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May 25, 2007For most people, Memorial Day means relaxation, a barbecue or time away from work and the world. For the nation's top basketball programs, the weekend means another round of travel basketball. This weekend, a number of teams travel to North Carolina for the annual Tournament of Champions.
Held at the University of North Carolina, Duke, NC State, NC Central and several area gyms, the tournament boasts some of the best venues for grassroots basketball. The opportunity to play at the ACC schools is a big draw to the 64 17 and under teams participating.
The 16 and under and the 15 and under divisions both hold 32 teams and the schedule allows observers to sneak a peek at the up and coming talent from across the country.
Breaking down the contenders
The Atlanta Celtics are a familiar face in the tournament, year in and year out. This year's team boasts a big and talented lineup. Coming off of a verbal commitment to Georgia, 6-foot-8 forward Howard Thompkins is looking for a tournament championship to cap off a big weekend.
Thompkins has help down low from 5-star rising junior Derrick Favors and versatile wing Noel Johnson. Rivals150 wing Chris Singleton gives the team size on the wing.
Indiana Elite won the Kingwood Classic and winning the TOC is another big time feather in the hat. Emmanuel Negedu, a recent Arizona commit, is joined by five-star center Tyler Zeller, DeAndre Liggins, Lewis Jackson and others.
Team Breakdown Rising junior guard Kenny Boynton has enjoyed success in the TOC in year's past and this year he's on track for a big outing. The south Florida product has been one of the most lethal scorers in the country this spring. He's joined by big man Eloy Vargas.
The team's 16 and under program is a contender in the 16 and under divison as well. Led by freshman guard Brandon Knight and a number of athletic big men, including top 50 sophomore David Loubeau.
Elliot Williams of the M33M Ballers came to Durham a day early to get a closer look at Duke and North Carolina. The fast-rising guard will certainly be one of the most discussed players of the weekend because of his visit to the two ACC powers. Williams and his teammates play at Duke on Friday night at 8 p.m. and North Carolina on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
The Illinois Wolves have enjoyed great success in the North Carolina Triangle in the past and former program player Bobby Frasor, a rising junior at UNC, will certainly be on hand to support his Chicago based program. The Wolves are one of the best teams on the circuit and two of the top prospects on the roster - Nick Fruendt and John Shurna recently committed to Northwestern. Point guard John Moran is one of the best floor generals in the Midwest.
Much like the Wolves, the Westchester Hawks are a solid team with skilled players at the right positions. The New York based team leans on the play of Kevin Jones and Mookie Jones at the forward spots. Guards Sean Kilpatrick and Tyshawn Taylor are strong and athletic in the backcourt.
Southeast Elite is no stranger to Sunday games as the Alabama based team generally contends for titles in every event they play in. Led by Romero Osby, Courtney Fortson, Darnell Wilks and Varez Ward (all Rivals150 players), the Elite should be a difficult team to tangle up with.
The Florida Rams boast a roster filled with players with size at all positions. Five star big man Kenny Kadji anchors the middle while Ray Shipman, Jared Swopshire and Dago Pena are all high-major wing prospects.
King of the Court has a Big Ten feel to it as Michigan State commits Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious join forces. Also on the roster is Ohio State pledge Anthony Crater and Xavier Kenny Frease round out a talented roster.
Other players of note
Brandon Jennings of the Southern California All-Stars, Terrence Jennings and D.J. Seeley with Play Hard Play Smart, Terrelle Pryor of Pittsburgh Team Adidas, Jarrett Mann with the Playaz, Kris Joseph of the DC Assault, Devoe Joseph of Grassroots Canada, Terrell Holloway and Erik Murphy of the New England Playaz, Demarquis Bost of the Carolina Raptors and several other notable players.