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Juniors lead the way at Kentucky event

Benton, Kentucky -- In its 13th year of existence, Marshall County's HoopFest is one of the top high school basketball events in the nation. Formerly the Marshall County HoopFest, the event was renamed after Bill Keightley, the long time University of Kentucky basketball equipment manager who passed away earlier this year. Steve Woodward of Wazoosports.com did a terrific job assembling this three day, 17 game event. The 5,000 seat Marshall County High School gymnasium provides a tremendous atmosphere, and the games feature some of the nation's best high school teams and players.

The most exciting game of the event was Jackson Calloway's (Miss.) upset of a very talented Wheeler (Ga.) team 69-62. The Calloway backcourt of senior Julysses Nobles and sophomore Deville Smith controlled the game from start to finish combining for 52 points on 21-of-31 shooting from the field.

ESPNU Super 60 players -- the top prospects in the Class of 2010 -- dominated the event. The 2010 stars who lived up to their reputaions included PF Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland), PF Tristan Thompson (Brampton, Ontario/St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.)), SG Doron Lamb (New York/Oak Hill Academy (Va.)), PG Joe Jackson (Memphis/White Station) and SF James Bell (Orlando, Fla./Montverde Academy).

Standout Players


Jared Sullinger PF (6-8, 250)
Junior, Columbus, Ohio / Northland, Committed to Ohio State

Sullinger looked in much better shape than when I saw him late in the summer. He seemed to be more mobile and explosive. The top-ranked player in the Class of 2010 controlled the lane and, at times, played like a point forward. He helped advance the ball against pressure in late-game situations due to extreme youth at the point guard position on his team. In the lane, he scored on power drop steps and right-handed jump hooks over his left shoulder. Sullinger powered through contact to score repeatedly. He also drove from the top of the key and scored in the lane with floaters and high extension layups in traffic. Sullinger is a good interior passer and rebounder on both ends. He is good for one or two offensive put backs every game, in addition to being a threat to go coast to coast if not picked up. Sullinger's body and skills seem to have improved. He must continue to work year around to stay in tip-top shape and improve his post defense, but after this weekend his No. 1 ranking is safe.

Tristan Thompson PF (6-9, 215)
Junior, Brampton, Ontario/ St. Benedict's (NJ), Committed to Texas

The No. 3 player in the ESPNU Super 60 was as good as advertised. Thompson is a long, wiry lefty. He provides highlights in transition with his ability to rebound, go coast to coast and finish with a dunk. Thompson is an excellent ball handler for his size and has the ability to drive from the wing or high post with either hand. He can score in the post and has a nice midrange game. Inside, he likes to score over his right shoulder and on the perimeter. He uses his one- or two-dribble pull-up mostly going right. He uses his length, high elevation and excellent touch to score over defenders with ease. He also will knock down the 12-15 jumpers with time and space. Although he needs to add strength, he is a good rebounder on both ends. On defense, he could be more physical, but he does a good job of holding his ground in the post and forcing the offensive player to shoot over his long arms. He is alert enough to be a to start a fast break with his shot blocking coming from the weakside. Thompson is a big-time talent with tremendous upside.

Julysses Noble PG (6-1, 160)
Senior, Jackson, Miss/ Callaway

This quick, athletic lead guard is a terror in the open court. He attacks the rim in transition and in the half court with great confidence. Nobles finishes by flat-out beating the defense to the rim. He also scores by hanging in the air and double clutching. He has great concentration on the rim, attacking without fear. Nobles can knock down the open 3 when the defense backs away because of his ability to get into the lane. He also executes one handed-floaters and slashes in between defenders with ease. He is a big time ball handler who can draw and kick to an open shooter. In must-score situations, he can make a scoring play for himself or get a teammate a wide-open look. Nobles applies great ball pressure and has the quickness to beat the offensive player to the spot. He must add strength in order to defend taller point guards, but this young man competes and plays with high energy every second he is on the floor.

Scott McKenty PG (6-0, 160)
Senior, Marshall County, Ky.

McKenty gave the hometown crowd plenty of entertainment this weekend with his outstanding play. McKenty is a true point guard in every sense of the word. He leads his team, get's everyone involved, run the offense, handles pressure without turning the ball over, and scores when he needs to. McKenty's ball handling and passing is a thing of beauty. He has great court vision and his passes are sharp and right to the shooting pocket. He got his teammates uncontested layups or wide-open 3s the entire game. McKenty is an average athlete at best and doesn't have blazing speed or quickness he just gets's the job done with skill, heart and hustle. He competes and maintains his composure at all times. He can knock down the open 3 consistenly off the catch or dribble, and he can finish with either hand once in the lane. He has a great feel for where his teammates are, and he never passes them into trouble.


