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May 31, 2006

Surprises of the Tournament of Champions

Finding surprises in the rising senior class gets harder to do as we get into summer, but the Tournament of Champions yielded a handful of prospects that did deliver surprising performances.

Rivals.com's Justin Young breaks down the five biggest surprises he saw at the TOC.

Johnny Thomas, Greensboro (N.C.) Greensboro Day
Position: Small forward
Height: 6-foot-5
AAU Team: North Carolina Gaters
No one made a bigger splash over the weekend than the muscular 6-foot-5 wing from Greensboro (N.C.) Day High School. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound rising senior had his best game against one of the most talented teams in the country, the Worldwide Renegades, and helped his squad pick up a big win. Thomas hit a couple of threes, worked hard for scores and boards against the big Worldwide frontline and just out hustled the other nine players on the floor.

Over the course of the weekend, Thomas averaged 15.3 points a game. He does his best work around the cup where he throws his chiseled frame around against bigger players.

Locals questioned his ability to play on the wing and shoot the ball because he plays the post for his high school team. He answered those questions with at least two three-pointers a game.

Thomas has laid low under the national radar but after breaking out in his home state, his play at the TOC will certainly place his name on the must-see list for a number of high-majors.

Demarquis Bost, Concord (N.C.)
Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-foot-2
AAU Team: Carolina Raptors
After winning a championship in the 16 and under division, Bost earned the respect of the onlookers. The 6-foot-2 guard was named the official Most Outstanding Player after averaging 20.8 points a game over the six game run to the title.

Bost is at his best when he is blowing by defenders with his jet quickness to the basket. Athletically, he'll surprise you. Bost doesn't boast a body that puts fear into defenders but as soon as the ball tips, he's off and running. He created shots for himself off the dribble and drew fouls when he went hard to the basket.

A year young for the class of 2007, there is even talk about him spending a year at a prep school to fully develop his skills. Whatever the case, Bost played himself onto the high-major radar over the weekend and has the hardware to prove his play.

Devron Washington, Springfield (Mass.) Science Tech
Position: Power forward
Height: 6-foot-7
AAU Team: Baltimore Stars
For those that went to see the Baltimore Stars, featuring Maryland commitments Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory, the treat was watching Washington in action. The 6-foot-7 forward showed flashes of why the high-majors will watch closely this summer.

Washington is a long and muscular forward that extended his offense to the perimeter but battled down low for rebounds and blocked shots.

In an ever depleting big man talent pool, players like Washington will be a hot commodity as long as they remain uncommitted. He'll spend a year at Science Tech in Springfield, Mass., before heading off to college.

Josh Martin, Philadelphia Prep Charter
Position: Point guard
Height: 6-foot-2
AAU Team: Team Philly
Philly guards are tough, right? Martin certainly is. His nickname is 'Scrap' and it is fitting. Martin is a big guard that has study the book of Philly guards and uses what he has learned in his game.

On opening night, Martin connected on three straight three-pointers and locked down the opposition to claim a big victory.

Martin is big, strong, tough and one heck of a defender. The question for him is what level can he be the best college basketball player he can be? Surprisingly, the Atlantic 10 schools, minus LaSalle, have yet to offer. That should change come August. In fact, don't be surprised to see a couple of Big East programs flirt a little longer if he can build on his TOC showing.

Rashad Bishop, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Benedict's
Position: Small forward
Height: 6-foot-6
AAU Team: Playaz
The Playaz always have star power but every once in a while, the team will have a nice surprise on the roster. At the TOC, Bishop was that player. The 6-foot-6 wing was a staple in every play for the Playaz. He's a solid athlete that runs the floor, knocks down a mid range jumper here and there and works it down low with a soft touch.

The lefty led his prospect laden team with 16.2 points a game en route to the title game. Not a flashy player, but a perfect guy to blend with high-level athletes and scorers. Bishop will spend a prep year at St. Benedict's. Mix that with a solid summer, he could play himself from the mid-major level to the high-major group.

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