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July 25, 2005

Battle of 5-star guards highights Vegas action

LAS VEGAS- With a couple hundred of the best AAU teams playing at arenas across Nevada, the best way to get a feel of what's going on is to jump in a car and make the trip to check out the action at all three tournaments. The highlight of Sunday's play came with a late night battle of Javaris Crittenton and Paul Harris.

Crittenton and Harris square off in battle of the guards

It's about time that someone said it so it might as well be us: Javaris Crittenton is the top lead guard in the country, and his play in July solidified a spot in the top 10 when the next Rivals.com poll is released. Not only did the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Georgia Tech commitment battle Wayne Ellington to a draw at the adidas Superstar camp two weeks ago but Sunday faced off against Paul Harris, who is one of the nation's top defenders.

Early in the Atlanta Celtic-GC Baller game Crittenton made it obvious it wasn't a good idea for Harris to push up on him defensively when he took the Syracuse commitment to the basket three times. It didn't take long for GC to fall back into a zone, but Crittenton found his long ball falling early and forced the zone out where he used his ball fake and handle to penetrate and distribute.

He finished with 19 points. It wasn't just his scoring, which he has done consistently all summer, but the manner in which he controlled the flow of the game and answered every challenge while leading the Celtics to a 88-85 win.

Harris, who is also a top 10 player, was no slouch and still has his normal good effort. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder attacked the basket with his controlled handle and impressive physique, often finding his teammates when overplayed with a nice assist and great court vision. His outside jumper continues to show promise and he made an especially strong move when he put the ball on the floor twice and pulled up from 12-feet over Crittenton.

Harris finished with 18 points and double digit rebounds.

While the two 5-star guards were the focal point of the contest, a couple of other prospects established their reputation at elite prospects. Celtic 2007 guard Senario Hillman scored 16 points and has several highlight reel plays including a couple of massive dunks that showed off his 40 + inch vert. Not only was his athleticism on display but he jumper is slowly coming around.

For the Ballers Lazar Hayward proved that he knows how to score. He makes shots and the bottom line is that despite being limited athletically, he knows how to put the ball in the basket. The 6-foot-5 wing guard knocked down four from outside the arc on his way to a 16-point performance.

Tyler Smith set to begin prep school

Former Tennessee Volunteer commitment Tyler Smith will be heading to Hargrave Military Academy next month after failing to qualify academically. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound, shooting guard will be part of the 2006 class and is preparing to go through the recruiting process again.

"I'm not available to be recruiting until after I enroll since I signed a letter of intent with Tennessee," Smith said. "I haven't spoken with any coaches yet since it's against the rules but I do know there are some teams showing interest. I'm better prepared this time to go through the recruiting process because I learned a lot after last year.

"This time I'm going to take everything slow and make sure that I check out the stuff I'm interested in like the graduation rate, playing time and to build a good relationship with the staff."

As far as recruiting goes Smith says he currently has a list of six schools that hold the early advantage for his services.

"Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Miami and Memphis are the school I want to look at the hardest. They all have a good blend of what I am looking for and I think they would be a great fit for me and my style of play."

Louisiana point guard closing in on a decision

New Orleans Jazz lead guard D.J. Augustin narrowed his choice of colleges down to two last month with Texas and LSU both surviving the cut for his services. Augustin, 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, indicated that with the AAU season coming to a close, he is preparing to make his decision.

"I haven't been focused on recruiting really because this was my last summer playing and I just wanted to do my best and have fun," Augustin said. "It's still Texas and LSU right now and I'm going to set up some visits for September and commit in October. I'll be signing in the early period."

But for now the Bengal Tigers and Longhorns are locked in an almost dead heat for the New Orleans native.

"LSU is a great school and it's close to home. I have friends on that team like Tasmin Mitchell, who I played with 3 years on the Jazz. He calls me almost every day and tells me to come help him win a championship. We are good friends.

"Texas is excellent as well. Coach Barnes told me he was going to give me the ball and let me run their offense. The facilities and academics are outstanding."

Quick, Fast and in a Hurry

Perhaps the biggest 4-month turnaround on the circuit has been FSU commitment John Kreft who has went from an athletic big man who showed little aggression and a tendency to avoid contact near the basket to a rim attacking post player. Not sure how or why it happened but the switch has clicked for the 6-foot-10, 235-pounder who is staking claim to anything within 5-feet of the basket. In addition to tremendous footwork and good hands, Kreft is playing with a confidence that will make him a high-riser in the next Rivals.com ranking.

Georgetown fans should be excited about the addition of Cecil Kirk small forward DaJuan Summers who has been one of the most impressive prospects in Sin City. Summer, 6-foot-8, 200-pounds, is showing the ability to shoot the ball from deep or mid-range in addition to having enough handle and vision to create. Active on both ends of the floor, Summers has a nice frame and great feel for how to play the game. He scored 20-points in his morning contest.

College coaches looking for a pure shooter with good size should check out Portland's finest Phillip Nelson who has put on a clinic from outside the arc during the tournament. It became pretty clear that Washington has made him a top priority when a Huskie assistant found a chair at one end of the floor while head coach Lorenzo Romar watched from beneath the basket on the other end. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few along with assistants from UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon were also on hand. Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Connecticut, Arizona and Washington are his five top schools.

Cole Aldrich is representing Minnesota in the Big Time Tournament and is currently favoring Kansas and North Carolina over Michigan State and Minnesota.

Compton Magic small forward Jamelle Horne showed a beautiful from on a his outside shot in a contest against the San Antonio Celtics. Horne, 6-foot-7, 180-pounds, is a terrific athletic with long arms and a natural feel on the offensive end of the floor. However, he has to get tougher defensively and develop better footwork on the defensive end. San Diego State has offered and the 2007 prospect currently favors North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Washington and Kansas.

Another 2007 prospect on the Compton squad, Jesse Woodard claims early offers from USC and Iowa State with North Carolina, Louisville, Washington, Kansas and Georgia Tech on his wish list. He totaled 25 points in his afternoon game.

Another Portland prospect to watch out for his 2008 big man Andy Poling that will be on the watch list of several high major programs the next couple of years. Poling is a 6-foot-10 post player who is active around the basket and doesn't mind posting hard and finishing with either hand.

2009 sensation Renardo Sidney struggled early in Vegas but Sunday, in his last game of the event, he enjoyed his best performance. Sidney, 6-foot-8, 220-pounds, scored 13 points from the field, pulled down 12 rebounds, blocked four shots and dropped four dimes in a losing effort. Perhaps the most interesting part of the game was watching the freshman phenom run the point guard position. Alabama is in there early and while there is a way to go the Tide hold a strong advantage in the recruitment.


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