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July 9, 2007

Rbk U: Sunday afternoon

PHILADELPHIA - The ABCD camp may not be synonymous with July anymore but another four lettered camp associated with Reebok is a fine replacement. Meet Rbk U, the new kid on the block.

No. 1 starts the break

The camp's best player, Renardo Sidney opened the camp like a number one player is supposed to. The top dog in the class of 2009 wasted little time with setting the bar for the camp. He started a little slow and shrunk his massive 6-foot-10, 240-pound body by trying to show off his perimeter skills by handling the ball in the open floor and playing like a guard. Once he went to his strengths inside against Floridian and top 30 senior Eloy Vargas, Sidney was unstoppable. He scored at will in the paint and even converted on a couple of three pointers.

Sidney finished with 26 points (11-18 FG) and 10 rebounds in his team's 69-64 win over a worthy opponent. Sidney's dominance down low as a scorer and rebounder proved to be the difference maker in the end.

If this is the type of performance we expect to see this week in Philly, than expect the bar to be raised another notch. Sidney showed the way. Now it's up to the rest of the 119 kids in the field to try and catch up.

On the recruiting front, Ohio State has seemed to make a play for the best player in 2009. Surprised? The Buckeyes were on hand for the game. So were coaches from USC, UCLA, Florida and Texas.

On guard

Outside of Sidney's first game performance, it was pretty strong in the guard department int eh opening round of games.

Arizona commitment Brandon Jennings did what he does best: operate in another speed, go in another gear and defended Kenny Boynton, one of the premiere scorers in the class of 2009. Jennings scored 11 points and handed out four assists (all to Sidney or Isaiah Thomas) while not turning the ball over once.

Thomas, a Washington commit, did a fine job of finding Sidney as well. Offensively, he had a good looking floater in the lane as well as deep pull up three-pointer. He did turn the ball over seven times though.

Boynton struggled with Jennings draped on him and shot a cold four of 16 from the floor en route to 11 points. He did find a way to be effective by hitting the glass. The 6-foot-2 guard grabbed 10 rebounds in a tough defeat.

Verdell Jones, a 6-foot-4 string bean from Peoria (Ill.), maintained his status as a good floor general and director of passes. He was effective and smart with the ball in his hands. Jones finished with a modest 11 points and three assists in a blow out win.

Anthony Marshall of Las Vegas is making a strong case for himself as one of the better guards in the West's 2009 class. The strong-bodied 6-foot-3 guard scored with great proficiency (six of seven from the floor) on his way to 12 good-looking points. He's a definite high-major prospect.

Washington pledge Elston Turner continues to shine as a do-a-little-bit-of-everything kind of guard. He scored when need, crashed the boards and defended. The 6-foot-4 NorCal native knows how to operate in the backcourt.

Thinking down the road

High school team rankings, the grand scheme of things, don't amount to anything but it would be hard to think about any other teams in the country that boast the kind of talent and basketball IQ quite like St. Anthony's (N.J.) next season. Bob Hurley, Sr., who is at camp for the weekend, has to be happy with the talent returning to his program next year. There is plenty to work with.

We caught a trio of the talented crew from the famed Jersey City program on Sunday afternoon. Future Fordham guard Jio Fontan had it rolling the best. The 5-foot-10 guard scored 16 points and handed out three assists while piloting his team to an easy victory against two of his high school teammates – Travon Woodall and Mike Rosario.

Fontan set the tone for his team with his patient shot selection and high percentage buckets. He took shots he knew he would be in good position to make and set up teammates with similar attempts. He didn't try anything too fancy and did what you want your point guard to do.

Woodall and Rosario were plenty effective, too. Moreso Woodall. The future Pitt Panther scored 15 points and did most of from the wing, where he scored on three of four three pointers. Rosario struggled a little more. He shot a cold six of 18 from the floor but managed to finish with 16 points in a tough defeat.

Tyshawn Taylor, the only uncommitted possible high-major guard in St. Anthony's 2008 class, is emerging as a point guard to watch for a number of programs. He scored 14 points (5-6 FG, 1-1 from three and 3-5 FT) as well as grabbing four rebounds and handing out three assists in an afternoon win. Taylor must learn to protect the ball and make better decisions as he turned it over five times. Athletically, he's one of the best in the Northeast.

Keep in mind St. Anthony's has Dominic Cheek, a top 20 prospect in 2009, and Alberto Estwick, another Fordham commitment, also in the lineup. Try finding ways to defend this bunch of fundamentally sound group of scorers and defenders. Good luck to all those that have St. Anthony's on the schedule this winter.

Hi, my name is…

Camp organizers are quick to point out that the camp should provide plenty of introductions to new names and faces from prospects around the country. That was certainly the case right out of the gate.

Andrew Randell, a Philly area native, made a strong first impression for those that just encountered him. The 6-foot-7 forward from Communication Tech scored 19 points (8-11 FG, 3-5 from three) and grabbed eight rebounds in a big win in the afternoon. Randell has La Salle, Temple, St. Bonaventure, and Duquesne hot on his trail.