Avery Bradley SG (6-4, 180)
Senior, Tacoma, Wash. / Findlay College Prep (Nev.), Signed with Texas

Bradley is a terrific all-around guard. He can score over or around defenders in the half court. He is strong and athletic with the ability to take over the game on both ends of the floor. On offense, he attacks the rim from the wing or along the baseline from both sides of the floor. He likes to score with his one or two dribble pull-up jumper. He has great elevation with a high release and good follow through. Bradley can slash between defenders and score with an acrobatic completion. When his feet are set, he can also hit the open 3. Defensively, he plays with great energy and effort. He applies relentless on-ball pressure with his active feet and hands. He repeatedly beats the offense to the spot with his great lateral foot speed. Bradley also makes his presence felt on the offense glass. He is a competitor and plays hard at all times. Bradley must continue to work on being a consistent shooter from behind the arc, but he's a true warrior on the floor; his defense should earn him playing time right away from Texas coach Rick Barnes

Surprise Players

Shawn Williams SF (6-6, 190)
Senior, Duncanville, Texas, Signed with Texas

Williams got off to a fast start going 4-for-4 from behind the arc vs. Oak Hill, but he went cold in the second half and Duncanville fell 69-57. Williams is a very smooth wing who is long and athletic. He is a good ballhandler who can drive and slash with either hand; he finishes with great touch and body control. When his feet are set, he can knock down the 3. Williams has good elevation, release and follow through on his jumper. He can rebound on both ends and is good for one or two put backs per game. Williams excels in transition; he can get to the rim or stop and pop on a dime. He does a good job on defense by playing the passing lanes and using his ability to anticipate passes and turns them into steals. Williams must gain strength and work on getting others involved when the defense collapses. At times this weekend, he became frustrated and didn't shoot or play well. I expected him to take over when Duncanville struggled but it never happened. He even fouled out against Scott County and Duncanville needed overtime to pull out the win.

Doron Lamb SG (6-4, 190)
Junior New York /Oak Hill Academy (Va.)

This aggressive wing has a scorer's mentality and is in attack mode on every catch. Lamb is strong and physical, especially on the offensive end. Lamb is a streaky shooter from behind the arc, but he keeps the defense honest when he is set and ready to shoot on the catch. Lamb sprints the lane in transition or rebounds and looks to go coast to coast. Lamb is at his best when he attacks the rim where he is strong enough to finish in traffic. In the half court, Lamb will score on one or two dribble pull-up jumpers or on slashes through defenders. He is an underrated passer and rebounder because of his scoring, but he showed the ability to drive and kick to open teammates, pulling down a few offensive rebounds. Lamb must work to be a better on-ball defender and be more consistent from behind the arc to set up his drives. Overall, he's a very talented scorer with great confidence.

Johnnie Williams PF (6-7, 225)
Memphis / Briarcrest Christian, Signed with George Mason

Williams is a strong and physical post player who has the ability to step out and knock down jumpers to about 15 feet. He competes and plays with urgency at all times. He is a good athlete who finishes above the rim with authority. He runs the floor consistently, and in the half court, he is a low-post scoring threat. Williams can score with drops from either side of the lane and he does a great job working for post position and giving the post feeder a big target. On the left low box, Williams likes the quick turn shot. He has excellent hands and finishes drop-off passes created by guard penetration. Williams can finish through contact and he works to rebound on both ends of the floor. He made his presence felt the entire game. On defense, he is pretty good at anticipating post feeds and releasing contact to make a play on the ball. Williams must continue to develop his post package and his perimeter skills, but he has great upside and should be a contributor at George Mason right away.

James Weatherspoon SF (6-6, 205)
Junior, Columbus, Ohio / Northland, committed to Xavier

This long and super athletic lefty has improved his skill set since I saw him in July. Weatherspoon is still a work in progress, but his midrange game and slashing off the dribble are much better. Weatherspoon displayed a smooth pull-up jumper going to his right. His release and follow through looked much smoother. He also attacked the lane and used a spin move to get past his defender and finished with his right hand. In transition, he catches lobs over or around defenders on a regular basis with his head at rim level. He is a tip dunk threat on the offensive glass. Weathersppon sprints the lane and plays with great effort and energy at all times. He must continue to work on his shooting and ball handling in order to be a complete small forward. On defense, he is capable of defending positions 1-4 with his length and high-major athletic ability. He also does a great job of covering ground to contest shots. This young man has big-time upside and with his rate of improvement will be a contributor right away at Xavier.

