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May 23, 2007

Cactus Classic top performers

Pts. Reb. Assts. Steals Blocks
Player Avg.
1. Brandon Jennings 28.4
2. Steve Tchiengang 24.4
3. Peyton Siva 24.0
4. Nick Markovich 23.0
5. Isaiah Thomas 21.8
6. Jordan Hamilton 20.6
7. Aaron Fuller 19.3
7. Demar DeRozan 19.3
7. Hollis Thompson 19.3
10. Luke Babbitt 18.8
Point guard Kemba Walker led the New York Gauchos to the title of the Cactus Classic last weekend and earned the tournament's MVP award in the process.

Demar DeRozan suffered a thigh bruise and played only a couple minutes in two consecutive games in which he went scoreless. But when he played, he was fantastic.

Jrue Holiday's steady play only further established him as the top guard in the class of 2008. He is a threat to become the No. 1 overall prospect in the class.

After a lackluster Kingwood Classic in front of the eye's of Rivals.com, Steve Tchiengang took it up another notch at the Cactus Classic.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer takes a closer look at each of these players and the rest of the 2008 top performers from the event.

Cactus Classic top performers
Demar DeRozan, SG, Compton (Calif.)

Cactus Classic stats: 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 steals per game, 58.8 field-goal percentage and 41.7 3-point percentage

For starters, DeRozan's averages took a hit because he suffered a thigh bruise and played only a couple minutes in two consecutive games in which he went scoreless. But when DeRozan played, he was simply fantastic.

His "MO" throughout the event was a great combination of pure shooting and over-the-top athleticism. His hop-back jumper off a between-the-legs dribble was unstoppable, and he also worked his way to the rim for some big-time finishes.

Perhaps most impressive concerning his development as a player were his two turnaround jumpers off mid-range post ups in the championship game. There is no doubt that DeRozan will be an elite offensive player, and there is no reason he shouldn't become an elite all-around player with improved play on the defensive end.

Jrue Holiday, PG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall

Cactus Classic stats: 16.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals per game, 57.4 field-goal percentage and 41.2 3-point percentage

Holiday's Pump N Run squad was blown out by the eventual champions (the Gauchos) in bracket play, but Holiday was extremely good when we watched him. His numbers are the strongest of any player across the board.

Without regular point guard Jerime Anderson on hand, Holiday controlled the ball more than normal and did a nice job distributing the ball. He also displayed his defensive prowess against Belmont Shores by neutralizing Brandon Jennings and then switching over to contain a hot Demar DeRozan.

Holiday also scored the ball, primarily on left-handed finishes at the basket and deep jumpers. His steady play only further established him as the top guard in the class. He is a threat to become the No. 1 overall prospect in the class.

Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy

Cactus Classic stats: 28.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 50.9 field-goal percentage, 25.0 3-point percentage

Belmont Shores picked up a ringer in Brandon Jennings, and the electrifying point guard put up huge numbers on his future home court.

Jennings was almost unstoppable as a scorer. He hit the occasional 3-pointer, but more times than not scored his points around the rim in transition and on slashing drives. But what stood out the most about Jennings' game was his work on the boards, especially offensively. When struggling to score in the championship game, Jennings went to work on the low post and used his exceptional leaping ability to score off offensive rebounds.

A terrific talent, Jennings has the ability to move up in the rankings if he develops a desire to defend and lead his team as a distributor of the basketball. Becoming a Tony Parker-type player should be his aspiration.

Kemba Walker, PG, New York Rice

Cactus Classic stats: 15.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 56 field-goal percentage, 16.7 3-point percentage

Figuring out who the best guard on the New York Gauchos was one of the goals of this tournament, and Kemba Walker proved his worth as the best on his team.

Physical and competitive, Walker did everything for his team except consistently knock down the deep ball. He did, however, consistently get into the lane and finish an extremely high percentage of shots. Walker might not have the leaping ability of a Brandon Jennings, but he does have the strength to finish plays through contact.

Walker was also special defensively. He can both pressure the ball and keep it out of the lane. His defensive rebounding was also critical for the undersized Gauchos.

Steve Tchiengang, PF, Houston Cypress Community Christian

Cactus Classic stats: 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 52.9 field-goal percentage, 39.3 3-point percentage

After a lackluster Kingwood Classic in front of the eye's of Rivals.com, Steve Tchiengang took it up another notch at the Cactus Classic.

As the second leading scorer in the event behind Brandon Jennings, Tchiengang scored at all three levels for the T-Mac All Stars. He shot a respectable percentage from the arc on a high volume of attempts (16 of 41), and also scored on his power game around the basket. He sprinkled in a few mid-range attempts as well.

Showing a multidimensional nature to his game, Tchiengang is made a strong argument to move back toward the top 50 in the rankings.

Luke Babbitt, SF, Reno (Nev.) Galena

Cactus Classic stats: 18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 59.2 field-goal percentage, 33.3 3-point percentage

Ohio State commitment Luke Babbitt dispelled any concerns that he was turning into primarily a deep, standstill shooter. Babbitt played with energy and athleticism while scoring a large amount of his buckets in the mid-range.

There is no doubt that Babbitt's ability to stretch the defense with his deep shooting range is one of his best assets. However, at the Cactus Classic he put the ball on the floor and created space for his smooth jumper.

Babbitt also did his usual work around the rim, grinding out rebounds and working his way to the free-throw line. The big challenge now for Babbitt is to improve his work on the defensive end and become more of a defensive presence.



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