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May 2, 2004FORT WAYNE, IND. - The Illinois Fire used great guard play and a solid interior presence to spark its run to the title at the 11th annual Spiece Run N Slam.
The Illinois Fire took home the title but it wasn't the most conventional way. 2005 guard Tony Freeman sunk a three pointer with less than three seconds to play against Spiece Indy Heat in the semi-finals. Little did he know the bucket would be the tourney winner.
Seattle Rotary Select won in an overtime thriller against the Illinois Warriors and advanced to the finals where they would have met the Fire. Instead, a drive to Chicago for a flight back to the Emerald City altered the championship. The team was forced to forfeit, giving the title to Illinois Fire.
The champions combined great backcourt play on both ends of the floor from Freeman, Jeremy Pargo and Nate Minnoy along with solid interior play from big man DeAndre Thomas and Jeremiah Bryant.
Freeman may not be a true point guard but his scoring abilities have made him a hot commodity with some high major teams. We love his competitive spirit and grittiness. The 6-foot-1 scorer was the most consistent player all weekend for the champs. Pargo had an up and down tournament but his ball handling skills and scoring touch sparked the his team when they needed a run.
Despite another great outing by Greg Oden, Rivals.com's No. 1 player in the class of 2006, Indy Heat couldn't make it to a second straight championship game. Last week at the Kingwood Classic, the boys from the Hoosier state advanced to the finals, but the Fire was too hot to put out.
Oden continues to shine as one of the top interior players prep basketball has seen in some time. He tries - and usually does - dunk everything inside the blocks. He is beginning to master his offensive skills inside the paint. His pivot moves create a ton of space and has a soft touch when he can't throw it down with force.
In the other semi-final, the Williams duo - Marcus and Terrence - both continued to shine. Marcus was good for 20-plus all weekend. He attacked the basket with ease and had several head-turning dunks. While his shot may take an extra second or two to get off, he gets the ball to fall at a high percentage.
Terrence showed that he could compete at a high level at three different positions. As a point guard, he did a great job of finding Marcus on the wing or looking inside to Richie Phillips and Brandon Moore. As a shooting guard, Terrence continues to improve his shot but hasn't perfected it yet. As a small forward, he knows how to muscle to the hole and sky for a crowd-pleaser dunk.
For the Illinois Warriors, Julian Wright finally picked up his game and played like the player that many hoped he would be this April. At 6-foot-8, he has the ideal size for a small forward but he didn't wow a lot of people at the Boo Williams tournament and last week in Houston. The first couple of games at the Run N Slam, he didn't appear as if he was going to turn the corner. He did on Sunday.
Wright put the ball on the floor, he scored on mid range buckets, he attacked the basket with authority, he rebounded with confidence and he passed out of double teams without any difficulty. He admitted he is still adapting to playing on the wing and said Sunday was his best string of games all month. We will have more on the top prospect soon.
Southern Illinois landed themselves a true high-major player in guard Josh Tabb. He was one of the top players we saw all weekend. The 6-foot-4 guard loves to create for himself and blows by defenders with the dribble. As a shooter, he's tough to stop when he gets hot. The Salukis will have an All-Conference player in Tabb. He's a major get.
Joining Tabb in the backcourt is Illinois commitment Jamar Smith. The Peoria Richwoods product had a great tournament. He shot the ball extremely well and as Wright improved, so did Smith's scoring opportunities. The 6-foot-3 class of 2005 player has great form on his shot and has that killer instinct that Big Ten guards seem to have.
Outside of the semi-finals, there were several other top performers on Sunday: Eric Devendorf may have been the top class of 2005 player in the field. He continues to play with extreme confidence and is one of the top shooting guards in the nation. He can score from any spot on the court and his athleticism is amongst the country's best as well Shaun Green made the trip to Indiana with Salt Lake Metro and was the headlining prospect because Brayden Bell and Tyler Newbold stayed home to take the SAT. Green is one of the top shooters in the nation and he didn't do anything to change our opinion of him Philly MJC's Bilal Benn may have been the biggest surprise of the weekend. It's not very often that we call a kid going to a prep school next year (Hargrave Military) a surprise but he was consistently strong and can flat out play. The one time Sienna signee will be a looking at several high majors if he can continue to produce like he did in Fort Wayne.
Stay tuned to RivalsHoops.com for updates on the final day in the 16U pool and Justin Young's Just A Minute report.