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April 28, 2008

King James top performers

MORE: King James champions crowned | King James Saturday stars | Rivals.com Hoops Tour

The King James Shooting Stars Classic helped close out the evaluation period strong last weekend. Rivals.com spent three days in several gyms in the Akron, Ohio area to take in as much basketball as possible.

Our own Justin Young breaks down the top class of 2009 performers he saw at the event.

King James Top Performers
D.J. Richardson, SG, Illinois Warriors
There might not be a guard in the country that has made the incline over the last three weeks like the future Illinois guard. Richardson and his Warriors teammates quietly went 2-1 in pool play at the Boo Williams event to start the month and were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs. In Arkansas, the tables turned and the team lost in overtime in the championship game to Team Breakdown.

Last weekend in Akron, Richardson capped off a big April with another strong weekend before losing in overtime to the D.C. Assault team. Richardson was the best scorer in the 17 and under division that we saw all weekend.

His baseline floater is a favorite go-to move and he scored with it time and time again. He showed all the facets of his offensive game at the King James, scoring with his go-to but also showed his touch from the wing. Richardson's spring production has been strong and he clearly understands the value of consistency.

Zeke Marshall, C, Pittsburgh Storm
The second impression of the near 7-footer was much better the first. Marshall had some trouble with Rakeem Buckles on Friday night because he was pulled away from the paint. That's an area where he's not at his best.

When he plays in the middle, he's a dangerous prospect. He proved that on Saturday. Marshall went to work against Lou Will Elite, blocking shot after shot and changing the way the opposition attacked the basket. When Lou Will went to the rim at the end of the game, Marshall came up with four big blocks to help seal the victory.

The question mark with Marshall was his offense coming into the spring evaluation period. He answered that with several nifty moves to the rim, scored over a smaller frontline with few troubles and caught everything that came his way. Strength is still a necessity with him but as far as being a pure prospect, Marshall clearly fits the bill as one of the most intriguing big men in the nation.

Alex Oriakhi, PF, BABC
A championship trophy was a nice carry-on piece of luggage for Oriakhi and his teammates on Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-8 banger did what he does so well make his presence felt inside, crashed the boards and was the team's enforcer when enforcing was needed.

The future Connecticut big man has enjoyed a strong spring, shining at the Boo Williams Invitational and now with a title under his belt at the King James event. In the title game, Oriakhi missed just one shot en route to a double-double.

Ever-steady, Oriakhi is putting together a nice start to his final go round on the AAU circuit. The major tournament title was a great way to close out the spring for the four-star prospect.

Rakeem Buckles, PF, Florida Rams
There seemed to be a little more pep in his step in Akron last weekend. The long and wiry forward seemed a little more comfortable in his own skin on the AAU circuit than he did during the high school season.

The Louisville-bound forward was a match-up problem on the wing. Buckles, a 6-foot-8 forward, pulled the bigger players out of the paint and attacked the rim with the dribble. Against the smaller wings, he bodied up and scored over the top.

He's a fluid athlete that consistently gains more and more confidence. Buckles lets his play do the talking and all of the talent that he possesses is starting to come out every time he steps onto the floor. The summer is primed for bigger and better things, too. That's why he's so interesting as a player.

Brandon Paul, SG, Team NLP
Illinois landed the 6-foot-3 guard early because they loved his scoring touch and athleticism. That was clearly on display over the weekend. He enjoyed a strong weekend of play thanks in large part to his team's overall fundamentals and unselfishness.

Paul did most of his work at the rim as a slasher and his first step allowed him to get to the basket with little trouble. His perimeter touch didn't get a chance to be seen only because of his success with slashing.

MORE: King James champions crowned | King James Saturday stars | Rivals.com Hoops Tour

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