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December 29, 2005

ANI keeps rolling

HOUSTON, TEXAS - There wasn't that signature performance like there was on opening day in the morning session of the Academy National Invitational but Nic Wise and Jai Lucas both rebounded from their first round losses nicely.

Kingwood is much Wise(r) on Thursday

After shooting 1-12 in the first game of the tournament, the only thing Nic Wise could do is look up in the second round. And boy did he ever.

The future Arizona Wildcat looked great in a 50-42 win over Peabody. He lead the charge with 22 points and five assists (although he probably had more than the official box gave him credit for). Wise was raining threes and whipping passes into the paint. He set the tone and helped keep a pesky Peabody team at bay on Thursday.

Wise needed to step up for Kingwood because his running mate Mike Singletary had another disappointing showing. The 6-foot-5 junior forward shot one of nine from the floor and five of seven from the foul line to the tune of seven points.

Bellaire bounces back

Jai Lucas put his Bellaire team on his back and helped them climb back into their game with LeFlore. In fact, it was his three-pointer with less than a minute to play that gave them their first lead of the game at 43-42 and closed out the quarter with the lead.

Lucas can score, there is no doubt about that but when he's playing as a pass first point and finding guys like Dale VanWright on the wing for open three-pointers.

Bellaire looked like a completely different team that showed up on Wednesday when they were blasted by Neumann-Goretti. Lucas said he was ready to show that game was not a norm.

"We responded really well," Lucas said. "I think we got caught up into the hype and that they were nationally ranked. We kind of sat back and watched instead of playing. I thought we came in and did what we can do today."

The junior point guard played a large part in that. He turned up his efforts in the second half with a couple of big three-pointers and even better passing. Lucas finished with 17 points and five assists and VanWright, a Colorado recruit, added 23 points.

Lucas said LSU, Oklahoma State and Connecticut are the three schools recruiting him the most aggressively at the moment.

"I think I'm going to sit back and watch how things happen," Lucas said. "You never know what's going to happen. People can commit or coaches will get fired or players transfer. I'm going to wait because like I said, you just never know."

Johnny Mayhanne, a 6-foot-4 unsigned shooter from LeFlore, could be a solid get for a Conference USA level school (or lower). He squares up and knocks down a number of shots from the perimeter and plays within himself in the flow of the game. Mayhanne lead LeFlore with 18 points.

Other notables

This year's ANI has been great in the sense a number of players have played themselves into the national spotlight. Perhaps no one has helped himself more than Marcus Simmons, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Peabody (La.) High School.

The junior was the only offensive force for Peabody against Kingwood, going for 17 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the floor. He's got a cool demeanor to his game and plays with the same intensity on both ends of the floor. A complete unknown prior to the tournament, Simmons has garnered interest from every major power conference.

Chalk up another great game for Lawrence Gilbert, a 6-foot-7, 175-pound small forward from Wheatley (Texas) High School put together another strong performance at the ANI. He's been one of the biggest surprises at the event and as an unsigned senior with a qualifying score, he's quickly becoming a guy that nearly every college coach will be trying to get involved with in 2006.

Against Eisenhower, Gilbert scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds but most notably, he converted on 16 of 19 free throws.

Christopher Blakes, 6-foot-5 junior from LeFlore (Ala.), has caught the eye of onlookers because of his versatility, body and ability to make plays. His head coach calls him a point guard and while Blakes won't translate to the position at the next level, he's a good passer and sees the floor very well. Blakes had 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in a morning loss to Bellaire.

Nick Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from LeFlore (Ala.), has been a pleasant surprise at the ANI. Like the rest of his team, he's a live wire player that does a little bit of everything. Against Bellaire, he pulled down 10 rebounds and on Wednesday he dropped 22 points.

Beas Hamga had a much better outing on Thursday than in the opening round of the ANI for his Cornerstone Christian team. The class of 2008 prospect shined on the defensive end, blocking a number of shots and used his big body to put in some tip-ins to the tune of 13 points and 14 rebounds. He's a high-major kid, there is little disputing that.

Houston (Texas) Jones junior forward DeAngelo Kay was active around the basket and was the guy that seemed to set the tone inside the paint for the Falcons. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Texas bound Harrison Smith put in 16 points, 7 assists and 5 steals in the victory.

Coaches in the crowd

Auburn, Liberty, Miami, Michigan, Texas, Virginia and others.

On tap
All games on Thursday, Dec. 29
3:30 p.m. - Alief Hastings (Texas) vs. Aldine (Texas)
5:00 p.m. - Fairfax (Calif.) vs. Neumann-Goretti (Pa.)
6:30 p.m. - Westfield (Texas) vs. Hightower (Texas)
8:00 p.m. - Oak Hill (Va.) vs. Wheeler (Ga.)

Rivals.com will have updates on the final four games on Wednesday later this evening.


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