CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. - The match-ups that everyone was hoping see to see on Saturday at the Southern Invitational came to fruition. Guys like O.J. Mayo and Tyreke Evans went head-to-head while Paul Harris and his squad collided with Michael Beasley and his guys in tournament play.
Sam Rines 74, D-1 Greyhounds 72
O.J. Mayo, the No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2007, will always get everyone's best game as players try to make their own name against one of the very best in the land. For freshman Tyreke Evans, perhaps the best player in his respective class, has had this game circled on his calendar since the schedules were released with hopes of cementing his name as tops in the 2008 bunch.
Neither played particularly strong despite their big scoring numbers (Mayo 29, Evans 20) but both showed flashes of why they are amongst the best in the country.
As the two met head-to-head to the delight of all those at the Southern Invitational and the game came down to the final seconds to claim the victor. Evans, who started the game shaky with bad shots and off balanced jumpers from 12 feet and out, shelved his jumper in the closing minutes of the game to make the right passes at the right times and put his team in position to win the ball game.
Evans is patient as a point guard and knew his shot wasn't dropping so he orchestrated the offense with penetration and kick outs or dropping the ball off to his inside guys.
Early on, Evans was checked by Mayo and kept his jumper far from the bucket and sometimes forced the issue and was impatient. When Mayo and super freak athlete Bill Walker were on the bench, Evans attacked the basket and scored on a couple of possessions utilizing his long frame for layups.
Mayo scored in bunches evident by his near 30 points but he shot well below 40 percent from the floor. When his jumper is falling, it's a thing of beauty. However, his misses were poignant on Saturday because his squad needed two extra buckets to get the victory.
The two headliners will get their respective amount of ink but guys like Bill Walker (26 points) and Dave Burton (19 points) should not get lost in the shuffle.
Walker, Mayo's running mate for D-1, is the most athletic player in the country. He absolutely springs off the floor. The 6-foot-5 forward is incredibly quick to the rim. Showing off some great post moves with spins and power, Walker has a chance to be a great power forward because his jump shot is still not developed to the level it could be at.
Burton has been a go-to guy for Sam Rines all weekend. The jack of all trades fifth year prep has been a busy body all over the floor. He's scoring inside and out and playing hard from the tip to the buzzer. His scoring in the final two minutes helped Rines get into the tournament rounds and his play has kept the team in the tourney several times.
D.C. Assault 86, GC Ballers 78
Coming into the tournament, this was one of the most anticipated match-ups in the tournmant field. The two powers certainly made the game worth the wait. In fact, this game may go down as one of the best games of the spring.
Sure, Mayo will get the majority of the pub as the best player at the Southern Invitational. That should only be expected. However, Michael Beasley is doing his best to make a strong push for that title, too. The class of 2007 forward has been sensational in D.C. Assault's dominant run here so far. His best game came at the right time, too.
The 6-foot-8 forward had a game high 26 points and showed why he's considered a five-star prospect by doing absolutely everything for the Assault. The lefty stepped out for a trio of treys and banging on the blocks for score after score. We didn't keep stats but it would be fair to say Beasley went for more than a dozen rebounds, blocked four or so shots and had about the same amount of assists.
What's even more amazing is the fact he's playing with a case of bronchitis mixed with his normal struggles of playing with asthma.
Beasley, a Charlotte commit, has been the anchor for the Assault all weekend and he and his troops looked poised enough to make a surge for the championship game on Sunday.
Beasley's right hand man, Nolan Smith, played strong with his 19 points. The 6-foot-5 point guard slashed his way to the bucket and scored on several difficult attempts against the pesky Ballers. He wasn't intimidated by the hounding defense of Paul Harris.
Smith, a five-star prospect from the class of 2007, sees the floor very well and knows how to direct all of his guys in the offense. He's been efficient all weekend in terms of passing but his jump shot is still a work in process. He's winning big ball games right now.
Austin Freeman, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from DeMatha High School, added 18 points in the victory. He's been quietly strong for the Assault. Freeman has a silky jump shot but he's aggressive to the hoop and isn't afraid to take the contact to score. With the defense focusing on Beasley and Smith, Freeman has snuck under the defense and picked apart teams with his jump shooting.
No one wanted to win this game more than Paul Harris. The all-everything prospect has a competitive drive and confidence that isn't found in a lot of guys. At times, he just wills his team to victory however, the Niagara Falls native couldn't will his guys in this one.
