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July 26, 2008ORLANDO -- Friday marked the end of pool play and the beginning bracket play at the Super Showcase in Orlando. The small amount of teams means that some big time match ups took place and were set up during the day. A few players continued their strong play while several others also stepped up.
Mixed day for Athletes First
Coming into the Super Showcase the general consensus was that Athletes First out of Oklahoma was the team to beat. Featuring five star talents Xavier Henry and Daniel Orton, they simply had more talent than anyone else.
In their morning match up with the Spiece Mo-Kan Players, on paper there was very little reason to look for an upset, but games aren't played on paper. The Mo-Kan Players came out with more energy, heart, and toughness than Athletes First. Only Henry was really in attack mode, and even he was missing shots that he usually makes.
Add in a referee that felt the need to call fouls on Orton for seemingly being 6-foot-10 and big, and there was a recipe for disaster.
Due to the lack luster effort, the Athletes First stars were benched for a good portion of the second quarter. The reserves were able to keep it close, but in the second half it was much of the same. Orton fouled out, Terrance Boyd couldn't get it going, and Kyle Hardrick wasn't picking up the slack. That all combined for a dominating win for Mo-Kan by the score of 69-52.
The loss meant that Athletes First would finish second in their pool, and were set to face the Georgia Blazers in the first round of bracket play. That turned out to be a very bad break for the Blazers. Athletes First came out of the blocks angry and focused.
Henry especially seemed focused. He had an unreal spin move off the dribble and finish which he then followed up with an impressive ally-oop. Then for good measure he decided to hit a few step back threes in the first half.
It was far from only Henry, though. Orton was a monster on the glass and with blocked shots, Boyd was getting to the rack at will, and Hardrick did all the dirty work. At one point in the game the score was 24-2 in favor of Athletes First.
The Blazers were never really able to make a game of it, but they didn't quit. Torin Walker showed some versatility to his game by hitting a pair of threes and a couple mid range jumpers. The Blazers star finished with a team high 20 points.
Henry was the story, though. He finished with 22 points despite not playing much of the second half. Boyd joined him with 15, and Athletes First rolled on to the quarter finals with a convincing 72-48 victory.
Lasers continue to roll
Maybe the story of the Showcase so far has been the play of the Alabama Lasers, and because of it several players are emerging on the radar. The highest profile Laser is Josh Langford, a four star 2010 prospect, but is getting a lot of help.
The main man again for the Lasers on Friday was Verkeno Mann. After a 25 point performance against BABC on Thursday, Mann was a monster against the Georgia Stars.
The athletic 6-foot-2 combo guard was able to do a little bit of everything. He had a ridiculous athletic tip in, a few more threes, one of the step back variety, and also he was taking his man off the dribble. For the game Mann finished with 15 points and led a balanced Lasers attack.
Joining Mann in playing well was Kerry Hammonds and Langford. Hammonds, a 2009 prospect from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, had the hot hand early drilling four threes. At the beginning of the second half the Stars thought so highly of his shooting touch that they actually switched to a box and one defense to slow him down. Langford used his length and athleticism to get second shots and finish over defenders. His jumper was definitely not hitting, but his stroke is smooth, and it looked like he has the necessarily tools to make improvements in that area.
For the Stars, recent Georgia Tech commitment Glen Rice played well. He was hitting shots from the outside and also getting to the rim fairly well. Without Kammeon Holsey or Adrian Coleman stepping up offensively, Rice was asked to do a lot.
The most impressive play for the Stars in their loss came from Kenny Hall. The Tennessee pledge jumped over a Laser and slammed home a monster tip dunk. Outside of that Hall was very solid, and looked to be improving on the offensive end.
Notes from the Note Pad
Illinois Warriors guard Darius Smith has a reputation of being a great defender, and it is well earned. In a win over the Birmingham Storm, Smith picked the pocket of the Storm guards several times leading to easy buckets for the Warriors. Even when he doesn't make a steal he plays excellent position defense and never lets him man beat him with a straight line drive.
After a strong performance at the Peach Jam, Kyryl Natyazhko continued his solid play on Friday. Though his Nike Team Florida squad fell handily at the hands of Team Final, Natyazhko finished with 13 points. To get those 13 he hit a three, took his man off the bounce, and also finished athletically above the rim.
Syracuse pledge Dion Waiters is just wired to score. Without Lamar Patterson, Waiters has to take and make a lot of shots for Final, and he is doing just that. With his ability to hit from the outside or use his strength to score down low Waiters is an absolute lock for double figures every time he steps out on the floor.
Howard Pulley big man Mike Broghammer had a terrific game against Team Final. The 6-foot-8 Minnesota native was scoring around the rim with either hand, hitting from the mid-range, and rebounding the heck out of the ball. He finished the game with a team high 24 points and continues to see his stock soar in the eyes of coaches.
With the athleticism that Rodney Williams possesses, it is sometimes scary to watch him when he is hitting jumpers. On Friday he hit a pair of threes and also a nice mid-range floater to go along with his typical highlight reel ally-oop slam.
The score at the end of the first round playoff game between The Family and the Arkansas Wings Elite Gold was 23-3 in favor of The Family. Some courtside were joking that the game needed to be called. Well, it is a good thing that they continued to play. The Wings absolutely crushed The Family the rest of the way, and came home with a slim 70-68 win.
Give credit to Durand Scott. The New York Gauchos guard just knows what it takes to win. Whenever things get tight, Scott takes the big shot for the Gauchos, and usually he makes it. That happened again down the stretch for Scott as the Gauchos closed out the Birmingham Storm in a close battle.
Mike Broghammer listed Notre Dame, Penn State, Minnesota, Santa Clara, Harvard, Iowa, SMU, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and Western Michigan and schools he is hearing from.
Josh Langford said that Louisville is number one on his list and the first school to offer him. Outside of the Cardinals he has heard from Miami, Mississippi State, Memphis, Stanford, Penn, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Alabama
Quarter Final Match ups
Spiece Mo-Kan Players v. Alabama Lasers
Howard Pulley Panthers v. Illinois Warriors
Athletes First v. BABC
Arkansas Wings Elite Gold v. New York Gauchos