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Top '10 bigs Sullinger, Smith faceoff

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The 15th annual Gym Rats/Spiece Run-N-Slam All-Star Classic is a high-profile event with tons of star power. The Classic is named in the honor of the late Bill Hensley who was the founder of Gym Rats Basketball and co-founder of the beautiful Spiece Field House. Tournament director Todd Hensley did a terrific job organizing this 192-team tournament that covered three divisions. (17U, 16U, 15U). The talent level was second to none and the best it has been in recent years on all three playing levels.

The top two players in the ESPNU Super 60 PF Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) and C Josh Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) displayed power in the post as they rebounded and scored in the lane on a regular basis. SG Vander Blue (Madison, Wisc.) made scoring plays and handed out assist off the dribble using his lightning quick first step to beat defenders. Terrific 25 #13 point guard Marquis Teague (Indianapolis/Pike) continued to impress and in my opinion climb the rankings as he scored and attacked defenders relentlessly with his combination of speed, quickness and ability to score in a variety of ways. Class of 2010 6-0 point guard Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./ Oswego East) was a pleasant surprise and a legit standout player with his ability to run a team, score and control the game with his flawless ball handling and passing for Illinois Old School.

Sullinger dominated in All-Ohio Red's quarterfinal win against Smith and Seattle Rotary. Sullinger played with energy and attacked Smith right from the start. Sullinger did his damage with quick, physical post moves in the paint, face-up drives from the perimeter and relentless effort on the glass. Smith is a powerful presence who rebounds, blocks shots and finishes drop off passes with rim rattling dunks. Still, Sullinger was the best player on the floor without question.

In the 17U Gold Tournament bracket the crown went to All-Ohio Red 56-55 over the talented Illinois Warriors in a game of mental toughness. It was the third game of the day for both teams. Again power forward Jared Sullinger was unstoppable in the post and controlled the glass. The All- Ohio backcourt of Tennessee commit Aaron Craft (Findlay, Ohio/Liberty Benton) and future Dayton Flyer Juwan Staten (Dayton, Ohio/Marshall) played terrific as well. Craft is a defensive stopper and the ultimate glue guy and Staten takes care of the scoring on the perimeter to give All Ohio an inside out attack. Class of 2012 power forward Elijah Macon (Columbus/Franklin) is an athletic 6-8 live body who runs the floor, rebounds on both ends and could be the next All-Ohio stud if he continues to progress.

Standout Players

Marquis Teague PG (6-2, 170)
2011, Indianapolis, Ind. /Pike (Spiece Indy Heat- Betts)

Teague was in attack mode on every touch. He is a terrific ball handler who beats pressure with ease as he enters the lane to score with acrobatic layups. He pushes the ball in transition with great pace -- he changes speeds and directions so fast that he spins his defender around like a top. Teague was just as good as he was at Boo Williams where he was flat-out spectacular. He knocked down midrange pull-ups and 3s. Teague is a great rhythm shooter off the dribble and a good, but sometimes streaky, 3-point shooter off the catch. His long-range shot is good enough to demand the defense's attention. He has the ability to penetrate and kick, but this young lead guard thinks score first. Teague is tough, confident and constantly puts pressure on the defense as he probes to find an opening. He played with great energy on defense, as well. He was low in his stance and worked to pressure the ball with active hands and quick feet. Teague is a treat to watch on both ends of the floor.

Josh Smith C (6-9,170)
2010, Covington, Wash. / Kentwood (Seattle Rotary)

Smith played with energy and urgency, which is bad news for opponents. He ran the floor more consistently than the last time I saw him and controlled the lane on both ends of the floor. Smith rebounds in a crowd, at times, at rim level and is close to impossible to box out because smaller post can't move him out of the lane. He has good hands and light feet. From 10 feet and in around the lane, he is an above the rim finisher. Smith scores with power drop steps, turn shots as he simply elevates over opponents. He is very athletic for his size and power dunks all drop-off passes created by guard penetration through contact. He will also attack the offensive glass and is a tip-dunk threat. Defensively, Smith is an excellent shot-blocker with great timing. He can block shots on the ball or come from the weakside. Smith must work to sharpen and add to his post-move package. He also needs to improve his strength and conditioning. When motivated, Smith is a beast in the lane and takes no prisoners.

