LENOIR, N.C.-- In the fourth annual Battle of the Blue Ridge, matching two national prep basketball powers, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., and locally-based Patterson School Prep, each won a hard-fought 20 minutes segment. After trailing for 12 minutes in the first segment, Patterson's size and depth appeared to wear down Oak Hill in route to a 52-38 victory. Lebanon native, Ahmad Ibrahim, 6-foot-6 G/F from the Class of 2011, led Patterson with 10 points, and low-post strongman, Rashanti Harris, a Georgia State commit, had nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. PG Vincent Council played a strong floor game for Patterson, scoring six points and giving out eight assists.
The top performers for Oak Hill were PG Lamont "MoMo" Jones, a New York City product, with 15 points, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers; and massive 6-9, 325-pound center, Keith "Tiny" Gallon of Huffman, Texas, with 10 points, and 7 rebounds.
The second segment was an absolute thriller. After regrouping at intermission, Oak Hill's perimeter players became much more productive, and coach Steve Smith's team began playing at their customary high level. The Warriors raced out to an early lead, and were ahead 41-31 with four minutes remaining. However, coach Chris Chaney's Patterson Bulldogs went on a run, and a 3-pointer by Vincent Council with 3 seconds on the clock tied the score at 46-46. Then, came the play of the night, and one to remember. Gallon hurled a half court pass to G/F Bryon Allen (Class of 2010), who drilled a 40-footer and was fouled with one second left. Allen hit his free throw to complete an unbelievable four-point play and give Oak Hill a 50-46 win. Allen finished with 15 points, Lamont Jones had 14 points, and highly ranked 2010 player, 6-5 G/F Doron Lamb had 13 points for Oak Hill. Pittsburgh, Pa., resident, DeAndre Kane, a 6-4 2G doing a postgraduate year, had 11 points for Patterson.
The third period was 20 minutes running clock, and was played primarily by the reserves for each team. Patterson School, led by high-flying senior wing Isaiah Nunn (Peoria, Ill.) with nine points, beat Oak Hill 23-19. Sharpshooting guard Jordan Gallagher (Chapel Hill, N.C.) had nine points for Oak Hill.
Battle of the Blue Ridge Notes:
• Oak Hill Academy and Patterson School Prep have developed a strong rivalry. Both teams played hard and with much intensity at both ends of the court. Patterson School has the advantage of having older players, including seven post-graduates, and a much deeper roster. Coach Chris Chaney has 25 players on his Patterson team, and he played 17 in the scrimmages. Plus, his team had already played two earlier games. Oak Hill Academy is a true high school team, and follows the player age and eligibility rules of the National Federation of High Schools. Patterson's maturity and numbers advantage became apparent in the later stages of the games, as Oak Hill's players appeared to physically wear down.
• The most impressive player in the scrimmage was Oak Hill's 6-0 PG Lamont "MoMo" Jones, who last year played with current Memphis freshman, Tyreke Evans, at American Christian School (Aston, Pa.). After that school closed, Jones was planning to enroll at Rice High School in New York City. However, when Oklahoma commit, Tommy Mason-Griffin, backed out on his earlier decision to attend Oak Hill, and stayed for his senior year at Madison (Houston), Jones quickly jumped at the opportunity to join Oak Hill. He is not jet-quick -- as Brandon Jennings, Oak Hill's point guard for the past two years, was. But, he is strong, confident, and a better shooter than Jennings. Jones led the Warriors in scoring with a combined 29 points and had eight assists. He made 4 of 7 3-point attempts, and was 8-for-8 at the free throw line. He has that Big Apple toughness, plays aggressive defense. Although he is primarily a scoring lead guard, he made some outstanding passes, and was a team player last night. Syracuse could be the school to beat in his recruitment, with Virginia Tech, Charlotte, Seton Hall, Cincinnati and others still involved.
• The most impressive player for Patterson School was consumate court warrior and rebounding machine, Rashanti Harris. Coach Rod Barnes and his Georgia State program, quite frankly, may have pulled of the biggest recruiting coup of this year in getting an early commitment from Harris. Coach Barnes had recruited Harris, a resident of Columbus, Miss., when he was the head coach at Ole Miss. Last night, Harris had 16 combined points, and led all rebounders with 21. He is relentless attacking the glass, and one of the most physical players in the nation. I rate him as the top post-graduate or fifth year post player in the U.S.
