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June 1, 2004The class of 2006 is loaded. That is known. Guys like Greg Oden have established themselves as the top players in the rising junior class. Several other players established themselves at the 2004 Tournament of Champions in North Carolina, too.
Greg Oden - At least three NBA scouts found their way to the wooden bleachers at Cameron Indoor Stadium to see the 7-foot phenom on the first night of the Tournament of Champions. Their notes could have all read the same thing: "Ready." There is not a player in any class better than that of the 16-year-old from Lawrence North (Ind.) High School. That is why his Spiece Indy Heat won the Tournament of Champions. And that is why it will win many more this summer and next. Oden is the complete package inside, dunking nearly everything he gets his hands on. His footwork is mind-boggling, and he even stepped out and knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers. Those who ask what college he will attend are fooling themselves.
D.J. Augustine - After a somewhat slow start in pool play, some began to wonder where the same player was the emerged onto the national scene at the TOC last year. Thirty-six points later against the New York Panthers, that player was back. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard from Brother Martin (La.) High School was instrumental in the New Orleans Jazz's run to the championship game of the 17-and-under pool. He proved that he could not only score when needed, but his passing skills were outstanding, as was deadly cross-over dribble that left a couple of defenders flat on their backsides. LSU, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Georgetown and Notre Dame have inquired about his services.
Nick Vier - This 6-foot-1, 165-pound guard had a great tournament, leading The Playaz to the 16-and-under title. Vier, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound point guard from Bergen Catholic (N.J.) High School, is a mix between Bobby Frasor and Bryan Mullins. He has great handles and gets to the basket with his ball-handling skills. He knows how to find all four of his teammates in the offense and spreads the wealth evenly in the offense. As a shooter, defenders must respect his range or will be burned by his long-range shooting ability. Vier, the co-Most Outstanding Player in the 16-and-under pool, said Stanford, Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Penn State, Rutgers and a number of Ivy League schools have begun to send mail.
Wayne Ellington - The roster for the 17-and-under Playaz is dotted with more than a half dozen high major prospects. Ellington, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound combo guard from Episcopal Academy in Merion Station, Pa., was a scoring machine last weekend in the North Carolina Triangle. He led the squad by averaging 18 points per game. He's athletic, loves to pass, plays sound defense and has learned his role since April with the talented team. He said schools like Arizona, North Carolina, UConn, Villanova, St. Joseph's, Wake Forest and Duke have shown interest.
Lance Thomas - Something can be said about players who get to the foul line at least 10 times a game. This 6-foot-8 wing from Scotch-Plains (N.J) High School does that in a half. He loves to attack the basket and challenges defenders right away with his dribble drives. He loves to mix it up inside and uses the glass well. As a rebounder, he will grab at least eight a game. As a shooter, he's consistent from deep. High-majors such as Arizona, Maryland and Duke will eye his every move this July with the New Heights AAU program out of New York. Thomas was the seventh leading scorer last weekend, putting in 25.3 a game.
Rob Thomas - The 6-foot-5, 190-pound small forward from St. Thomas More High School in Oakdale, Conn., was unconscious as a scorer at the Tournament of Champions for his New York Panthers squad. Thomas averaged 26.3 points a game and was the second leading scorer in terms of underclassmen playing up at the 17 and under level. Thomas can score from everywhere on the floor. He's had a strong spring and the TOC should vault him into the upper echelon of the class of 2006.