Jared Sullinger PF (6-8, 250)
2010, Columbus, Ohio. / Northland, Committed to Ohio State (All-Ohio Red)

In a hard-fought loss to Florida Elite, Sullinger was a terror on the offensive glass. He has great hands, strength and timing as he competes for offensive rebounds. In most cases, he was rebounding his own misses and powering the ball back through contact to score repeatedly. Sullinger is physical and can dominate the lane. He posts up with a foot in the lane and seals his man with his wide body. When being fronted, he understands how to work his man up or out off the lane to create space for the over the top pass where he holds his seal until the last second before he catches and scores. He also uses a power drop-step from the right, low block for the old fashioned 3-point play. Sullinger displayed excellent passing skills out of the post when doubled or when he attacked of the dribble from the high post area. He is great at taking the contact to the defender. If the defender is not a physical player Sullinger will have a field day. He does wow you with explosive athletic ability, but he simply powers his way to the rim and on a clear-path finish. Sullinger is such a tough matchup in the post; if the defender is long and athletic, he powers through; if the defender is a big body, he can go around him or step off the lane and attack off the dribble.

Vander Blue SG/PG (6-3, 185)
2010, Madison, Wisc./Memorial, Committed to Wisconsin (Illinois Warriors)

This athletic combination guard attacked defenders off the dribble with his great first step. Blue has tremendous size and length to go along with be a terrific ballhandler, which allows him to penetrate the lane at will. He is a great passer with excellent court vision and can put the ball on the money at high speeds. Blue also has a smooth midrange jumper with good elevation, release and follow through. He is great at making scoring plays at end of clock situations, as well. The defense knows he is going to attack off the dribble, so they play off of him and still can't keep him out of the lane. Blue likes to attack the baseline and he is strong enough and plenty athletic to score through or around defenders. He also is a factor on the offensive glass -- he sprints in from the perimeter for timely tip-ins. He can make the open 3 with time and space, but his strength is creating off the dribble. On the defensive end, Blue competes and plays in stance. He applies excellent ball pressure and keeps the ball handlers' full attention with his quick hands. Blue is a high-energy guard who has all the talent to be a special player for the hometown Badgers.

Jay Harris PG (6-0,160)
2010, Aurora, Ill. /Oswego East (Illinois Old School)

Harris was more than a pleasant surprise. His performance defintely earns him a spot in our standout players section. This scoring point guard has the total package. He is thin and needs to add strength, but he plays with heart and toughness on both ends of the floor. Harris pushes the ball with great speed and quickness and can get to the rim from the outlet-pass area in the blink of an eye. He is a terrific ball handler who attacks defenders with a variety of dribble moves at high speeds. Harris is great at shifting gears and changing directions to get to the rim. He likes the inside out, hesitation and cross over, but his package of moves off the bounce is plentiful. His midrange pull-up and three off the catch or dribble are two of his most consistent weapons. Harris is also can beat the defense with his ability to drive, draw and kick to open teammates. Harris a can play fast or slow. He can run the offense, move the ball and get others involved or he can attack in transition get to the rim, knock down the open 3 or penetrate and drop off a pass for an uncontested layup. On defense, Harris plays in a stance and applies excellent ball pressure. Harris plays with confidence, passion and urgency and is a treat to watch.

Surprise Players

Maurice Jones PG (5-5, 150)
2010, Saginaw, Mich./Arthur Hill (R.E.A.C.H. Legends)

Jones is small, thin and needs to add strength, but he plays with heart and is very productive on both ends of the floor. He is cat quick with a tight handle as he pushes the ball in transition at high speeds. He has a laundry list of dribble moves and can beat pressure at will. Jones can penetrate and kick or drive draw and quick to find the open man on a regular basis. He can also knock down the midrange pull-up when he has enough area to create space in order to get off the shot. At times, he will overpenetrate that will result in a turnover because the defense will surround him in a small area and can't get off his shot or see the open man because of his size but this happens few and far between. He is a streaky three point shooter but good enough that the defense must pay attention. Jones thinks pass first but is not afraid to call his own number. On defense he is a pesky on ball defender due to blinding speed and quickness. He has drawn comparisons to Earl Boykins and Drew Lavender and both are pretty accurate as his has bits and pieces of both in his game.

Ge'Lawn Guyn SG/PG (6-3, 170)
2010, Georgetown, Ky./Scott County, (Indiana Elite- Fox)

This combination guard has excellent size. Guyn has long arms and a wiry strong body. He is a good athlete who can finish above the rim in transition and scores with baseline slashes to the basket with touch and body control around taller defenders. Guyn can attack the lane with either hand but seems to favor going to his left as he hangs in the air for an athletic pull up jumper or floater. Guyn knocked down a couple open three with time and space as well. He was open on the arc because his defender played off due to him being such a threat to get in the lane with his quick first step. Guyn was an impressive passer as he penetrated and kicked to open teammates and he also made pinpoint passes against full court pressure down the floor. His size allows him to see over traps and deliver the ball with ease over a smaller defender. Guyn is a versatile enough to be affective with the ball or playing the wing. He seems to be more comfortable on the wing but he has the tools and talent to be a play the point with game repetitions. Guyn is an excellent on ball defender that plays with urgency. His hands are active and his feet are quick enough to beat the offensive player to where he wants to go. His stance looks great and he has the ability and size to defend all three perimeter positions.