• One of the most all-around talented players was Patterson's 6-8 Sr. P/WF Araslan Kazemi, a native of Iran. Kazemi has the ability to score from inside or out, has excellent ballhandling and passing skills, and was very effective on the boards.He is a slasher with impressive dribble-drive moves to the hoop. He has a superb feel for the game and is a good offensive rebounder. On hand to watch Kazemi last night were Maryland, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Memphis, and others.
• After spending much of his high school years getting the ball to Lance Stephenson Abraham Lincoln (New York) 6-0 PG Vincent Council is a true pass-first lead guard, and an outstanding playmaker. He had 15 assists in the two periods last night, along with 11 points. Council plays under control, is a tenacious on-ball defender, and an accurate shooter when left open. He makes good decisions, and his matchups with Jones were entertaining. Council, a post-grad, came to Patterson to bolster his academics. He will be a solid floor-leader for some Division I program.
• Coach Smith has an amazing 718-44 record, including seven national championships in his 24 years at Oak Hill Academy. To contend for an eighth national title in this his 25th year, Smith must get more consistent play and productivity from his marquee big man, Keith Gallon. As an example, Gallon powered for 10 points and 9 rebounds in the first period of Tuesday's scrimmage. However, he did not score in the second period. He still is overweight, and not in good playing condition. He wore down during the night. And, when fatigued, he has a tendency to bring the ball down in the post, and to lose it or get tied up. Oak Hill does not appear to have many points producers in its front court, and Gallon must get himself in shape, or this could prove to be a difficult year for the Warriors.
• The top 2011 player was Patterson's multi-skilled Ahmad Ibrahim. He can shoot from outside and has advanced basketball skills. He can nail a long range set shot, or come off screens for his accurate midrange jumpers. Ibrahim had 15 total points in the two periods, and showed the potential to become a major college prospect during the next three years.
• One of the big disappointments of the night was the play of recent transfer to Patterson, Washington commit, 6-8 PF Clarence Trent (Gig Harbor, Wash.). This fifth-year player left Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep when that program decided to have a true high school basketball program -- meaning it would not play post-grads. Trent has only been at Patterson for about two weeks, and, obviously, he is still adjusting to his new team. However, Trent is at his best as a strong, athletically gifted power forward. Tuesday, he was taking too many 3-point shots (he was 2-for-9), and not playing his inside power game. If he decides to team up in the paint with Harris, Chaney will have a dynamite duo of physical post operatives.
• The best perimeter shooter for Patterson School was DeAndre Kane, a 6-4 post-grad 2G. According to Chaney, Kane has made a "soft commitment" to Pittsburgh, the school that recommended him to Patterson. Kane had earlier played at Schenley High (Pittsburgh) with Pitt player DeJuan Blair. However, he told me last night that he is not committed to Pittsburgh, and is considering other colleges, if, he qualifies academically. So, stay tuned.
• Highly rated 2010 prospect, 6-5 2G Doron Lamb of Oak Hill Academy played in the second period like the Doron Lamb that was so impressive this past spring and summer. He did not scratch in the first period, but had 13 points helping Oak Hill build their lead in the second. Lamb displayed his athleticism, quick slashing abilities, and the versatility that has drawn the interest of many major colleges, including Connecticut, Wake Forest, Memphis, Virginia Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Seton Hall, Syracuse, St. John's, Maryland, Marquette, et. al.
• Six-foot-11 C/F Bye Moussa Keita is one of the most promising bigs in the Class of 2010. He is another who must score inside for Oak Hill to be successful this season. Last night, Keita was out-muscled in the paint, but still got his share of rebounds and blocked shots. However, he only scored a total of four points in all three segments. Nonetheless, a number of college coaches told me that they really like his potential and upside. He definitely needs to get stronger.
• Two key players for Oak Hill are multi-talented 2010 prospects Pe'Shon Howard (a 6-2 combo guard) and Bryon Allen (a 6-3 wing). Both can play multiple positions, including point guard, and are essential in Smith's three-guard alignment. Howard was an significant player on the nation's top summer team, Team Breakdown (Fla.), for which he started alongside Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight. Allen, a former DeMatha player, played significant minutes for Oak Hill last season. His game winning four-point play is his high mark to date at Oak Hill.
• This competitive, entertaining event was attended by 26 college coaches, including Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz, and two of his assistants. Also, in the building were Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg, and, assistant coaches Orlando Antigua of Memphis; Mike Muse of Wake Forest; Dermon Player of Seton Hall; Chuck Driesell of Maryland; Kevin Mouton of Rice; Mike Boynton of South Carolina; Matt McKillop and Jim Fox of Davidson; Darren Tillis of Marshall; Ken McDonald of Western Kentucky, and others.
Bob Gibbons is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Scouts Inc., the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball.