ATLANTA - The Wallace Prather Memorial tournament started on Friday night at Georgia Tech and a couple of committed players did their thing but the real story was the 2008 prospects in the field.
Rico Pickett, Southeast Elite - Senario Hillman will probably have the local crowd excited this weekend because of his big time athleticism but there is another future Alabama guard that will have people talking by the tournament's end.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Decatur (Ala.) High School put in 30 points in a big win for his Southeast Elite team over the South Carolina Ravens. And Pickett pick pocketed a couple of moves out of Hillman's bag. Pickett wowed the crowd with his athleticism. Pickett sank home a pair of good looking three-pointers but sliced his way to the bucket for the majority of his buckets.
It is no wonder why Mark Gottfried closed the Alabama borders on Pickett so early. Had the future Tide guard been an open prospect in the spring, he would probably on the most wanted list for a number of high-majors.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Georgia Stars 16U - One of the best things about the layout of the tournament is the ability to watch a number of the young teams in the field. And one of the best things about the 16 and under bracket is Aminu.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Norcross (Ga.) High School put on an offensive display on opening night. The bouncy sophomore put the ball on the floor a number of times and skied for big time dunks. His face up game is solid but his non-stop play is what makes him succeed.
Aminu recently trimmed his school list to six: Clemson (offer), Tennessee, UConn, Georgia Tech (offer), Florida and Wake Forest.
Cashmere Wright, Atlanta Celtics Gold 16U - Boy, can he flat out score the basketball. The 6-foot sophomore from Savannah, Ga., averaged nearly 37 points a game this year at Urban Christian. He came close to his season average on Friday night. Wright poured in 33 points in a big win over the Georgia Clippers.
Wright may be slight of build at a couple pounds over 160 but he gets into the lane with little complication. He's shifty with the ball and like a good running back, he's a good down field runner. When there is a hole, he finds it in a hurry.
A number of schools have him on the daily mail list. Virginia, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Connecticut, Georgia, NC State, Clemson and Appalachian State are all writing him, Wright said.
Mike Holmes, South Carolina Ravens - The future USC Gamecock is known for his motor around the basket and shot-blocking ability on defense. So when he steps out for three three-pointers and creating shots for himself with the dribble, you tend to watch a little closer. Holmes finished with an impressive 18 points in a difficult loss to Southeast Elite.
Gani Lawal, Georgia Stars - Playing at his future collegiate home, the Georgia Tech commitment made the plays that his team needed to pull away for a hard fought victory. The springy forward from Norcross (Ga.) High School had a pair of big blocks, a pair of free throws and a pair of defensive rebounds that helped seal the victory.
Jeremy Price, Georgia Stars - The big fella is playing with something to prove after spending the last month on the shelf with a torn rotator muscle in his shoulder. The 6-foot-8 power forward rebounded the ball well and kept the rock high. He uses his incredible wing span to his advantage, particularly as a rebounder. Price cashed in against a smaller M33M Ballers team.
Lance Stephenson, Juice All-Stars - The Brooklyn prodigy will score his points. After all, he is one of the best shooting guards in the class of 2009. He got it down on Friday. Make no mistake about that. But don't look past his passing skills. The 6-foot-4 freshman sees the court very well and will thread a needle or two in a game.
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Tony Mitchell, Atlanta Celtics Gold 16U - The 6-foot-4 wing from Swainsboro was the night's biggest surprise. His motor is never turned off and athletically, he'll challenge anyone at the rim. Mitchell caught an alley-oop after slashing down the baseline, catching the pass in stride after leaving from the right block and dunked it on a defender in traffic for the foul. Mitchell poured in 19 points in a big win.
Mitchell said Georgia is the only school recruiting him. Makes sense. The SEC school is relatively close to his home. Mitchell said he "really likes" Georgia Tech and would like to be recruited by the Yellow Jackets.
Victor Davila, Surry Stars - One of the nice surprises of the night was getting a set of eyes on the intriguing big man from North Carolina. Davila, a 6-foot-9 forward from Starmount Christian (N.C.), flirted with on-lookers against the Juice All-Stars. Already possessing a big time body, the class of 2008 prospect has room to fill out on his frame and his game is still a work in progress but he'll have his moments that just shout big-time high-major. Davila scored on a soft baby hook but then powered his way to the cup from the post. He finished with 15 points against Juice. A match-up against MBA Magic's Renardo Sidney and Romero Osby await him on Saturday.
Jarvis Jones,M33M Ballers - The lefty guard from Memphis (Tenn.) Mitchell High School watched Thaddeus Young, who is visiting his future college home this weekend, and Brandon Powell do their thing this past season. Now he knows his chance is coming. The class of 2008 prospect is warming up for next year with his feathery touch from the wing. He buried three three-pointers en route to 17 points against the Georgia Stars.
Dustin Ware, Atlanta Celtics White 16U - Write his name down. The class of 2008 point guard from North Cobb Christian can be a score first guy. Or he can wear a half court game manager hat. On Friday night, he was the scorer in a tough two point loss. Ware did his thing though with 27 points. He is jet quick, has a tight handle and just knows who to play.
Ware has a pair of basketball encyclopedias at his disposal at North Cobb Christian. Former Purdue star Walter Jordan is the head coach and his assistant Greg Matta, a former player at UAB, college coach and brother of Ohio State's Thad Matta, have put in a lot of time with Ware. It is starting to really show. Now if only the colleges see it.
Odds & Ends
Future Villanova guard Malcolm Grant is playing in the tournament with the Juice All-Stars and he is setting the toughness bar awfully high for his teammates. Grant is not the biggest of guards but he is tough as nails. He'll challenge anyone inside the paint. Grant only finished with five points but he seemed to be involved on every play.
D-One Sports point guard Sam Grooms enjoyed a good April. With that, he picked up a number of schools along the way. The North Carolina native said George Mason, James Madison, Western Carolina, High Point, UNC Charlotte and St. Joe's are all involved now.
Dequan Jones, a 6-foot-4 athletic wing from Stone Mountain (Ga.) High School, made a big national splash in April. Just look at the schools recruiting him. He picked up offers from Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth and Arkansas and Alabama, Georgia Tech, Florida, Washington, Marshall and UCLA.
Former Rivals.com No. 1 overall prospect Dwight Howard was in the house to watch his younger brother Jahaziel play with the Atlanta Magic. Howard played for the tournament namesake Wallace Prather, Jr. before being selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in the NBA Draft. The name of his brother's AAU team? The Atlanta Magic. Figures.
A pair of ACC players watched their younger brothers in action for the Georgia Stars 16U program. Georgia Tech forward Alade Aminu played clock manager and was wowed by his kid bro, Al-Farouq. Outbound Virginia Tech wing forward Wynton Witherspoon was in the house to see his brother Wesley.