LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Twenty-four Gold Division and 120 Silver Division teams began pool play in opening day competition at the 17-Under Super Showcase at the Disney Wide World of Sports. This tournament will conclude with the championship games Sunday (Sunday, 7:25 p.m., ESPNU).
The top individual performer Thursday was ESPN No. 2-rated 2009 player, 6-6 G/F Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City), who scored 28 and 30 points in Athlete's First team's two victories. Henry was almost "Jordanesque" in his offensive performance, scoring in every conceivable way, including regaining his 3-point touch to knock down nine trifectas.
The most dominating player was 6-11 C DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala., LeFlore). The top 10 prospect and UAB commit had 16 points, 20 rebounds and 11 blocks to power the Birmingham Storm to a 66-62 victory over the Charlotte Royals. When he comes to play and maintains his focus, Cousins is, unquestionably, the best post player in the Class of 2009.
In the closest contest, the Georgia Stars, led by 6-3 2G Adrian Coleman (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) with 16 points, Georgia Tech-bound, 6-8 P/WF Kammeon Holsey (Sparta, Ga./Hancock Central) with 15 points and Tennessee commit, 6-8 PF Kenny Hall (Stone Mountain, Ga./Redan) with 12 points and 9 rebounds barely held on to defeat Memphis YOMCA 59-58. The top player for Memphis was high-scoring, diminutive 2010 combo guard Chris Jones (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose). YOMCA was missing their primary player 6-4 combo guard Leslie McDonald (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian); the North Carolina commit is scheduled to play Friday.
An upset of note was No. 4 seed The Family (Detroit) knocking off the No. 1 seed in Pool C, the Rising Stars J.G. (Illinois) 63-58. Blossoming 2011 prospect, 6-2 2G Carlton Brundage (Southfield, Mich.) paced The Family with 17 points, and Miami (Fla.) commitment, 6-9 C/F Donnavan Kirk (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit County Day) added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rising Stars trailed 59-58 with 25 seconds left when 6-7 2010 WF Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) made two free throws. After a missed free throw by The Family, 6-3 2G Marcus Jordan (Chicago/Whitney Young) had a chance to give Rising Stars the lead with 15 seconds remaining. Jordan tried to make one of his trademark drives to the hoop but was tied up by Kirk. The possession went to The Family, who made their subsequent free throws to seal the win. Jordan led Rising Stars with 18 points, and Richmond scored 14 points.
One of the best all-around players in this event is consistently effective 6-6 WF Rodney Williams (New Hope, Minn./Robbinsdale Cooper). Williams had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists for his Howard Pulley team in their 70-58 victory over Martin Brothers (Iowa). Williams told ESPN his top schools now are: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Miami (Fla.), Bradley, Iowa and Iowa State.
6-3 combo guard Dion Waiters (South Kent, Conn.), a Syracuse 2010 commitment, played a masterful game for Team Final, zipping on-target passes to open teammates and finishing with 18 points and 8 assists in a 77-70 win over a very good Arkansas Wings Gold team. Waiters is very advanced for a rising junior and should become an outstanding future lead guard for the Orange.
One of the most underrated players was 6-1 PG A.J. Walton (Little Rock, Ark./Hall). Walton has an extra gear and can rocket past defenders. He is an effective perimeter shooter, an outstanding playmaker and a tenacious defensive player. Walton scored 20 points and had 7 assists against Team Final. His list of colleges includes; Arkansas, Baylor, Mississippi, Marquette, Colorado and Kansas State.
Another Arkansas Wings Gold player of note is 6-5, 215-pound monster athlete Alandise Harris (Little Rock, Ark., Central), who could make a push for the ESPN Super 60 for the Class of 2010. It is plain to see how the Arkansas Wings won the championship at the Great American Shootout in July.
One of the teams that surprised us with their sub-par play was All-Ohio Force, the team that won the adidas It Takes 5ive Classic. They performed at a much lower level here, losing to Nike Team Florida 52-33. 6-10 Matt Kavanaugh (Centerville, Ohio), a Dayton commit and the MVP of the adidas event, was held to just four points. Gifted 2010 prospect, 6-8 P/WF Okaro White (Clearwater, Fla.) was impressive for Team Florida with 17 points.
Still another 2010 prospect with loads of ability and potential is 6-2 combo guard Jalen Steele (Knoxville, Tenn./Fulton). Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl was here to watch him play. Steele had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
ESPNU will televise games Saturday and Sunday. At 5:30 p.m. Boo Williams of Virginia, with Deshawn Painter, Kendall Marshall and Andre Dawkins, will take on BABC, with Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Phil Pressey. Next Athlete's First, with Xavier Henry, Daniel Orton and Kyle Hardrick, will battle Rising Stars, J.G., featuring Marcus Jordan, Jack Cooley and Jereme Richmond.
Sunday's telecast begins with the 5:30 p.m. game between Team Breakdown (Fla.), with Kenny Boynton, Brandon Knight and Keith Clanton, going against Houston Hoops, led by Tommy Mason-Griffin, Keith "Tiny" Gallon and Jamal Fenton. The championship game of the 17-U Super Showcase follows.
Bob Gibbons is a recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.