Marshall Plumlee C (6-11, 200)
2011, Warsaw, Ind. / Christ School (NC)

Plumlee has continued to improve. He is still a work in progress both physically and skill wise but is talented and has a terrific upside. Plumlee has an excellent basketball IQ and fundamentally sound for a young player his size. He runs the floor well and is mobile. At times he will shy away from contact but as he adds strength that should change because he competes on both ends of the floor. On defense he plays with his hands up and blocks and charges shots because he does a nice job of making the opponent shoot over him. Plumlee has good hands and footwork in the post. He likes to post on the left low block and spin baseline or drop step and use his height to score over the top. Plumlee also has the ability to step out of the low post and be very affective. He has an excellent shooting stroke and knocked 15 foot jumpers with great confidence. Passing under pressure and out of the post when doubled is an area of improvement for this young post. At times he allows the defense to speed him up and he may rush to get rid off the ball that will result in a turnover. Post players tend to develop at a slower rate the guards and Plumlee is no different but when he hits his peak watch out!

Brandon Spearman SG (6-3, 185)
2010, Chicago, Ill./Simeon (Illinois Warriors)

Spearman is a strong physical guard that plays with energy and urgency. He attacks the rim in transition and can finish through contact. He is a sneaky athletic vertical jumper that will finish above the rim with a clear path. He is quick with the ball and his handle is good enough to get to the rim and score with his strength or acrobatic layup on either side of the rim. Spearman is an improved shooter that can knock down the open three with time and space but is streaky at best with his number one asset being to beat defenders off the bounce. He runs the floor on every possession and will also defensive rebound and start the break. If Spearman is not controlled in transition by the time he arrives at the top of the key there is a great chance he will score or draw a foul. At times he will force the action one on one or the defense will surround him and he will take a bad shot but you can live with it because he is being aggressive and it has not developed into a habit yet. Spearman works on the defensive end as well. He pressures the ball and has great anticipation in the passing lanes. He is strong enough to defend both wing positions because of his consistent effort. Spearman is one to watch this spring and summer.

Terone Johnson PG/SG (6-2, 190)
2010, Indianapolis, Ind. /North Central, Committed to Purdue (Eric Gordon All Stars)

Johnson seemed to get better as the weekend went on. He shot the ball well from three off the catch and dribble. He was more aggressive to score than when I seen him during the high school season. Johnson played the point and ran the wing from the shooting guard position and was very affective in both positions. He did a great job of taking what the defense gave him then after he got in a rhythm he took what he wanted. When the defense was playing off he knocked down the three. As the defense closed out on him he shot faked and attacked the lane. Johnson hit the pull up jumper off one or two strong dribbles or got all the way to the rim where he is plenty strong and physical enough to finish through contact. He had a few scoring flurries where he really showed his ability to score. Johnson made good decisions with the ball as well. He found the open man when he penetrated and attacked a second defender. Defensive rebounded and started the break and was a physical defender at times. When Johnson is in attack mode he can be tough to defend.

Notes

• Florida Elite has a nice trio of impact players in the class of 2010 that starts with 6-6 small forward T.J. Hall (Gainesville, Fla. / Gainesville), 5-11 point guard Jordan Davis (Tampa, Fla./ Sickles and 6-1 shooting guard Weedleens Beauvil (Winter haven, Fla./ Bartow). Davis runs the team and sets up teammates with his passing and penetration. Hall is the most talented and when he is in attack mode can score in bunches in transition, on quick baseline drives and open threes with time and Beauvil can knock down spot up jumpers on the break where he does an excellent job of stretching the defense or coming off screens in their half court offense which was a big factor in their upset win over All Ohio Red.

The Mustang Ballers have an attacking wing in the class of 2010 in 6-2 Rob Brandenberg (Gahanna, Ohio/ Lincoln) who can make scoring plays off the dribble. He is athletic and can finish above the rim on the break and although streaky can get on a role from behind the arc. Brandenberg plays with energy and competes on both ends.

• ESPNU Super 60point guard and Dayton commit 5-11 Jawan Staten (Dayton, Ohio / Marshall) attacked in transition, turned the corner with on ball screens, hit floaters and pull up jumpers to give All-Ohio Red a consistent perimeter scorer. As Staten becomes better at understanding time and score his point guard skills and ability to run a team takes his game to the next level.

• Although he struggles with his perimeter shot the ESPNU Terrific 25 player 6-4 Tony Wroten Jr. was great at handling and passing the ball. Wroten has outstanding court vision and constantly gets his teammates wide open shots.


Reggie Rankin is a recruiting analyst for ESPN Scouts Inc. He was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton.