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December 24, 2007

City of Palms top five

The City of Palms proved to be one of the best events of the year once again last week. A number of the top players in the nation showed why.

Rivals.com's Justin Young was there from start to finish and breaks down his top five performers from the event.

City of Palms Top Performers
Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedicts (N.J.)
Samuels highlights

With a championship trophy and most valuable player honors, it doesn't come as a big surprise that the future Louisville big man tops our list of the top players in the event.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Samuels' run was his production in the second half of games. He seemed to roll harder into the third and fourth quarters and played with a passion that shut the door on any sort of runs that Samuels and St. Benedict's withstood from opponents.

Samuels always brings it with high-energy around the cup and he scored against the top big men in the field inside the paint. Athletically, there were plenty of times when the big man grabbed the defensive rebound, sprinted up the floor with the ball in his hands and either scored on the coast-to-coast break or found a teammate for the bucket.

Mix his strength, size, athleticism and sheer power, Samuels will be a force to be reckoned with and should be a more consistent player than the last elite level Northeastern big man that suited up for the Cardinals.

Stat line: 23.5 points per game (4th overall)

Rashanti Harris, PF/C, New Hope (Miss.)
Harris highlights

Coming into the event, the 6-foot-9 big man wasn't thought to be a guy to watch. He changed that perception quickly. Paired against two of the top big men in the entire tournament field, Harris had two of the best games of anyone all week long.

Harris scored 32 points (11-20 FG, 10-12 FT) and grabbed 25 rebounds against Eloy Vargas. The next night, he was paired against Greg Monroe, Harris went for 28 points (10-13 FG, 8-11 FT) and 12 rebounds. The Mississippi native did his best work in the second half against Monroe, scoring 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the final 16 minutes of action.

Perhaps the beauty of Harris's game was his understanding of who he is as a player. Harris knew his strength was his strength inside and never stepped away from the paint and dominated around the basket.

Without sounding too sensational, Harris was playing like a guy that could very well suit up in the McDonald's All-American game. Will that happen? Probably not. The process and politicking for that started nearly two years ago. His next stop will likely be a junior college or prep school. When he gets to the Division I level, watch out. The big man will be hungrier than ever.

Stat line: 22.3 points per game (5th overall), 15.5 rebounds per game (1st overall), 3 blocks per game (1st overall)

Sylven Landesberg, SG, Holy Cross (N.Y.)

The future Virginia guard put on a show in Fort Myers with his all-around play. He was consistent throughout and raised the level of play of his teammates.

Landesberg may have very well been the most versatile and complete player in the field this year and closed his week with a tremendous all around game, scoring 44 points on 20 shot attempts against Helen Cox. The four-star guard also became his school's all-time leading scorer in the final game of the tournament.

He shot the ball well, scored in transition, handled the ball well enough to play the point, was one of the top rebounders in the field and never forced the issue in every game he played in.

Stat line: 30.8 points per game (2nd overall), 10.75 rebounds per game (4th overall)

Kenny Boynton, SG, American Heritage (Fla.)

After fouling out and scoring just 13 points (the lowest scoring output he has had all year), Boynton closed out as strong as anyone in the City of Palms history. In fact, it was a record-breaking performance for the South Florida native over the course of four games.

Boynton erupted for 61 points, a new tournament record, on the final day of the tournament on 22 of 33 shooting from the floor. The five-star junior hit 11 of 18 from three-point land. He was unconscious in the morning game and raised the bar for tournaments to come.

He scored 30 points against Hales Franciscan (Ill.) and 35 against Bishop Verot (Fla.). Boynton's 139 total points ranks him third all-time in tournament history. He is the second leading scorer all-time in the tournament's history with 273 points over eight games of action (34.1 points a game, which is the highest ever).

Stat line: 34.75 points per game (4 games)

Greg Echenique, C, St. Benedicts (N.J.)
Echenique highlights

Playing Robin to Samuels' Batman, the 6-foot-9 junior was the best center in the entire field. Echenique was a monster in the paint as a rebounder and shot-blocker. He filled space with his big body and allowed Samuels to enjoy one-on-one coverage all tournament long.

Echenique is an immovable force and could not be moved around. Once he cleaned a rebound, he kept it high above his shoulders and found his guards for the break. Offensively, Echenique shot 68.9 percent from the floor over the course of four games and never strayed from the paint.

He played like you'd want your center to play like. It was simple and big. There was nothing flashy about his game, just incredibly efficient. He was big on the boards and moved very well for a player of his size.

The four-star junior is headed in the right direction and should have his hands full next week at the Bojangles Shootout in Charlotte.

Stat line: 12.25 points per game, 12.25 rebounds per game (2nd overall), 2.5 blocks per game (2nd overall)



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