You can learn a lot about an athlete when given the opportunity to watch them go up against other elite teams with outstanding players. The 2010 Spalding Hoophall Classic provided the environment to see some of the top teams and top players go head-to-head over the course of the weekend. It was a great opportunity to see about 15 potential McDonald's All-Americans display their talent with the cream definitely rising to the top.
Here is a look at some of the things we both learned or confirmed during our long weekend in the birthplace of basketball:
1. Tobias Harris may be better than advertised
If one of the marks of a great player is the ability to keep improving, the Volunteer's have themselves a gem. Already considered a top-10 talent, Tobias Harris (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hallow Hills West) continues to expand his game to new levels. With his intelligent play and overall skill level, Harris displayed a college-ready game that should impact the Tennessee program from Day 1. Questions about his body-type or athleticism should be put to bed; he showed the ability to guard multiple positions and dominated the boards.
2. Jared Sullinger leads his team to victories in any way possible
Northland High School learned that its supporting cast has the stuff to defeat a nationally-ranked opponent whether or not Jared Sullinger has a dominant offensive night. Sullinger, who is accustomed to leading his team in scoring and rebounding, was forced to find another way to lead his team to victory. With his team behind due to Oak Hill Academy's commitment to assigning two players to him the entire night, Sullinger willed his team to victory with shear intensity. He dominated the area's he could control -- he had 16 rebounds and made his free-throws with the game on the line and blocked the opponent's last shot attempt -- and was the emotional catalyst behind his team's comeback victory. I was so impressed how focused he stayed even though he did not score.
3. The talent North border is really starting to be a factor on the recruiting circuit
As more Canadian-born players prove they can achieve at the high-major level, schools will begin to cross the border more often to look your talent. For the college programs that have already realized the talent level of players north of our border this is not news: The Canadian invasion is for real! Point guards Cory Joseph (Toronto/Findlay Prep) and Mike Kabongo (Toronto/St. Benedicts) along with 6-10 center Tristan Thompson (Toronto/Findlay Prep) were three of the more impressive players at this all-star laden showcase. Many of the country's top players have made their way to private schools in the U.S. and the migration south shows no signs of slowing.
4. Mater Dei's power is now on the perimeter
Coach Gary McKnight's Mater Dei team, playing without a true dominant big-man, is able to utilize a small, athletic team that is tough and gritty to compensate for its lack of size. With the ability to shoot the ball and spread out its opponent and attack its weaknesses, the threesome of Tyler Lamb, Gary Franklin and Keala King are as good a trio of perimeter players as there is. They dispel the West Coast stereotype of soft players who would rather play a finesse game instead of a physical one. This team is tenacious on the defensive end of the floor and uses its toughness and intelligence to wear down an opposing team. McKnight, whose win over DeMatha made him the winningest coach in California high school basketball, has coached some outstanding players throughout the years. He continues to find creative ways to put his team in position to win games.
5. Kendall Marshall needs a little help
As the best passer in the 2010 class Kendall Marshall (Dumfries, Va./Bishop O'Connell) is most effective when surrounded by outstanding players. In a game in which his supporting cast struggled to finish plays, Marshall's team was dominated by a balanced St. Benedict team 72-52. Because he is limited from behind the 3-point arc, teams are able to adjust defensively and force him to have to take on a scorer's role to keep his team in the game. He is a great fit for UNC's up-tempo system and will be surrounded by a star-studded cast that will benefit from his playmaking ability. It will be imperative that he become a consistent outside threat for the Tar Heals to fully utilize his talents.
Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.