AUSTIN, Texas -- Thursday in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center, the Texas UIL kicked off its annual Final Four. The crowds were great, the energy was intense and a pair of Dallas area juniors stood out as Admon Gilder and Jawun Evans powered their Madison and Kimball squads into the 3A and 4A state title games.
Gilder goes off to lead Madison
As a sophomore, 6-foot-3 shooting guard Admon Gilder put himself on the map when he led Dallas Madison to a 3A state championship. As a junior, he's at it again only this time he is upping the ante.
Currently ranked No. 123 in the 2015 Rivals150, Gilder looked very comfortable playing on the big stage as he racked up 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals to lead his team to a 77-62 win over San Antonio Houston.
After going for big numbers two years in a row in Austin, postgame media asked Gilder whether there was something about the home gym of one of the team's recruiting him the hardest, Texas, that made him extra comfortable.
"I feel real comfortable in any gym I play in," said Gilder. "It just happens to be that in this gym I play pretty well."
A good shooter who is outstanding working away from the ball, Gilder is both skilled and intelligent on the offensive end. He has a strong body that he uses to get to the glass and free throw line and does a great job of mixing jumpers and drives to keep defenders on their heels. After the game he mentioned SMU, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma among those who have been most involved in his recruitment.
While Gilder was outstanding, he wasn't without help. Three-star senior combo forward Johnathan Turner was terrific as well. The unsigned prospect chipped in with 23 points and 10 rebounds of his own. At about 6-foot-7, Turner can really run the floor, he has a good jumper to 17 feet and he's quick off of his feet around the rim. He could help somebody out at the upper end of the mid major level and is starting to get attention from many Division One and Junior College programs.
Evans leads Kimball to another state title game
In the first 4A semifinal game, Dallas Kimball was looking to make their fourth straight trip to the state title game. When Beaumont Central's four-star junior small forward E'Torrion Wilridge went down with a knee injury just seven minutes into the game after scoring a quick eight points it looked as if Kimball would cruise to the title game.
That wouldn't be the case though, as Central played inspired ball and rode the back of sophomore wing Nijal Pearson's 23 points and nine rebounds to make it a close ball game. In the end, though, there was too much of four-star junior point guard Jawun Evans and key defensive plays from unsigned senior D'Angelo Allen for Central to overcome as Kimball held on for a 58-56 win and advanced to the title game.
Early on, it was all Evans. Currently ranked No. 59 in the class of 2015, he was already in line for a move up the list but cemented it with his Thursday performance. Evans scored 20 of his team high 23 points in the first half and he looked similar in style to a young Chris Paul while doing it.
At about six-feet tall, Evans is an intense competitor, surprisingly strong and is always keeping defenders on their heels with his changes of speed, skillful navigation of ball screens and ability to transition between scorer and facilitator. Illinois, Texas, Baylor, Clemson, South Carolina -- Evans is a South Carolina native who just moved to Dallas for his junior season -- are all involved on the recruiting front.
While it was Evans offense that kept Kimball going early, Allen's defense down the stretch was sensational. During the game's waning moments the 6-foot-6 small forward forced a five-second call and blocked a pair of shots. The last block came on Central's final possession with the clock running out and prevented overtime.
A three-star prospect, Allen said in postgame that his team had never lost earlier than the finals -- They won in 2011, 2012 and were runner-ups in 2013 -- and he wanted to keep it that way.
"We had just turned the ball over and we were all hyped up to go out on the defensive end," said Allen. "As I saw him go past one of my teammates I reacted quickly because I didn't want to lose."
More notes from Thursday at UIL State Tourney
The loss for San Antonio Houston to Dallas Madison in the 3A semifinals was a tough one. Houston struggled with turnovers and could never quite get over the six or seven point hump when trying to come back. However, senior guard Jordon Harris put on a terrific show in the process.
A 5-foot-10 scorer with quickness and no fear, Harris matched Admon Gilder's 29 points and also hauled in six rebounds. He is very confident in his ability to get into the lane, can push tempo and will also stick a jumper when given space. Currently unsigned, Harris told Rivals.com that he's had some attention from Alcorn State and local junior colleges. There's little doubt that more Division One programs should be taking a look.
The stage is all set for a rematch in the class 3A title game. Houston Yates made sure that they'll get their chance to avenge last year's loss to Dallas Madison by holding on for dear life late and dispatching a previously undefeated Kennedale team 86-79.
Yates plays a high energy, pressing and free wheeling type of style that ensures a fast pace and gives plenty of players opportunities to put up big numbers. Leading the way for the Lions was Houston signee JC Washington. The 6-foot-7 power forward was hard to handle in the paint where he racked up 19 points -- many of them via dunks -- and 17 rebounds while constantly triggering the Yates offense with outlet passes.
Unsigned senior Damion Lewis scored 22 points and is an intriguing prospect as a late signee on the mid major level. He is quick, willing to let it fly and a good athlete. However, he did not shoot very well on the day making just 5-22 shots (11-12 FT) to get his points. He also added eight rebounds and four assists. Finally, sophomore Jacob Young is one to watch moving forward. The younger brother of current Oregon star Joseph Young, the 6-foot-1 2016 prospect is a very good deep shooter who is offensively minded. He came off the bench to pump in 17 points.
Though their loss was heartbreaking, a pair of Kennedale seniors stood out. Stephen F. Austin bound point guard Ty Charles and senior power forward Aundre Jackson were both outstanding as Charles went for 21 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and six steals while Jackson rang up 21 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes due to foul troubles.
A three-star prospect, Charles is an absolute steal for Brad Underwood and his staff. He is in control of the game, does a little bit of everything and has great size. Were he available, high majors would be courting him for the spring. But, he's headed to SFA where he looks like a future All-Conference player.
Jackson is a 6-foot-5 widebody who can handle the ball and has great hands. He is quick in the lane, tracks loose balls down and plays aggressively on both ends.