May 23, 2006

Arizona Cactus Classic awards

The Arizona Cactus Classic was filled with exciting games, top-notch talented and several memories.

From Gary Johnson's vicious dunk over Taylor King to Isaiah Thomas' 50-point outburst against SoCal Razorbacks to Utah Pump N'Run's unbelievable victory over SoCal All-Stars, there were several moments that stand out from this past weekend's tournament.

Here are some awards and notes from the Arizona Cactus Classic.

Best Game: Houston Hoops 74, SoCal All-Stars 67, 2OT

SoCal All-Stars had already lost once, but they were still the heavy favorites to win the Arizona Cactus Classic. Jai Lucas and Gary Johnson had other plans in this exciting Elite Eight game. Lucas scored 22 points with five rebounds, while Johnson, who fouled out, scored 18.

Most impressive for Lucas was the way he shut down 2008 star point guard Brandon Jennings, who scored just five points, making for his worst game of the spring.

Biggest Upset: Utah Pump N'Run 70, SoCal All-Stars 69

When Tournament Director Jim Storey accepted the Utah Pump N'Run into the Arizona Cactus Classic, one of his staff members asked him why he allowed such an uncompetitive team into the tournament.

That uncompetitive team went 4-1 and completed perhaps the biggest upset AAU basketball has seen this spring, shocking the SoCal All-Stars and sweeping their pool. It was a total team effort for Utah, who had five players scoring in double figures.

SoCal had a one-point lead with 15 seconds to go but Utah had possession. An errant inbounds pass went to SCA's Taylor King, who tried to call a timeout while going out of bounds. SCA was out of timeouts, resulting in a technical foul, giving Utah a two free throws and the ball.

The free throws were converted and Utah pulled off the shocker of the tournament and perhaps the spring.

Best Dunk: Gary Johnson vs. SoCal All-Stars

Everyone who saw this dunk would probably vote it as the best except for Taylor King, who was the unfortunate victim.

Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound and went up sideways with one arm cocked completely behind his head. King jumped up to block the shot but Johnson, in one powerful motion, swung his arm around and threw the ball down over the SCA forward.

Johnson ran off screaming and everyone in attendance couldn't believe what they just saw.

Best Dunker: P'Allen Stinnett, Las Vegas Prospects:

After each throw down, Stinnett would stick out his tongue, put his hands in the air, and twist his wrists like he was riding a motorbike. By the end of the tournament, he had a whole fan section doing the same thing.

Best Overall Performance: Isaiah Thomas vs. SoCal Razorbacks

In Arizona Magic's 105-93 victory over the SoCal Razorbacks, Isaiah Thomas was unstoppable. The tiny point guard had 50 points, four rebounds and seven assists, easily giving him the top performance of the tournament.

Best Passer: Larry Drew, Jr., Pump N'Run Elite

Larry Drew, Jr. averaged 5.3 assists per game and had 42 total for the tournament, 16 more than the next-best player.

Best Rebounding Performance: Markell Farmer vs. EBO/EA Sports

The Las Vegas Dogcatchers lost to EBO/EA Sports in the first round, but Markell Farmer did his best to cause the upset. Farmer had eight points and an incredible 20 rebounds in the loss.

Tournament notes:

MVP: James Harden took home MVP honors after averaging 18.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Harden's 20 points and seven rebounds in the championship game made his selection an obvious one. In each of Harden's eight games, he scored double figures.

Foul Trouble: While Gary Johnson averaged 15.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, he was clearly taken out of his comfort zone by the officials, who were calling things tight. Johnson is one of the most physical players in the Top 100 and definitely wasn't the same this past weekend, spending a lot of time on the bench in foul trouble.

Super Sophomores: Luke Babbitt of Las Vegas Prospects and Jrue Holiday of Double Pump Elite are not only two of the best 2008 recruits on the West Coast, but in the country. Both sophomores were extremely impressive this weekend and should find themselves ranked very highly. Holiday averaged 21.4 points per game, while Babbitt averaged 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Two for Few: Gonzaga head coach Mark Few's eye for talent could be unmatched. Few's two commitments in the Arizona Cactus Classic, Steven Gray and Austin Daye, proved themselves as future WCC and NCAA stars. Gray averaged 23.5 points per game and Daye scored 14.1 points with 5.1 boards. Daye has incredible upside and proved it in the championship game, scoring 20 points.

Talented Points: Kamyron Brown of SoCal Razorbacks, Brandon Jennings and Jai Lucas were the only three players in the Arizona Cactus Classic's top Top 50 scorers with over 20 assists. Brown added 22 assists to his 18.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, making him one of the best all-around players of the tournament.

Welcome Home: Three Arizona commitments were at the Cactus Classic, but only two played. While Jerryd Bayless was in Tucson for an unofficial visit, EBO/EA Sports small forward Jamelle Horne and SCA center Alex Jacobson competed in their future home. Horne averaged 18 points and seven rebounds a game, while Jacobson averaged 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. If you take away the game that Horne played only a few minutes due to injury, he averaged 21.5 points and eight rebounds a game.

0 for Two-son: Tucson had two teams competing in the Arizona Cactus Classic in Sporting Chance and Catalina Foothills. Both teams came away empty handed, losing four games each. Sporting Chance came closest to victory, losing to the San Diego Colts, 57-49.

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