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July 28, 2012

Randle breaks out of slump with big day

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The AAU National Championships and the Super Showcase merged Saturday to become one big event, with all the teams vying for the title of being the AAU National Champions. Several high level teams and prospects remain in the hunt for the title, leading to some interesting contests in Orlando. The main attraction was the heavyweight matchup for Texas bragging rights as the Houston Defenders took down the Texas Titans in an afternoon meeting.

Back on track

After a performance earlier in the week on national TV that could be classified as just average, and held down by some nagging injuries suffered from extended play over the grueling July schedule, five-star forward Julius Randle was back on his game against the Houston Defenders with a team-high 26 points in the loss. The criticism of Randle earlier in the week was that he spent too much time on the perimeter trying to handle the ball, instead of using his superior strength to dominate the interior. Randle must have taken the critics words to heart because he was excellent in the paint on Saturday, where he scored the majority of the points around the basket.

By waiting for his chances to face up and attack the basket, but first getting position in the paint by using his physicality, Randle was able to score at will with his skilled barrage of spin moves and hook shots. With his power and extra effort Randle was all over the glass from start to finish, and that extra effort led to him spending a lot of time at the foul line. Randle still showed that he can handle the ball in the full-court, but he didn't force the issue. That type of play from the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2013 Rivals150 is exactly what the coaches from Kansas, Baylor, North Carolina and others wanted to see in attending the game.

Cut above the rest

So far in this event five-star point guard Andrew Harrison hasn't had to do much scoring for his team to win. Instead he has focused mostly on being a great defender and distributor as his Houston Defenders team raced out to an undefeated three-day run. On Saturday afternoon, however, the offense began to focus on Andrew putting the ball in the bucket; and that's precisely what he did in scoring a team-high 20 points in a win over the Texas Titans.

The No. 3 overall prospect in the 2013 Rivals150, Harrison was feeling his jumper off the dribble, hitting several in pick-and-roll situations where he showed a maturity well beyond his years in executing a critical collegiate offensive set. Also attacking the rim in transition, often after creating a turnover with his defense, Harrison showed off athleticism and a nice pace to his drives; not going too fast to get out of control but still moving quickly enough that shotblockers could not catch him from behind.

North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor and Maryland watched Andrew and his twin brother, Aaron Harrison. Like Andrew, Aaron is also ranked among the top five prospects overall in his class. In the win, Aaron chipped in 15 points on a combination of mid-range pull-up jumpers off the crossover and some long-range, spot-up shots.

Better and better

On Friday, the play of 2014 four-star center Trayvon Reed was more about potential then production. On Saturday, he turned his play up another level in a dominant performance for his Atlanta Xpress team in a loss to Each-1-Teach-1. Playing in front of staff members from Ohio State, North Carolina, SMU, Stanford, Cincinnati, VCU, USF, Villanova and Maryland, Reed excelled on the offensive end; finishing several plays well above the rim with powerful dunks. The strategy of the Xpress is often just for the guards to penetrate into the lane and throw it up to Reed for a dunk once the big men help off of him; that strategy paid dividends early for the team as Reed threw down two dunks, then scored several more times on offensive rebounding shots.

Like Friday, Reed also was good as a shot-blocker and floor runner who has great athleticism for a 7-foot-1 rising junior. He might be skinny for his size, but the more we watch him the more we like his ability to get physical. Finally, Reed really showed improvement in his mental approach Saturday; really getting involved in the game emotionally as a competitor. Ranked the No. 3 center in the Rivals rankings for the 2014 class, Reed still has plenty of room to shoot up the overall rankings with continued improvement.

Quick hitters

So far this July, nothing has slowed down four-star small forward Theo Pinson. On Saturday even a slight injury couldn't prevent the 6-foot-5 North Carolina native from scoring. A good athlete that can use his size and handle to create space to free up for a mid-range jumper, Pinson scored 15 points in limited minutes for his Chris Paul All-Stars team in the win over All-Ohio Red. Pinson is an improving shooter that can score from all three levels in the half court, or get buckets in transition. Coaches from Ohio State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt checked out Pinson's performance on Saturday night.

Improving guard Kobe Eubanks had another big day on Saturday. After doing most of his damage earlier in the tournament attacking the basket, the 6-foot-5 scorer from Florida's Each 1 Teach 1 found his shooting stroke in an afternoon win over the Atlanta Xpress. Eubanks knocked down four three-pointers, including three straight in the fourth quarter to bust the margin wide open in E1T1's favor. Coaches from Florida, Cincinnati, Florida State, Kansas, Ohio State, and Miami were among those checking out Eubanks.

E1T1 has a roster full of future college talent, leading to a wide following among college coaches. One player that really impressed on Saturday was 6-foot-5 small forward Boubacar Moungoro, a 2014 prospect from Orlando. Moungoro is a high level athlete that can really get off the floor in transition, and affects the game with his athleticism on both ends of the floor. A very good defender, Moungoro anticipated several passes on Saturday, stealing the ball and taking it downcourt for a monster dunk. Look for Moungoro to become a priority target for Southeastern mid-majors and even some high-majors.

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