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August 9, 2010

Global Hoops: Hairston lifts South to title

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The Nike Global Challenge in Hillsboro, Ore., is the last major all-star tournament of the 2010 summer basketball circuit and features some of the nation's top high school recruits along with several elite international players. This is the last of three RivalsHigh reports from the event.

P.J. Hairston had two simple goals heading into the Nike Global Challenge championship game: play hard and win. The five-star forward and future Tar Heel from Greensboro (N.C.) Hargrave Military Academy accomplished both and a whole lot more as he helped turn the tournament's Sunday night finale between USA South and USA Midwest into a good old-fashioned duel that was less pistols-at-dawn and more missiles-at-night.

Hairston went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with USA Midwest guard Bradley Beal of St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade as the pair muscled their way into the spotlight of the tournament's center stage. When the dust finally settled, Hairston had rung up 41 points and earned Tournament MVP honors in addition to leading USA South to the NGC crown.

"I always expect myself to play good," said Hairston, matter-of-factly, as he clutched his MVP trophy after the final. "All three games I just wanted to come out and prove that I could take the ball to the hole and I was able to do that."

Beal and his USA Midwest teammates refused to go down without a fight, however. The Florida recruit put up 40 points of his own but for every big shot he hit, Hairston and USA South had an answer.

And where Beal had one important sidekick in point guard Jahii Carson of Gilbert (Ariz.) Mesa adding 28 points of his own, Hairston had an entire posse with Adonis Thomas of Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose, Kentavious Caldwell of Greenville (Ga.) High and Zach Price of Jeffersontown (Ky.) High combining for 58 points to help Hairston hold off USA Midwest with a decisive 123-115 win. "This is probably the biggest tournament I've played [this summer]," Hairston said. "Just coming out and getting to play against different countries and being able to show your talent against other countries and all these guys out here - it's been fun, for me and for everybody."

This and that from Day 3

  • Canada point guard Kevin Pangos warmed up for his upcoming recruiting trip to Gonzaga by raining a fiery barrage of 3-pointers down on France to break open a tight game and help earn Canada third-place honors. Pangos notched 20 points (shooting a blistering 4-for-5 from beyond the arc) and divvied up 10 assists, finishing his tournament run as the overall assist leader with 25.
  • The first matchup of U.S. teams came in the fifth-place game between USA East and USA West and it quickly turned into an old-fashioned American shootout after two days of slower-paced international-style competition. USA East forward James McAdoo of Norfolk (Va.) Norfolk Christian finally found his stroke after two days of watching his field goal percentage hover just above freezing. McAdoo rang up 28 points (on 14-for-18 shooting) and 13 boards in leading the East team to a 129-123 victory.
  • After losing its first two games in gut-wrenching fashion, Brazil's lumps went from figurative to literal against All-Asia. Starting point guard Icaro Parisotto of San Diego (Cali.) Christian High injured his right ankle less than a minute into the game. After writhing on the court in pain, Parisotto was carried off to the training room before being taken to a local hospital. Minutes later, forward Erik Camilo joined the emergency room carpool after having one of his teeth knocked out while tussling for a loose ball. Parisotto suffered a severe sprain and was fitted with a walking cast while Camilo had his displaced tooth temporarily glued (yes, glued) back into place. Brazil earned a small bit of consolation, however, by summarily dispatching All-Asia, 82-60, to finish in seventh place.
  • There were plenty of jaw-dropping dunks throughout the weekend but Nick Faust of Baltimore (Md.) City College High and Dominique Pointer of Winston-Salem (N.C.) Quality Education Academy saved two of the best - and most emasculating -rim-shakers for last. Faust hand-delivered his facial to USA West forward Austin Kuemper of Portland (Ore.) Westview on a hard drive through the lane before Pointer served up a heaping helping of one-handed throwdown to USA South guard Dai-Jon Parker of Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton. Pointer's vicious posterization was rousing enough to earn him both the loudest "Ohhhhhhh!!" of the tournament and an unapologetic high-five from one of the referees.
  • Hillsboro is a long way from Tobacco Road but not far enough to keep USA East teammates McAdoo and Duke recruit Michael Gbinije of Richmond (Va.) Benedictine from trading barbs about their impending rivalry. "I love messing around with Mike," the Chapel Hill-bound McAdoo said. "Whenever he does stupid stuff, I tell him 'That's what a Dukie would do.'" For his part, the future Blue Devil isn't afraid to pull his trump card. "He knows what happened last season," Gbinije deadpanned. "I just have to remind him sometimes."
  • If there was a common theme amongst NGC participants it was a collective sigh of relief at the prospect of putting an end to their summer "vacation." "I think most of these guys are running on fumes at this point," Canada head coach Roy Rana said. Indeed, virtually all the players spent the last four months travelling around the country - if not the world - to play basketball nearly every day under the scrutinizing gaze of spectators, reporters and recruiters. As appealing as that may sounds for 9-to-5 cubicle drones, most of the athletes seemed eager to get back to the land of textbooks and cafeteria food. "It's been a long summer," McAdoo said wearily. "But I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel."
  • Honors and awards for the tourney