When it came to putting in points, few did it better on Saturday than Brendan Montario. The 6-foot-5 Waterbury (Conn.) Crosby High School product scored 16 points on seven of 12 shooting from the floor. He's not a skilled scorer and did most of his work in transition. But he knows how to get out and un the floor and puts himself into position to score. We'll keep an eye on him all week to see how consistent he can be.

"I'm interested in…"

String bean forward John Henson has a strong list already for a class of 2009 prospect. Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Ohio State and Texas A&M have got in early with the young man that is still learning about his long 6-foot-9 body. The Round Rock (Texas) product just screams prospect with his long body, sweet shot and good ball-handling skills. Kevin Durant comparisons are inevitable but off at this stage.

Missouri, Jacksonville, Virginia Tech, Dayton and Mississippi are all involved with Florida guard Shaquille Johnson. Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, Illinois, and Oregon are in the race with Verdell Jones.

A decision could be coming soon for Mt. Zion (N.C.) big man Terrance Jennings. The bouncy forward has Maryland, California, Washington, Illinois, Memphis, and Connecticut hot on his trail.

Floridians Kenny Boynton and Eloy Vargas are both hotly pursued, and for good reason. Boynton said he has heard from Villanova, Florida, Louisville, Ohio State and Duke as well as the Florida schools. Vargas is still high on Pittsburgh, Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana, Florida, Miami and Florida State.

Top 5 grinders

Driving from the Philadelphia airport to the venue, you get a feel for the City of Brotherly Love's blue collar approach. Factories are prevalent and there is a sense that hard work, blood, sweat and tears are deep-rooted in the industrial area of the city. With that in mind, we wanted to highlight the top five underappreciated, blue collar players on the first day of action.

Festus Ezeli, 2008 – Here is a guy that will be the center of attention for a number of programs this week and the rest of the month. The 6-foot-8 Nigerian is prep school bound (maybe New England academic powerhouses like Brewster Academy or New Hampton) and he'll go there with a handful of offers. The rugged big man has a frit to his game that few have shown here at the camp already. He had nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a tight win. UCLA, Ohio State, DePaul, Cal, Oregon State, Virginia and others are involved. Mix in the fact he's a big time student with off the charts numbers on the academic side of things. Ezeli will be a name that receives plenty of ink here this week. Believe that.

Allan Chaney, 2008 – The 6-foot-8 New London (Conn.) big man didn't do much on the offensive end (four points on two field goal attempts) but he caught some eyes with his attention on the boards. The little known center grabbed 10 rebounds in his first game of action. Chaney is a guy worth watching for mid-major programs this week. He said he already has offers from Providence, Rhode Island, UMass, James Madison, Duquesne and Fordham.

Quintrell Thomas, 2008 – Just like he did at the NBPA Top 100 camp, the St. Patrick (N.J.) big man is carving out a niche for himself as a hard-working, dirty work doing player. He does the things that doesn't normally receive praise but he's doing what he's good at. And that's encouraging. Thomas doesn't need to score a lot of points. He scored a modest five points (and could have doubled that if he could find some success at the foul line). Thomas is not afraid to get his jersey dirty and he fights for rebounds like a scrapper in a boxing ring.

Dwight Miller, 2008 – This Houston (Texas) native opened some eyes with his determination to get rebounds, play hard from end to end and absolutely fly to the ball. He's a magnet to loose balls and made sure every ounce of sweat on his jersey is authentic. The 6-foot-7 hustler from Westbury Christian could walk away with some high-major interest with more games like he had on Sunday afternoon.

Justin Brownlee, 2008 – The south Georgia native doesn't do a lot of talking. In fact, he rarely speaks in big public settings. He doesn't really need to either. The Covenant Christian (Marietta, Ga.) product used his big, strong 6-foot-6 frame to muscle around the paint for rebounds (eight to be exact) and scored 11 points on five for five shooting from the floor. He's going to play hard and utilize his great athleticism every time he steps out onto the floor.

From a distance

Taking a look at some of the box scores from Sunday morning, we uncovered a couple of notables. They include:

Terrence Jennings of California had a double-double of 18 points (9-16 FG) and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Recent Villanova commitment Maalik Wayns, a class of 2009 prospect, gave a strong pro-Villanova crowd something to talk about. He scored 10 points and handed out five assists all the while playing strong defense.

Playing with the constant reminder of his best friend's death, Shaquille Johnson scored 22 points in the game's first day. Johnson, a Florida native, lost his best friend Dante Anderson in a May car accident. Anderson's number 22 is honored on all of the jerseys in the camp. Johnson certainly had his own way of acknowledging his friend.

Big man Jordan Henriquez of Port Chester (N.Y.) High School grabbed 11 rebounds and scored nine points on a perfect four for four from the floor. The long 6-foot-10 center is a mid-major eye-catcher.

Mississippi State commitment Romero Osby converted 11 of 13 shots from the foul line en route to his 17 points in the afternoon game.

Canadian Tristan Thompson earned his way into the camp by shining at the Rbk Underclassmen camp. He wasted little time proving he was worth the invite in the first game by scoring an impressive 12 points on six of nine shooting from the floor. The class of 2010 prospect is headed to St. Benedict's (N.J.) this coming school season.



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