Olu Ashalou. The 6-foot-6 class of 2008 prospect gets after it on the glass. The Canadian snatched down 11 boards and kept the energy flowing all night long.
Minnesota sharp-shooter Blake Hoffarber has a wide variety of schools looking at him. He said Georgetown, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Valparaiso, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Notre Dame and North Dakota State have all shown an interest.
All stats are after six games played.
Top Scorers 1. Taylor King 15.8 1. O.J. Mayo 15.8 2. Paul Harris 15.2 3. Kevin Love 14.5 4. Damion James 13.8 5. Daniel Hackett 13.7
Top Rebounders 1. George Fotso 8.3 2. Kevin Love 8 3. Taylor King 7.5 4. Dwayne Collins 7.3 4. Herb Pope 7.3 5. Greg Oden 7
Top Assists 1. Darius Gabriel 6.5 2. Isaiah Thomas 4.5 2. Mike Conley 4.5 3. Rahmon Fletcher 4.3 3. Kelvin Grady 4.3 4. O.J. Mayo 4
Stay logged on to Rivals.com for more from Friday's big time match-ups.