Deville Smith PG (5-11, 160)
Sophomore, Jackson, Miss. / Callaway

Smith is a true scoring point guard who can expose the defense in a number of ways. He is tough, aggressive and competes at all times. He can score in the open court in the blink of an eye with his speed and quickness to the basket. He can knock the 3 with ease. He has deep range and great confidence. Smith can stop and pop on a dime or raise the defender with his laundry list of dribble moves. He likes to go behind his back charge directions and explode to the basket. His ball handling and passing are flawless, and he has a good feel for the game. Smith has the ability to get on a role and score in bunches. He also can draw and kick or start a penetration at will. Smith is a quick hands defender and does a great job playing passing lanes. At the end of the clock or late in the game, Smith along with backcourt teammate Julysses Nobles make winning plays. Smith must hit the weight room to help him prepare for the college level, but his skills and ability to score and handle pressure for a sophomore is a treat to watch.

Notes

• Class of 2011 point guard Myck Kabongo (Toronto, Ontario/St. Benedict's (N.J.)) is a 6-0 jet with the ball. He pushes the ball in transition. He can penetrate and kick and find open teammates for wide-open looks. He has quick hands and feet on the defensive end but must improve his outside shooting and decision making. He is a tremendous talent and a sure fire high major prospect.

• Senegal native and Class of 2010 Syracuse commit Baye Moussa Keita (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy) is raw on the offensive end of the floor, but he's a big-time defensive rebounder and shot-blocker. Keita needs to add strength, but this 6-11 center can run the floor and has great timing blocking shots both on the ball and from the weakside. This young man's best playing day's are ahead of him. Big time upside.

• North Carolina signee Leslie McDonald (Memphis/Briarcrest Christian) is a 6-5 skilled wing. He can score off the dribble or shoot the 3 off the catch in addition to finding open teammates as the defense collapses. McDonald also works on the defensive of the floor. I would have liked to see him take over late in the game vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.), but he was not shooting well and deferred to teammates Gregg Wooten and Johnnie Williams and Briarcrest pulled out the win 53-45.

• 2009 prospect SG/PG Gregg Wooten (Memphis/Briarcrest Christian) is a tough guard who attacks the rim in transition and in the half court. He is a good ball handler, but he must improve his decision making when he is at the point. He is a heavy right hand driver who can finish at the rim through contact. Wooten also will help on the glass. He made some key scoring plays down the stretch in the win vs. Homewood-Flossmoor.
Memphis White Station (TN) point guard and ESPNU Super 60 #16 Joe Jackson is lightening quick and athletic. He can get in the lane at will and score to the arc. The 6-0 guard had two dunks in transition vs. Columbus (OH)./ Northland one over PF stud Jared Sullinger. 97/HM

• North Hopkins (Madisonville, Ky.) lost to home team Marshall County 75-57. University of Kentucky signee 6-7 Jon Hood dropped 30 points but Marshall County 6-0 senior point guard Scott McKenty controlled the game from start to finish playing all 32 minutes and recording 26 points, nine rebounds and 11 assist as he played like a young John Stockton without Karl Malone.

• 2010 Villanova commit James Bell (Orlando/Montverde Academy) displayed freaky athletic ability in the open court and has continued to improve his perimeter stroke. Bell also plays with great energy and passion. The dynamic wing will be an impact player immediately in the Big East in two years.

• Oklahoma signee Keith "Tiny" Gallon hurt his ankle in the first half on Friday vs. Duncanville after starting the game with a drop step score in the post and power dunk playing only 6:23. Tiny looked just that, the 6-9 forward reportedly has lost more than 40 pounds and looked great compared to when I saw him this past summer. He moved well and seemed to be more explosive.

• Six-foot-5 senior Vee Sanford (Lexington, Ky./ Cathloic) is a big-time shooter from behind the arc, going 6-of-10 from and finishing with 29 points vs. Paducah Tilghman (Ky.). Sanford has a scoring mentality and displays great confidence in his stroke.

• Six-foot-8 center Matt St. John (South Laurel, Ky.) is a Class of 2010 wide body. He has a variety of moves in the post and can knock the perimeter jumper with time and space. St. John is hard working below the rim athlete; he dropped 23 points in a 72-68 win over Illinois bound 6-9 Tyler Griffey (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette) who had 20 points.

Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986-1990 and was an all-MAC first teamer his senior season.