HOUSTON - Every year since 2000 in the city of Houston, two days after Christmas means big-time high school basketball. This year is no different as 20 teams from around the country and the Houston area come together at the Aldine Campbell Center to put on a show in a three-day event under the direction of Vision Sports founder Hal Pastner. The 2007 tournament field again is headlined by the featured Oak Hill Warriors led by Arizona Wildcat Brandon Jennings.
The three-day event tipped off at 6 p.m. on Thursday in a game featuring two of the Houston areas best teams in Smiley and Seven Lakes. In a game in which Smiley won 74-58, Golden Eagle junior power forward Augustine Rubit stole the show. The 6-7, long armed right hander came into the Houston vs. The Nation tournament averaging nearly 20 points and 15 rebounds on the season was dominant from the start.
Rubit was a force on the boards pulling down six first quarter rebounds to go with six points and an assist. Rubit, who is being recruited by the likes of Houston, SMU and Rice early on, showed a developed left hand inside of six feet, the ability to get physical in a crowd to snatch a rebound as well as the ability to chase a long carom.
The second quarter was more of the same with Rubit scoring four points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot. In the second eight period stanza, Rubit received plenty of help from 6-5 senior wing Jonathan Simmons, who scored seven points on an array of fall away mid-range jumpers and a three-pointer from the right corner helping Smiley take a 31-19 lead into the locker room.
If the crowd thought they had witnessed an impressive first half performance from Rubit, the second half would easily surpass the first 16 minutes.
The 6-7 junior was simply dominant in the third quarter, scoring 12 points, snatching two rebounds and blocking another shot. Rubit flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor on three occasions forcing contact and receiving trips to the free throw line. He took full advantage converting six of seven.
Just when it appeared Seven Lakes would be blown out, Air Force signee Brandon Provost came alive after first half foul trouble. The 6-4 guard hit three three-pointers in succession and scored 17 points all told in the third quarter to keep the Spartans within reach 51-42 headed into the fourth quarter.
Rubit and his Smiley teammates proved to be too much in the final eight minutes. Chalk up 12 more points and two more rebounds for the rising junior and a 74-58 Smiley win. Rubit finished with 34 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. As impressive as any individual more ending with a soft left handed finish after a physical, power full move was the junior's ability to make free throws finishing 16 of 19 on the night.
Provost led Seven Lakes with 25 points.
Kingwood 41, De La Salle (MN) 30
Game two featured one of the top juniors in the country in De La Salle forward Royce White. White didn't have as productive of night as one may have figured going into Thursday night as he faced a sound defensive team in the Kingwood Mustangs. The No. 47 ranked junior in the country often faced a quick, decisive double team from Kingwood, often times spinning into the double team after putting the ball on the floor with a hard dribble right.
While White scored five first-quarter points, that is all of the scoring De La Salle could mange. Lucky for the Islanders, Kingwood turned the ball over failing to execute scoring opportunities of their own scoring just five points.
White began to find more success in the second quarter on a pair of patient step-through moves in the post resulting in five points after a three-point play.
Throw in two more scores inside 12-feet and White put together a solid half of 14 points and five rebounds, but Kingwood led 17-16.
Kingwood took control early in the third quarter on the boards as well as limiting White to zero points.
Sophomore point guard Tevin Svihovec hit a key three-pointer for the Mustangs and did a good job of controlling the tempo. While Kingwood led only 25-20 after three quarters, the snails pace of the game had the feel of a near double digit lead.
White scored four points in the final quarter, but struggled to get good looks and often settled for leaning, off balance 10-foot jumpers. The high-major talent finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals despite shooting seven of 18 from the field.
Svihovec led Kingwood with 13 points and five rebounds.
The late game was won by Alief Hastings 76-62 of the Aldine Mustangs.
Thursday night was just enough to get the pallet wet before an action-packed Friday and Saturday featuring some of the top teams and prospects in the country.
Friday's schedule 9 a.m. - St. Thomas High School (TX) vs. Westfield High School (TX) 10:30 - HCYA (TX) vs. St. Pius X High School (TX) noon Bellaire High School (TX) vs. Hastings High School (TX) 1:30 p.m. - Seven Lakes High School (TX) vs. Kingwood High School (TX) 3:00 - Montverde Academy (FL) vs. Cy Springs High School (TX) 4:30 - Albany Academy (NY) vs. Klein Collins High School (TX) 6:00 - DeLaSalle High School (MN) vs. Wheatley High School (TX) 7:30 - St. Patrick High School (NJ) vs. Madison High School (TX) 9:00 - Oak Hill Academy (VA) vs. Yates High School (TX)