Wallace Prather, one of the founders of the Atlanta Celtics, passed away unexpectedly almost a year ago. Shortly after his death, a plan was formulated to honor the grassroots pioneer. This weekend, Celtics organizers have gathered 64 teams for the inaugural Wallace Prather Memorial tournament in Atlanta, Ga.
As one of the familiar faces on the AAU scene, Prather served as a role model to kids but to also other clubs across the country. With the help of Hulio Smith of the Atlanta Celtics, a number of people close to Prather decided an event would pay perfect homage.
"It started that same weekend he passed," Smith said. "(D.C. Assault head coach) Curtis Malone told me that we needed to do a tournament next year to honor him."
The plan went into motion and now 32 17 and under teams, 16 16 and under teams and 16 15 and under teams make up a good field in the tournament. All of the games will be played at Georgia Tech.
Smith said the interest came from all over.
"A lot of people around the country respected Wallace Prather and a lot of them are coming to play in this," Smith said. "Some teams couldn't make it because of travel and other things but we've already got a good list for next year."
Prather was a man of not so many words but when he did have something to say, he was usually right now. Smith jokes that Prather would have some words of advice.
"I'm sure he would have told me, 'I hope you get it right, chief,'" Smith said.
Judging by the talent coming to Atlanta this weekend, the first tournament is getting it right.
A number of teams from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee will also take part in the tournament.
Not surprisingly, there is a Georgia flavor to the inaugural tournament. Over 25 Georgia teams (17 and under to 15 and under) will be taking part in the tournament. Some notables: Atlanta Celtics, Georgia Blazers, Georgia Hurricanes, Georgia Stars, Smyrna Stars and the Worldwide Renegades.
Several members of the class of 2007 Rivals150 will be in town for the tournament. DC Assault's starting five are all in the top 100. The Worldwide Renegades feature five-star prospects Chris Allen and J.J. Hickson as well as three-star guard Casey Mitchell.
The Celtics are headlined by a pair of SEC commitments in Senario Hillman (Alabama) and Martavius Adams (Georgia). Georgia Tech is happy to have 2007 commitment Gani Lawal on campus with the Georgia Stars. Lawal will be joined by Georgia commitment Jeremy Price in his first spring showing of the year since being injured at the Boo Williams Invitational. The Georgia Hurricanes boast a pair of top 150 players in wing Zach Graham and guard Tony Neysmith.
Every tournament has its must-see match-ups. This tourney is no different. A Saturday pairing of 2009 studs Renardo Sidney of the MBA Magic and Lance Stephenson of the Juice All-Stars will draw a crowd. Rightfully so. Sidney is regarded as the top prospect in his class while Stevenson, a skilled 6-foot-4 guard from Brooklyn, is nipping at Sidney's heels.
Derrick Favors of the Atlanta Celtics should be considered in the elite company of the class of 2009 as well. The 6-foot-9 big man enjoyed a big April and is poised to make some more noise this weekend.
The Georgia trio of Al-Farouq Aminu, Howard Thompkins and Chris Singleton have people talking the Peach State. Aminu plays for the 16 and under Georgia Stars. Thompkins plays for the Atlanta Celtics Green and Singleton suits up with the Atlanta Celtics Gold. All three 2008 prospects are high-majors.
The Georgia Blazers have had success playing at Georgia Tech. Over the last four years, the team has won their age division at the Atlanta Basketball Classic. The Blazers are playing up a year this season and hoping it works wonders on big man Xavier Gibson, an intriguing 6-foot-9 big man, point guard Andre Young.
JaMychal Green and Nick Williams are playing up with the Alabama Challenge 17 and under team and both have impressed early in the spring. The class of 2008 prospects will tangle with a pair of good teams in pool play in the Carolina Celtics and the Arkansas Hawks.