    USA All-Tournament Team

    MVP: P.J. Hairston (USA South); Others: James McAdoo (USA East), Bradley Beal (USA Midwest), Adonis Thomas (USA South), Nick Johnson (USA West) of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, Jahii Carson (USA Midwest).

    International All-Tournament Team

    MVP: Khem Birch (Canada); Others: Bobby Parks Jr. (All-Asia), Benjamin John (France), Kyle Wiltjer (Canada), Lucas Riva Nogueira (Brazil), William Howard (France).

    While I have no real qualms with the All-Tournament selections - indeed, I participated in the voting as a member of the esteemed and, by and large, housebroken sporting press covering the NGC - it seems a shame to give out honors to only 12 athletes with more than 70 of the world's top basketball players in attendance. So here are some decidedly unofficial awards:

    Best Big Man: Johnny O'Bryant of Cleveland (Miss.) East Side. If there was one glaring omission from the All-Tournament team, J.O.B. was it. The stocky 6-foot-10 center owned the paint for USA West all three days while averaging 19.3 points and 12 rebounds a game.

    Best Little Man: Jahii Carson. Point guard speed coupled with power forward hops allowed the USA Midwest sparkplug to go over and around defenders to the tune of 21 points and seven assists a game.

    Put Me In Coach: James McAdoo. While future Tar Heel teammate Hairston walked away with MVP honors, McAdoo's physical frame and all-around game seems the most capable of making an immediate impact at the next level.

    Mr. Congeniality: Jakarr Sampson of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary. I'm fairly certain the affable 6-foot-7 wing could have his toenails yanked out with rusty pliers while undergoing a root canal and manage to smile through it all.

    Biggest Upside: Anthony Davis of Chicago (Ill.) Perspectives. The lanky center played in only one full game before being knocked out of the tournament with an ankle sprain but it was enough to showcase an inside-outside-frontside-backside versatility that could go from explosive to deadly if he manages to add some bulk to his spindly physique."

    Human Flyswatter: Rakeem Christmas. The newly committed Syracuse recruit barely played in USA East's first two games because of foul trouble and still finished with a tournament-best 15 blocks. Most weren't fingertip deflections either, but rather emphatic redirections launched toward the bleachers with the arc and velocity of a T-shirt cannon.

    Frequent Flyer: Dominique Pointer. Hardly content with kiss-off-the-glass layups, the 6-foot-5 wing seemed to score most of his baskets from an altitude normally associated with bags of peanuts and seat cushions that double as a flotation device.

    Monster Performance: Khem Birch putting up a supersized double-double (25 points, 20 rebounds) in Canada's double-overtime defeat of a talent-heavy USA East team.

    Best Underclassmen: Nigel Williams-Goss of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. Andrew Wiggins, Canada's freshman phenom, came on strong late in the tournament but Williams-Goss (a sophomore) was steady throughout, running point for USA East with poise while finishing the tournament fourth overall in assists (15).

    Biggest Underachiever: Sim Bhullar. Canada's gentle giant seems like a nice, unassuming kid and that's great. But when a 7-foot-4 center gets outrebounded 11-6 by a (generously tape-measured) 5-foot-11 point guard (Carson), there's probably room for more assertiveness.

    Participant Ribbon: All-Asia. The team-which featured players from three countries and two different continents-would have been outmatched even if they all spoke the same language. All-Asia lost all three of its games by an average of 25.3 points with its closest loss being a 13-point nailbiter against USA West.

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