DURHAM, N.C. - Opening night at the 2006 Tournament of Champions was spent on the campus of Duke University and a couple of prospects showed their stuff in Blue Devil country.
Joey Rodriguez, Florida Rams - The future UMass prospect is playing with a purpose this spring. His mission is to prove that he can play at the Atlantic 10 level and should be considered amongst the best point guards in the country. His message was being sent against the New Jersey Roadrunners on Friday night. The 5-foot-10 guard scored a game high 23 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Rodriguez had his step back three working, his pull up jumper was falling and he knows when to score and when to pass it. His passing skills are his strength. His passes are crisp and sent with a purpose. It was a good opening night for the future Minuteman.
Gary Clark, Florida Rams - The future Florida Gator was knocking down the three ball all night to the tune of 19 points in an easy first night win. He has a soft touch from the wing and found the bottom of the twine more times than naught. Clark was the beneficiary of several good Rodriguez finds. Pair Clark with Rodriguez's high school teammate, future UF guard Nick Calathes, and you have a very impressive backcourt coming to Gainesville.
Ray Shipman, Florida Rams - The sophomore continues to enjoy a big spring on the circuit. At 6-foot-4 and a sturdy 185 pounds, Shipman does a great job of powering his way into the paint and that is where he does his best work. Defenders have a hard time stopping the class of 2008 prospect from the wing. Shipman is a very good rebounder for a guard. Like a good running back, he is a downfield runner and always looking for the quick points in transition. He knocked down a couple of three pointers but his perimeter game is still coming along. When the three ball and more creation off the dribble come around, watch out. Shipman said Clemson and Georgia Tech offered him scholarships after the spring while LSU, Miami, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, Florida, Florida State and Miami are also involved.
Evan Turner, Illinois Wolves - The fluid 6-foot-6 wing had Cameron Indoor buzzing because Duke recently joined the race for his signature and the Chicago area prep star showed flashes of why he has become one of the most sought after players in the country against Houston Select. Turner moonlighted as a point guard in the Wolves offense and had success against a pesky but undermanned team. He grabs rebounds, starts the break, sets up the offense and moves well in a motion setting. Turner attacks from the wing, puts the ball on the floor and has good technique on his shot. It comes as no surprise why Duke and Ohio State, Wake Forest, Indiana and Virginia have turned on the heat since April. They join Illinois, Baylor, DePaul, Bradley, USC, Miami and Florida. The race is just getting started.
Demetri McCamey, Illinois Wolves - The 6-foot-4 middle linebacker look alike has only been playing the point guard spot for a year. That is a scary thought. He creeps up the floor, keeping his body low to the ground like a cat going in for the kill. When he sees a hole in the defense, McCamey explodes to it and makes things happen at the rim where he uses his good athleticism or dishes it off to slashing teammates for easy buckets. McCamey is unselfish, will defend and grinds it out. McCamey's school list is growing by the day, too. Wake Forest, Illinois, DePaul, Kentucky and a host of others (he said he just couldn't name all of the schools) are recruiting him heavily.
Nathan Walkup, Houston Hoop Stars - Texas A&M locked up the 6-foot-5 wing early for good reason. The Aggie commit is a basketball player in the truest sense of the word. And while he didn't have the game he is capable of in a disappointing loss to Team Philly, Walkup showed enough to know why he became a coveted prospect late in April. Perhaps the best part about his game is his passing skills. Walkup finds guys in the flow of the game and makes the pass that leads to the assist. His pull up jumper from 15 feet going left was impressive as well. Billy Gillespie and his staff got this done just before Walkup's recruitment began to sprint up.
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Josh Martin, Team Philly - They call him 'Scrap' in his neighborhood back home and his nickname is fitting. The 6-fooot-1 guard gets after it on defense in a big way. His role in Team Philly's full court trap against the Houston Hoopstars forced at least six big turnovers with less than 10 minutes to play. His three three-pointers helped cut a 22-point gap into a seven point lead, too. Martin made play after play. The class of 2007 guard said Villanova, Memphis, NC State (the old coaching staff), Ohio, George Mason, Old Dominion and St. Joe's are recruiting him.
Devron Washington, Baltimore Stars - The 6-foot-7 forward will reclassify to the class of 2007 and with that, the Springfield, Mass., native will likely have some high-majors looking along the way. Washington, who played at Science Tech High School, is long, athletic, rebounds well and mixed a confident face up game that extended out to the three point line for a trio of triples with a knack for banging down low. He begs to be seen some more but the talent is certainly there.
Prospects name favorites
Ryan Sterling, Spiece Central Stars - The 6-foot-2 guard has enjoyed a big spring, leading his loaded Central Stars team in scoring. On Friday night he was at it again, dropping 16 points in victory. Sterling said he is hearing from Miami of Ohio (where he will visit next week), Indiana State, Bowling Green, Loyola-Chicago, Valpo and Stanford (where he will visit in late June).
JaJuan Johnson, Spiece Central Stars - The long and lanky big man has a busy June ahead of him. He said he will visit Indiana unofficially on June 4, then participate in Xavier's elite camp and follow up with an unofficial visit to Purdue after that. Wake Forest and Miami recently offered him, Johnson said, while Purdue, Xavier, Cincinnati, Butler and Marquette have also tendered a free ride.
Odds & Ends
Julian Vaughn took an unofficial visit to Duke on Thursday. The big man said he enjoyed his conversation with Coach K and liked the direction things were going with the Blue Devils.
Mid-majors from the South should shadow the Mid-State Ballerz Elite. Jeremy Shulman's club is loaded with mid-major prospects. The guards are scrappy, athletic and play hard. Ken Bingham, a 6-foot-3 guard, is a good overall prospect but his bread and butter is on defense. Juwon Long makes plays on both ends of the floor. Wing Josh Sain grabs boards and grabs attention above the rim.
Future Maryland big man Braxton Dupree showed flashes of brilliance against the Ballerz in Duke's Card Gym. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward does a great job of sealing off his man in the post, giving him a clear path to the basket for two. He spun off his man and dropped home a turn around jumper. But he isn't an athletic big but maximizes his game under the rim.
Team Philly point guard Kyle Griffin is a little things player. He does those things that go unnoticed but impact the game. The Germantown Academy guard had a couple of passes that helped his Team Philly team overcome a 22-point deficit in the second half against the Houston Hoopstars.