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April 23, 2005

Mayo dominates to end Kingwood pool play

Eight rounds off pool play games ended Saturday afternoon at the Kingwood Classic with a rousing 80-76 overtime win by the D-1 Greyhounds over the Atlanta Celtics. Leading the Greyhounds to victory was the No. 1 ranked player in the class 2007 O.J. Mayo.

Mayo went for 42 points, including 6 three-pointers. Most of his threes came from NBA distance. Speaking of the NBA, Mayo would be a lottery pick in this year's draft if he were available and he is making a strong case as the No. 1 player in the prep ranks regardless of class, putting him ahead of Greg Oden.

There is literally nothing on the court that this 6-foot-4 point guard cannot do. Call him a Jason Kidd with a much better jump shot and better elevation, although he is not yet the type of lockdown defender that Kidd is.

The game began with him matched up with Javaris Crittenton, who has continued to play extremely well this weekend as he did last weekend at the Real Deal on the Hill. It was not long, however, until the Celtics took Crittenton off Mayo and let John Tiller come off the bench and try to guard him.

Tiller did an admiral job for a while, even picking Mayo's pocket on one possession. But the cerebral Mayo soon lost Tiller for a backdoor dunk and was right back into his rhythm.

Tiller, a well built prototypical shooting guard, has begun to get more recruiting attention after his solid play at the Real Deal on the Hill and has continued to play well this weekend.

"Tennessee came into see him last week," said Celtic coach Wallace Prather. "Georgia Tech has begun to step it up. And Texas A&M is on him hard."

Crittenton led the Celtics with 27 points, most coming on finishes at the basket off explosive drives. Crittenton is showing a developing ability to drive the ball left when defenders shade his dominant right hand. On a couple of those left hand drives, Crittenton got better control of his body than he has in the past when driving left and went up strong with two hands off two feet for successful finishes.

This is a contrast to Crittenton ability to sore over the defense off his left foot when finishing with his right hand. No point guard takes the ball harder to the basket with his strong hand as explosively as Crittenton. That is except for Mayo, who does most everything better than most everyone in the prep ranks.

Crittenton's decision making and distributing of the ball has been at a very high level this spring. If he could only shoot the ball better from outside and at the free throw line, where he struggled mightily today, he would arguably be the best point guard in the 2006 class.

Coming up with another strong appearance for the Celtics was big man Jonathan Mandeldove. VCU better not be counting on getting Mandeldove after his coming prep season. The Rams did have him committed before it became clear that he would not graduate. Mandeldove is a year of weight lifting away from being a big time high major prospect. He has an enormous reach that he uses to block shots. He can run the court and has a developing back to the basket game that shows up in flashes. He can make a free throw. And most importantly, he is not afraid to compete and get physical with his opponents.

Bill Walker has enormous athletic ability but did not put it to much use in this game, except for one dunk that gave the "hip hoppers" in the crowd something to awe about. He did very little in the half court offense, and he did not do much on the offensive boards. When he did pull down some nice defensive rebounds, he made no attempt to bust the ball up the court on the dribble and ignite the fastbreak. Instead, he held on to the ball, not even looking for the quick outlet.

Speaking of outlet passes, nobody come even close to rivaling Kevin Love's ability rip a two handed overhead pass down the court for easy scores. On one play today, Love, from under the basket, hit a streaking Kyle Singler in stride at the top of the key on the other end for a flush.

Love is simply a man amongst boys. Although running the floor does not come easy to him, the rest of the game comes extremely easy to him. Even when he misses a shot inside against an athletic defender like Taj Gibson, of the SoCal All Stars, he almost always gets his own rebound and finishes or gets fouled on the second attempt. When a ball touches his hands, it is in a vice grip.

Another big man who is playing extremely well here in Houston is Spencer Hawes. The now 6-foot-11, 220-pounder, comes up with nearly every rebound that he touches. This ability and his more polished offensive game are what made him stand apart from the rapidly developing Jason Bennett in their match up this morning.

Bennett, who has at least a couple inches on Hawes, runs the floor as well as Hawes and is actually a better shot blocker than Hawes. Bennett, however, struggles to come up with rebounds and loose balls because of his sub par hands.

Hawes currently has a list of eight schools, including Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and Washington. All have offered except for Duke, and Stanford has not officially offered because Hawes has not yet been accepted into the school.

The race for Bennett's signature is tightening up as Florida is no longer the clear cut favorite for Bennett, whose stock is on a tremendous upsurge. Bennett said he has likes and has offers from Florida, Cincinnati, Illinois, Arizona, Kentucky and Connecticut. In his words, all these schools are "kind of evening up."

More on Bennett's development will be forthcoming at the conclusion of the Kingwood Classic.

No big man does more for being so physically weak as Tom Herzog. He understands the game, has great touch and tremendous footwork. Look for him to explode when he makes a significant jump in his strength. Do not be surprised if this does not happen until a couple years into his college career. Think former Central Michigan star and now NBA player Chris Kamen.

One player who can challenge O.J. Mayo's basketball IQ is Jai Lucas. When watching Lucas change speeds and hit off beat runners, it is immediately clear that he is a coach's son who has spent countless hours in the gym honing his game.

Lucas' school list includes Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. Only Texas has offered the No. 19 ranked player in the class of 2007.

Howard Pulley big man Bryce Webster, who continues to get better and better, listed Notre Dame, Marquette, Minnesota, Boston College, Arizona, Kansas and Michigan State. All have offered.

Athletic wing Raymar Morgan looked impressive this morning in the King James Shooting Stars' route of the Compton Magic. Morgan is good with the ball in the open court, can finish around the basket and has the potential to be a tremendous defender. He does need to improve his shooting range and develop a middle game in the congested half court game. Herb Sendeck of North Carolina State was watching him closely.

Jesse Woodard of the Compton Magic has a tremendous stroke from deep off the dribble. But the left handed point guard seems continent to seek only his own shot and did not display the quickness to get by his defender.

Look for much more coverage from Rivals.com on the Kingwood Classic as elimination play has kicked into gear.


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