Harris had 20 points, rebounded the well as strong as usual and he had his strong moments but his outside touch was non-existent and he missed some key buckets in the end.
As Harris struggled to score on the wing, Lazar Hayward didn't. The 6-foot-5 guard had 25 points, including a stretch where he buried three threes in a row, giving the Ballers a lead as big as nine. Hayward has had himself a nice showing in Charlottesville. He does a little bit of everything inside and out.
News from our notepad
Dennis Horner, South Jersey Select - Coming straight to the Southern Invitational from a visit to NC State, this 6-foot-7 forward has been one of he biggest surprises in the tourney. He's got a great feel for the game and shoots it incredibly well. We saw him go off for 30 points in a morning game and then he came back in the afternoon for double digit rebounds and a half dozen blocked shots.
Hoerner said he loved his visit to Raleigh. He should. He picked up an offer from Herb Sendek. Hoerner said he's also been out to West Virginia recently and Wake Forest wants him to come back to North Carolina for a visit. Virginia Tech and Villanova have both entered the picture of late, too.
Tyrell Lynch, GC Ballers - The 6-foot-8, 200-pound power forward from Niagara Falls (N.Y.) High School rattled off a long list of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth and Illinois. He said he's got offers from St. Bonaventure, Siena, George Mason and UNC-Charlotte.
Jawan Carter, Playaz - Rejoining his AAU team from last year for good (he's been with the Delaware Sharpshooters this spring), Carter shined in the guard friendly offense for the Playaz. He nailed nine three-pointers en route to 27 points in an afternoon game. "I was just having a good feeling today," Carter said. No kidding. His teammates knew he was feeling it and tried to get him the ball on every possession.
Carter said he's got a top four that consists of Villanova, St. Joe's, Georgetown and Clemson. His "second-tier" as he puts it includes Florida State, NC State and Illinois.
Luis Guzman, Playaz - Playing the point alongside Cater, Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson and Corey Stokes, Guzman doesn't have to score a huge amount of points. He controls the pace and gets the scorers the ball. Guzman said he's high on Florida State, who just offered after the Real Deal on the Hill. St. Joe's and DePaul also offered. Ohio State and Georgetown round out his list.
Julian Vaughn, DC Assault - This 6-foot-8 Sean May look-alike has had himself a dandy of an event. He's a guy that can step out and bury a three or pound the ball inside for points and rebounds. The class of 2007 product said Maryland offered him last week and Miami offered the week before that. Georgetown and NC State have also heated up their effort of late, he says. Vaughn has really emerged as one of the best in class this spring.
Austin Freeman, DC Assault - His recruitment has blown up this year. He said all of the high-majors are now sending mail and showing interest. UNC, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Maryland, Georgetown and Miami are on him. He said Clemson is his only offer to this point.
Casiem Drummond, South Jersey Elite - Wake Forest, Pitt, Villanova round out his top three right now while St. John's, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Cincinnati and DePaul are showing interest. By the way, he was absolutely dominant against Sam Rines. He scored 31 points, with 20 coming in the first half. He scored everything he touched inside.
DeSean Butler, South Jersey Elite - The 6-foot-5 versatile wing said he's holding offers from Richmond and St. Joe's while Georgetown, West Virginia and he's expecting new DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright to keep recruiting him for the Blue Demons.
Idris Hillard, South Jersey Elite - This good looking 6-foot-6 class of 2007 forward has opened some eyes over the weekend. He's a strong, athletic forward that loves to attack the rim but also has a blue-collar feel to his game. He'll get out and defend, too. So far, Clemson, Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers, St. Joe's, Florida State, Notre Dame, Boston College and St. John's are involved.
Antonio Jardine, Hunting Park Warriors - In his hometown of Philly, "Scoop" has quite the rep. He's lived up to it here. He's scoring and directing traffic and playing solid defense. We saw him go for 18 points and dropped four long balls in the process. The class of 2007 prospect said Arizona, NC State, Syracuse (offer) and Connecticut are recruiting him the hardest right now.
Braxton and Brandon Byerson, Virginia Storm - The brothers combined for 14 total made three-pointers in a double over time victory against the Queen City Prophets. Brandon, a junior, had 33 points and his keen shooting kept his guys in the contest in both overtimes. Brandon is an emotional player with a great looking body for a sophomore. He had 25 points and set the energy tone. Their older brother, Brad, is a freshman at West Virginia. The younger Byersons said the Mountaineers are also looking at them, too.