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May 15, 2006

Wallace Prather Memorial - Final notebook

ATLANTA, GA - Cleaning out the notepad from the Wallace Prather Memorial Classic yielded quick hitters on a number of prospects.

Sunday's Odds & Ends

Nate Rakestraw, Arkansas Hawks - The well-built guard was impressive from start to finish at the tournament. He'll punish teams for leaving him open on the perimeter. The class of 2007 guard does a good job of scoring the ball 15 feet and beyond from the basket. He'll find his niche in the right system and a host of schools continue to evaluate him. Rakestraw said he is hearing from Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri State, Oral Roberts and TCU.

Gaby Ngoundjo, Arkansas Hawks - The long-armed big man enjoyed another big day at the Classic. The Cameroon native blocks a number of shots and alters even more. A strong spring has yielded interest from Purdue (offer), Arkansas-Little Rock (offer), Texas, Texas A&M, Iowa and Arkansas State.

Michael Sanchez, Arkansas Hawks - Sanchez had a hot hand against the Georgia Hurricanes, connecting on three three-pointers in a three minute stretch. He picked and popped to the perimeter and drained home the long ball. One notable trait about his game is his passing skills. He finds guys in the offense.

Courtney Fortson, SE Elite - The running back built in a guard's body enjoyed a big weekend in Atlanta. Fortson consistently brought his game against every big dog that stepped in front of him over the weekend and played a major role in SE Elite's run to the championship game. The lefty's strengths are getting into the lane and finding the rim for scores but his court vision is solid enough to find the open shooters. Still a bit under the radar, Fortson said he is on the watch list for a number of schools including Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, Cincinnati and Arkansas-Little Rock.

Julian Vaughn, DC Assault - The big man from Reston (Va.) is back. And he's even bigger. After suffering a foot injury nine weeks ago, the five-star forward looks a little taller and has filled out his broad shoulders. His new size has improved his game in the post but his shooting skills are still present. That is scary. Vaughn is still getting his legs under him but all and all, he didn't seem too far removed from his old self. By the end of the summer, it will be interesting to see how well he adapts to his bigger body.

Tanner Smith, Georgia Stars 16U - What a big weekend for the 6-foot-4 guard from Wesleyan High School in Norcross, Ga. Back to back games of 20-plus points helped put his team into the championship game. Known for his shooting touch and his basketball IQ, Smith put the ball on the floor and attacked the basket with the dribble. He had a huge spring and catapulted his recruitment. Smith said Auburn, Oregon, Tennessee, Northwestern and Rice have entered the picture.

Tony Woods, Georgia Stars 16U - Big men take a little longer to mature into prospects. That will be the case with the long and lanky sophomore from Rome (Ga.) High School. The potential is there. Offensively, his game is limited to put back dunks (loud ones at that) and quick put back shots. He played a big role in the championship game against DC Assault, especially when Al-Farouq Aminu went out with hamstring cramps.

Dustin Ware, Atlanta Celtics White - Once college coaches get a chance to see him for themselves against top flight competition, Ware's name will be one that gets thrown around quite a bit with the mid-majors in the class of 2008. The 5-foot-10 point guard from North Cobb Christian is about as competitive and clutch as they get. He was the man behind a number of game-winning baskets but also showing that he is one heck of a game manager. It will be up to him to decide on what level he can play at in college.

Matt Sundberg, Atlanta Celtics White - The 6-foot-5 wing from Harrison High School can stroke it from the wing but his understanding of the game makes his team better and helps the offense flow. He'll be a name to follow throughout the July period.

J.C. Ward, Atlanta Celtics White - The 6-foot-6 has a homing defense for rebounds. His motor never turns off and rebounds outside of a normal range of a power forward. The class of 2008 forward knows his strength is cleaning the glass and he doesn't deviate from that role either. Mid-major programs should jump into the mix for the Marietta (Ga.) High big man.

All about the match-ups

Sunday provided on-lookers with a couple of intriguing match-ups.

For the Peach State crowd, the top two sophomores in the state squared off with each other in the 16 and under division. And one of them almost didn't play. Al-Farouq Aminu left his jersey at home and sat out for the first half of the 8:20 a.m. game. Howard Thompkins went to work in Aminu's absence.

Thompkins scored when the opportunity present itself in the post but wasn't rewarded enough for his positioning on the block. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-8 forward knocked down a pair of elbow jumpers and put it on the floor to score off the drive. His 15 points came mostly in the first half.

A quick delivery of his jersey allowed Aminu to go to work in the second half and he made up for lost time in a quick hurry. His 14 points in the final 16 minutes of work were impressive. Aminu is a top flight athlete but doesn't use that as the foundation to his scoring like most young prospects. Aminu creates space with the dribble and can bury the three point shot (as does Thompkins).

From start to finish, Aminu was the best prospect from the class of 2008 in the tournament. Thompkins wasn't too far behind though. The former Wesleyan teammates are different style of players and the rivalry is a fun one to watch grow.

For Alabama hoops fanatics, the SE Elite versus the Atlanta Celtics game gave a quick glimpse of the future. Rico Pickett and Senario Hillman, a pair of Tide commitments, matched up with each other in the quarterfinals of the tourney. Pickett continued his scoring tear at the tournament, dropping in 23 points. Hillman had his moments above the rim like he always does but his 18 points weren't enough to gather the victory. In fact, the Celtics were blown out 81-60.


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