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January 16, 2007

Hoophall Classic top performers

A number of players turned in big-time performances at the recent Hoophall Classic.

Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer examines his picks for the five top performers from last week's action in Springfield, Mass.

Antonio Jardine, SG, Philadelphia (S.C.) Neumann-Goretti
Hoophall Classic stats: 36 points on 14-of-33 shooting, 3-of-7 from 3-point range, 5-for-8 from the line, six rebounds, three steals, six assists, five turnovers in 34 minutes against DeMatha (Md.)

Yes, Jardine missed some shots. However, his team needed him to take a high volume of shots. Rick Jackson couldn't get it going on the inside. Tony Chenault played well, but is not a big scorer at this point in his career. The wings of Neumann-Goretti were making hay on the defensive end.

Jardine took up the scoring burden and hit tough shots and big shots. His short to mid-range floaters are a strength, and he is always a threat to pop a 3-pointer off the dribble. He knows what to do with a ball screen, which Jim Beoheim will gladly welcome next year at Syracuse.

Jardine also did more than score. He rebounded well and had an impressive assist/turnover ratio considering the tough plays he was making with the ball. More than anything, he gave his team the mental toughness and confidence to win a big ballgame.

Malcolm Delaney, PG, Baltimore (Md.) Towson Catholic
Hoophall Classic stats: 32 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 7-for-9 from 3-point range, 5-for-7 from the line, for rebounds, seven assists, three turnovers in 30 minutes against St. Benedict's (N.J.)

Just like any great guard who can both shoot the ball and handle it, Delaney withstood the onslaught of defensive pressure from St. Benedict's guards. Gradually he wore them down and worked himself into open spaces. When Delaney found that space, he made St. Benedict's pay.

He got a lot of support from Donte Green - who scored 23 points and hauled down 13 rebounds - but it always seemed like Delaney was the primary guy keeping his squad in the game. Delaney hit the biggest shots down the stretch to give his team a chance to win.

Although he is not a physical player, Delaney plays with a lot of fiber and seems to thrive at making the tough, contested 3-point shot.

Chris Wright, SG, Washington (D.C.) St. John's College
Hoophall Classic stats: 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting, 3-for-5 from 3-point range, 8-of-11 from the line, five rebounds, two steals, one block, five assists in 32 minutes against St. Andrew's (R.I.)

Wright has been in a groove offensively, and the compact combo guard kept that flow going against St. Andrew's. Right from the start, he made a statement. He made a 35-footer to beat the shot clock on the first possession of the game. Besides stroking the deep ball, he is also consistently scoring in the mid-rang. He proved he can score off the dribble, on fadeaway jumpers and off back-to-the-basket post moves.

Wright was also active in the other parts of the game other than scoring. Similar to Jardine, he simply gives his team the confidence that it can win a tough ballgame. Any time you have a lead guard who can put up 30-plus points, dish out five assists and not commit a turnover, you can win a ballgame.

Rakim Sanders, SF, Barrington (R.I.) St. Andrews
Hoophall Classic stats: 36 points on 13-of-26 shooting, 7-for-15 from 3-point range, 3-of-5 from the line, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks, one assist, three turnovers in 31 minutes against St. John 's College (D.C.)

Sanders, who has not been overly impressive in the past when we've seen him play, came out of the locker room gunning. His willingness to try and keep up with Chris Wright set a competitive tone for his team. Ever hunting for his shot, Sanders did enough inside the arc to open up space for the 3-pointers he was making.

Sanders also was a stabilizing force on the defensive boards. Hopefully it wasn't just the energy of making a bunch of 3-pointers that caused him to compete on both ends of the court. If Sanders plays with this type of competitive spirit on a consistent basis, he can help Boston College even when he is not hitting his shots.

Gani Lawal, PF, Norcross (Ga.)
Hoophall Classic stats: 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting, 2-for-4 from the line, eight rebounds, one steal, five blocks, five turnovers in 31 minutes against Mount Vernon (N.Y.)

More important than Lawal's above-average numbers was his physical domination in the game. He got his undersized opponent Kevin Jones in early foul trouble. His defense gave everyone fits, and he outran all the big men on the court and did chin-ups on the rim.

Lawal is filling out into a nice big man with good lower body strength and an ability to bury his man when posting up down low. Along with his understanding of positioning, his nose for the ball and relentless motor puts continual pressure on his opponent.

To his credit, Lawal understands his limitations offensively and plays to his strengths. Learning to score over his right shoulder is important for him to give Georgia Tech the pop they need out of him.

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