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April 29, 2013

Four guards fuel Wolves' title

MORE: Jayhawk Invitational Saturday | Jayhawk Invitational Friday

GARDNER, Kan. -- The Jayhawk Invitational came to a close on Sunday as titles were handed out. A quartet of guards led by Glynn Watson helped the Illinois Wolves get a title in the 16-and-under championship game. In the 17s, Texas Select knocked off the Wolves' older group as their team led by rapidly rising big man Myles Turner capped a solid weekend.

Wolves guards too much in the 16s

If good guard play is your thing, then you were covered during Sunday's 16-and-under title tilt between the Illinois Wolves and KC Run GMC. It wasn't decided until Watson, the Wolves' point guard, returned from leg cramps to calmly sink a pair of free throws, and secure a one-point win, with 1.7 seconds left.

Because they won, we have to start with and focus on the Wolves. In particular, their foursome of Watson, Jordan Ash, Prentiss Nixon and Roosevelt Smart stood out. They are all about the same size at 6-foot to 6-foot-2. They are good athletes, and they can score it a little bit. Actually, if you asked four coaches which player is best, you would likely get four different answers and good reasons for each one. The breakdown goes like this:

All four of them are being recruited heavily on the upper-end mid-major to high-major level, and it is easy to see why. Looking at them from a position standpoint, Watson has the feel of a point guard. He is long and quick, and he makes things happen off of the dribble for himself and others. His coaches must feel he is trustworthy as well, considering they put the ball in his hands during their two most important possessions of the game.

At about 6-foot-1, Nixon can run point or he can slide off the ball. He's strong with the ball, he has a pretty good first step, and he can knock down a jumper. Slightly bigger than Nixon, Smart is another combo guard. He's more of a scorer than a setup guy, but he can handle and is a fluid offensive player. Finally, Ash is a natural two guard and he probably is the most explosive athlete of the four. He likes to operate along the baseline, he can bang home jumpers, and he can play bigger than 6-foot-2 because of his athleticism.

Texas Select team caps weekend

Frankly, if you watched Texas Select on Friday night, you probably wouldn't have given the team much of a chance to win the top 17-and-under division of the Jayhawk. After getting handled easily by the Wisconsin Swing on opening night, Select got their collective act together and took home honors in the division with a win over a solid Illinois Wolves squad.

He's a work in progress, but it if was anybody's weekend in suburban Kansas City it was most certainly Turner's. Physically, he is big and strong up top and built to carry more muscle easily. He has length, he has good hands, and he has touch. Turner doesn't leap as quickly as some others, but his reach and timing make up for that and he's still growing. Oklahoma State's Travis Ford was there to watch on Sunday after doing an in-home visit with Turner, and Rick Barnes of Texas was getting face time as well.

Guard Nick Babb had a bustout day on Saturday, and he kept it going for the most part on Sunday. Creighton has offered, and it had its head coach watching. Wichita State, Colorado, SMU, Tulsa and many others watched. It would be a surprise if Babb doesn't have more offers soon.

Also key was Davontae Bailey stepping up. Bailey is a good-sized combo guard who has game. He doesn't rely on plus athleticism or crazy handles. He just knows how to score off the bounce and use his body to his advantage. When he puts forth effort on defense, as he did Sunday, he is pretty good on that end. He mentioned Oklahoma, SMU, Tulsa and Tennessee as some of the schools to reach out to him.

Final notes from the Jayhawk

Exactly what his status is for next season is up in the air, but 2013 prospect Cullen Russo is a very intriguing player. Playing for the All-Iowa Attack, the 6-foot-8 forward at times looked like he could be a very good player on the high-major level. He has great size, he is a good athlete, and he has exceptional body control. He can be a stretch four or a big, athletic wing. Russo also goes through stretches where he doesn't seem to make as much impact on the game as his skill could allow him to. If he puts it all together, gets consistent and serious about playing 100% all the time, Russo has loads of upside and has a chance to develop into a highly recruited player.

Surprisingly, Rivals150 small forward Joe Burton told us he has not been offered a Division I scholarship. He said he has heard from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor and "all of the other Texas teams." He's probably more 6-foot-5 than 6-foot-6, but he is solid. He had a good weekend at the Jayhawk.

A class of 2013 big who could get late interest is Ahmed Hamdy of the Defenders. At least 6-foot-8 and strong, the senior from Sugar Land (Texas) Trent International is an outstanding rebounder. He plays physically, and he is the type of grinder who could chew up minutes in the low post.

Keita Bates-Diop makes it look awfully easy out there. The Ohio State commit and five-star prospect can shoot, he has good size, and he can finish in transition. He is smart and plays plenty hard, but he's got enough ability that he should be willing to take a few more chances and play with a more aggressive attitude.

Malek Harris got new offers from Marquette, Kansas State and Creighton after playing in front of each school's head coach. Oregon State and Iowa have offered, and their head coaches stopped in to check on him. A three-star prospect, Harris will make the move into four-star territory when rankings are updated.

Seth Bonifas and Casey Schlatter look to be solid midlevel prospects. Schlatter is around 6-foot-9 and is good with the ball in the high post. He surveys and makes good decisions when it comes to scoring and passing. Bonifas is a post player who needs to get stronger, but he doesn't mind playing around the rim and he has a feel for things in the post.

In the 17-and-under consolation bracket, Riley LaChance looked good for Ray Allen Select. He plays a very similar game to that of former Kansas player Brady Morningstar at the same age. He's skilled, he plays at the one or the two, and he has a nice feel for scoring from the perimeter. Teammates have to like how he doesn't just get the ball to them, he gets it to the hand they use to call for the ball for in the post or the shooting pocket of guys spotted up on drive-and-kick opportunities.

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