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April 20, 2004

Long live the Kingwood Classic

The Kingwood Classic retains its throne

Everything is bigger in Texas, right? So it makes sense that the biggest and best AAU basketball tournament, the Kingwood Classic, is being held in Houston for the tenth straight year.

Event organizer Hal Pastner has put together the largest event of it's kind. With over 189 teams playing 373 games in 18 gyms across the metro-Houston area starting Friday night and ending Sunday afternoon. Basketball coaches, players, scouts and fans will have plenty of round ball at their disposal.

And that is only the 17 and under age group. The tournament also has separate tournaments from the 16's and under ending with the 9 and under group. Basically the majority of top talent from the next nine classes will be playing somewhere in Houston this weekend. Finding a player of interest will not be a problem.

Here is a rundown of what to expect from this year's event.


Breaking down the top pools

It doesn't take a genius to see the great potential match ups in Pool A. The Georgia Stars, who are coming off a hard fought Boo Williams Invitational title, will have a tough field to fight through with the SoCal All-Stars (SCA) and Playaz Basketball Program on the docket.

Pool B pins two recent champs, Belmont Shore (winners of the Las Vegas Easter Classic) and the Houston Hoops (winners of the Las Vegas Spring Showcase). Will their Vegas success continue in H-town? Not if the Illinois Warriors can help it. Led by Julian Wright (left), Illinois is equally as tough as the other two. Belmont Shore has a fine roster led by Jamal Boykin and Seketoure Henry. The Hoops are stacked deep - even without Rashad Woods who will play for the Houston Swoosh.

It's too bad we dubbed Dwight Howard and Randolph Morris' match-ups earlier this season as Clash of the Titans because a big man battle in Pool C is certainly worthy of the same name. Super sophomores Greg Oden, the No. 1 player in the class of 2006, will face off against Derrick Caracter, the No. 3 player in the same class. Oden and his Spiece Indy Heat will take on Caracter and his New Jersey Panthers on Saturday at 12:40 p.m. Should be a classic.

Don't forget about the No. 4 player in the class of 2006, either. Vernon Macklin is in the same pool with his Boo Williams Summer League team. If you like big men, there is no bigger pool than this one.

After blowing up at the Capitol Invitational last weekend, Tallahassee Wildcats' point guard Jermonte Bush is looking to solidify himself with the nation's elite. He'll have a great pool to do it against, too. Team Texas is one of the top traveling teams in the country with Calvin Miles and Kevin Rogers dotting the roster. And the Illinois Wolves are no slouches either. The Midwestern boys were one of the top teams last year, even as a 16U group playing up, last year. Now a year matured and a year bigger, they hope to knock off some teams.

Even without a trio future lottery picks on this year's Atlanta Celtics roster, the boys from the Deep South are still ultra-talented. They only have one future NBA prospect in Brandon Rush (right). Uriah Hethington is intriguing inside. The trio will try to sky above the rest of the talent in Pool E. The Miami Tropics have a plethora of prospects in David Huertas, Jason Bennett and Josue Soto. Don't discount the Gauchos, either. They pulled off a number of big tourney victories last year. Curtis Kelly should be back with the fellas after taking last weekend off from the Weber event and early Pittsburgh pledge Mike Davis will man the paint.


Must see Saturday match-ups

Louis Williams (GA Stars) vs. Brian Harvey (SCA) - Scorekeeper, get ready to work.

Octavious Spann (GA Stars) vs. Marcus Johnson (SCA) - Both players have had strong starts this April and the duo could get the assignment of guarding each other.

Jawan Carter (Playaz) vs. Jay Dee Luster (SCA) - Carter, a 2006 point guard, will square up against Luster, one of the top freshman in the country. It should be a dandy backcourt battle.

Brandon Costner (Playaz) vs. Rashad Chase (GA Stars) - Get ready for the earth to stop its rotation when these two beasts post up on one another.


Players who have improved their stock

Several prospects come into the Kingwood Classic on a hot streak. Whether at Boo Williams, Charlie Weber, or the three events already played in Las Vegas, these players have impressed both college coaches and the scouts.

2005 prospects

With a point guard mentality and power forward's nose for the ball, The Family combo guard Chris Douglas-Roberts is one of the top scorers in his class. Very impressive at Boo Williams.

Houston Hoops David Devezin is an impressive floor general who proved last week in Vegas that he is ready to run the offense for a high major program.

After last week's Las Vegas classic performance, Alaska/New Mexico point guard Mario Chalmers staked his claim as the top lead guard in his class.

Big forward Ben McCauley of the Pittsburgh JOTS will bring his physical style of play to Houston after performing very well in D.C. last weekend. Already has several high major offers.

Syracuse Rochester SRAP power forward Andray Blatche was one of the best players at the Charlie Weber and will look to make some noise along with teammate and Duke commitment Greg Paulus.

One of the South's top prospects, big forward Keith Brumbaugh will showcase his skills this weekend with Nike Team Florida.

2006 prospects

James Keefe of the California Elite has almost every elite program recruiting him after his strong performance in Las Vegas this last weekend. Keefe, a power forward can run and finish. He is among the top big men in his class.

Blessed IJN guard Marques Johnson is a flashy player who has the high majors paying attention. Very poised player with nice size for his position.

2007 prospects

Arizona Magic White point guard Jerryd Bayless might be young but not too young to already have an offer from Arizona. He plays with a maturity beyond his years.

Small forward Taylor King of the SoCal All-starts is one of the top shooters in the nation regardless of class. The UCLA commitment has a great feel for the game is solid fundamentally.


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