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May 6, 2005CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. - Opening night at the Southern Invitational was quiet until the stars came out to play. Some of the nation's top prospects went to work and got the energy buzzing inside University Hall on the campus of the University of Virginia.
Three kings for the night
It's too bad there isn't a high school basketball fantasy league because Paul Harris would be a guy that takes your roto team to the bank. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound unofficially had 25 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in a 73-54 win over West Virginia Pump 'N Run.
Harris, a free safety look-alike, does it all and defies all of the questions that follow him around. Perhaps the biggest question that shadows him is what position will he play at the next level - point guard? Small forward? Point forward? Or whatever other position is created that tries to describe him? How about "player"? He fits that role nicely. Other than his shooting touch, there isn't a lot he can't do. More importantly, there isn't anyone that can guard him.
With a couple of plays, Harris got the energy in the gym. On one possession, Harris crossed his man over with the dribble and then came thundering down the lane to throw down a nasty dunk in traffic. On another possession, Harris pulled off his best MJ/Dr. J impression by taking off from just inside the foul line for a throw down.
Harris just makes plays. He sees the floor incredibly well as a set up man. He rebounds everything off the rim and does his best work as an offensive rebounder. His hands are huge, his first step is powerful and undefendable and just too strong for high school athletes.
He said Syracuse is high on his list with Pittsburgh is close behind. The five-star prospect said he'll likely make a decision on his future in the next month so he can focus the summer on the AAU circuit and improving his jumper - his only flaw in his game right now.
Tyreke Evans is just a freshman. And he's a darn good one at that. The 6-foot-4 guard from Philadelphia's American Christian School didn't look like a class of 2008 prospect when he dropped a tournament high 33 points in an 84-63 victory over the North Carolina Bulls.
Evans has a deadly three-point shot which he can shoot off the dribble, off a screen and even off balance. His range is deadly but so is his overall skill level. He just has "it". For a guy with just a year of varsity basketball under his belt, he gets the game. He just knows how to score the rock. The compliments will certainly flow for him over the next three years.
Boo Williams Summer League (BWSL) has dominated the Southern Invitational since the tournament's inception six years ago. The team has claimed five titles and if the team gets performances from Scotty Reynolds like they did on opening night, the squad could very well win another title.
The future Oklahoma guard had 27 points in a win over I-270 Road Warriors-Blue. Reynolds picked up where he left off when he helped BWSL claim their own event at the start of April. He connected on three three-pointers, which his one of his strong points. His ability to score in the lane is getting better and better, too.
Reynolds has a keen sense of using his body to shield away his defender and knows how to get his shot over the big men that continually contest his shot. Physically, the 6-foot, 170-pound guard is in tip-top shape but also has a frame that should work well in the physical Big 12.
Supporting cast doesn't disappoint either
Lazar Hayward, GC Ballers - The 6-foot-5 wing forward scored 21 points and was the recipient of several positive plays from his super-talented teammate Paul Harris. Hayward sunk home a trio of triples but he also worked hard inside for rebounds and putbacks. He's a good run, jump athlete that plays bigger than his frame and isn't afraid to do the dirty work. Hayward rattled off a list of Rhode Island, Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida State, Providence, Iowa State and Marquette.
Vernon Macklin, Boo Williams - His game is easy to pin down. The 6-foot-9 forward uses his long and lean frame to sky for rebounds and acrobatic plays above the rim. The five-star prospect scored 16 effortless points in an easy victory. Macklin is one of the best big guys in the class of 2006 that knows how to run the floor and finish in transition.
Duke Crews, Boo Williams - The jumping jack athlete set the tone early on for his squad by getting high above the rim for some of his trademark antics. The 6-foot-6 forward has added a nice looking jump hook shot to his arsenal and he knows how to rebound the basketball with the best of them. He's only getting better by the tournament.
Terrance Roderick, Sam Rines - Sure Evans had 30-plus points but he wasn't the only offensive star. This 6-foot-4 guard from Allentown, Pa.'s Allen High School put in 19 points in a late night victory. He's a shifty guard that gets to the rim with the dribble but he is also a guy you can't leave on the wing because he'll bury the trey time and time again. The class of 2006 prospect is one to watch.
2007 big men show promise
Patrick Patterson, East Coast Scholar Athletes - The Huntington (W.V.) High School product loves to pass out of the post and he does a fine job of it. Sometimes this sophomore was too unselfish. At 6-foot-7, 225-pounds, Patterson will certainly make people look twice because of his muscular frame. West Virginia, Michigan State and Florida have looked twice. They all sit on his short list right now.
Shane Walker, Fairfax Cougars - We saw this 6-foot-9 forward at the Boo Williams tournament when he played for the D.C. Blue Devils. Here at the Southern Invitational with a different team, Walker was able to show even more glimpses of his oozing potential. On one play, Walker started at the left elbow, put the ball on the floor and spun to the middle and threw down a dunk in traffic. He has a host of high-majors on his list early on.
What's on tap
Saturday is the day fans have been waiting for as Evans matches up with O.J. Mayo in pool play. Evans gave a good first impression on opening night and gave little argument to him being one of the very best players in the class of 2008. His match up with Mayo, the No. 1 player in the class of 2007, should give some perspective.
Guys like Mayo, Bill Walker, Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, Mike Beasley, Nolan Smith and Gani Lawal all hit the hardwood for the first time here at the event.