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December 27, 2006

Chick-fil-A Classic top performers

A number of players used the Chick-fil-A Classic to help raise their stock and national profile.

Finding the five top performers was not an easy task, but Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Justin Young examines his picks from last week's action in Columbia, S.C.

Milton Jennings, PF, Summerville (S.C.) Pinewood Prep
Chick-fil-A Classic stats: 24 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 5.3 blocks per game, 60 percent shooting from the floor (27-for-45), 50 percent shooting from 3-point range (6-for-12), 75 percent from the foul line (12-for-16)

There wasn't a better sophomore in the field than the 6-foot-8, inside-out forward. Maybe that is why in-state coaches Dave Odom of South Carolina and Oliver Purnell of Clemson sat right behind the bench as much as they could throughout the tournament.

Jennings is making strides in his game and plays with a maturity level and confidence that he didn't have two years ago. That is understandable, since he was an eighth-grader at that time. Jennings is growing up as a player and showed a good ability to step away from the basket to knock down perimeter shots. He was also a presence in the middle and was a force as a shot-blocking defender.

He left a little to be desired as a rebounder and still has to get tougher on the glass, but that will come. Jennings has made strides in other parts of his game and seems to be playing at a good level right now.

Damier Pitts, PG/SG, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian
Chick-fil-A Classic stats: 21.7 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game, 52.4 percent shooting from the floor (22-for-42), 41.7 percent shooting from 3-point range (5-for-12), 69.6 percent shooting from the foul line (16-of-23)

With a tournament trophy in his hands and a bigger role in Charlotte Christian's attack at the Chick-Fil-A Classic, Pitts clearly enjoyed his time at the event.

Size or no size, Pitts wins games. The 5-foot-10 guard was a scoring machine en route to three hard-fought victories. He seems to win wherever he plays, both in the summer and in school. Speaking of size, Pitts was outstanding on the boards and seemed to thrive on being the smallest person in the pile. He often was the one who ended up with the ball in his hands.

Pitts moves at full speed all the time. He powered his way into the lane and showed off a good bit of athletic ability. The junior said his recruitment is scattered about, and he has received interest from ACC schools and Big East programs. Expect things to be turned up a notch this week at the Bojangles Shootout.

Jeff Withey, C, San Diego (Calif.) Horizon
Chick-fil-A Classic stats: 19.7 points per game, 11.7 rebounds per game, seven blocks per game, three assists per game, 68.8 percent shooting from the floor (22-for-32), 60 percent shooting from the foul line (15-for-25)

After a dazzling first night away from the national spotlight, the future Louisville big man had the South Carolina crowd buzzing. Once the rest of the field had a chance to get a peek of the 7-footer, Withey stepped it up a notch.

Playing like an unstoppable force down low in the championship game against Charlotte Christian, Withey scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He was the only piston in the engine that seemed to be firing in the final game.

Withey had little trouble scoring when he wanted around the basket. That was apparent when considering his 68.8 percent shooting from the floor. He led the tournament in blocked shots, and also showed a keen ability to pass over the defense to cutters.

Once he fills out his thin frame, which looks like he is doing, Withey should be a good interior force for Rick Pitino in two years.

Ty Walker, C, Wilmington (N.C.) New Hanover
Chick-fil-A Classic stats: 12.6 points per game, seven rebounds per game, 5.6 blocks per game, 56 percent shooting from the field

The long and lanky junior was a big-time presence inside the paint all week long. Walker stood out as the best long-term prospect in the field. The 7-footer should have increased confidence after his performance at the event.

In the championship game, Walker scored 18 points and was a steady force as a shot-blocker. Paired against fellow junior Drew Gordon, Walker stood his ground and gave the Californian fits because of his size and defensive presence. Walker blocked eight shots in that game.

The box scores don't show how many players opted not to shoot in the lane. The big man made players reconsider their actions. With Walker, baby steps are being made in his development. The Classic may have allowed him to make a big leap forward in his progress.

Zac Swansey, PG, Dunwoody (Ga.) High School
Chick-fil-A Classic stats: 19 points per game, 4.3 assists per game, four rebounds a game, 93.3 percent shooting from the foul line

Swansey, a Georgia signee, did what all good point guards do - win big games. Swansey piloted Dunwoody to a big win over Meadowcreek, another Atlanta area power. He's playing as well as we've seen him play, and we've seen a lot of him in his career.

He's attacking the basket more and is scoring at the rim with both hands. As a passer, Swansey is doing a fine job of setting up players and feeding the post. Even though his perimeter game wasn't at full strength, he kept the defense honest because he's such a great pull-up shooter.

Swansey is the leader of his team and plays with a sense of confidence that could have Dunwoody collecting it's third consecutive state championship.

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