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January 21, 2008

Tribute to a King is a major hit

ROSWELL, GA -- Mondays aren't supposed to be this exciting. The four-game set at the Tribute to a King Holiday Hardwood Classic was about as good as it gets when it comes to high school basketball. Eight of the top teams in Georgia gave the standing room only crowd plenty to talk about.

Thompkins turns in special performance

Howard Thompkins left Atlanta last year to taste the life as an Oak Hill player. Back for his senior season at Wesleyan again, the 6-foot-8 is making up for lost time.

The Georgia bound forward was about as dominating as any player we've seen this season, scoring 44 points on 18 of 27 shooting from the floor all the while grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking six shots in a heart-breaking 73-69 loss to Tucker in the opening game of the day.

Tucker had no answer for the future Georgia Bulldog. Thompkins dominated the paint throughout and showed very little trouble in his attack to the basket.

Tucker head coach James Hartry said Thompkins was a load to defend throughout the game.

"He's everything they said he was and more," Tucker coach James Hartry marveled. "He's a beast, a monster, whatever you want to call him. That's a potential first-rounder one day (in the NBA draft)."

It is a shame that the majority of the McDonald's All-American votes are unofficially cast after the summer, because Thompkins' play this season has certainly warranted a spot in the burger game. Hopefully the word will reach those that decide the game because the 6-foot-8 forward is having that kind of season, evident by his dominating performance on Monday.

Upset city

Trae Golden has carved out a niche for himself as one of the elite scorers nationally in the class of 2010. On Monday afternoon, he showed off a new facet of his game �" his passing.

"That's something he's always been able to do," McEachern head coach Nick Chaykowsky said after his team's 79-69 win over state powerhouse Columbia. "I think he's just having a chance to show it more now."

Show he did. Golden's explosive first step was the difference as he got into the lane with ease. If Golden didn't score, he found Richmond bound big man Darrius Garrett.

Golden scored 26 points (6-15 FG, 11-13 FT), with most of his made buckets coming right at the rim off the dribble drive. He finished with seven assists and did a fine job of controlling the tempo in a major win. For perspective, Columbia's 47-game regular season win streak over state foes was snapped on Saturday.

Garrett, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward, is an absolute steal for the Spiders. He's having a big senior year and continued his success with a 17-point, 12-rebound and eight-block game.

Centennial High, the event host, was matched up against Marietta, a team thought amongst a good part of the locals, as an underdog. That was far from the case.

Marietta jumped out to a 19-5 lead to open the game and that proved to be the difference in a 63-59 over Centennial.

Seniors DeAndre Cannon and Stanley Jennings hit key shots early on and junior point guard Chris Tanzy chipped in 11 points in the second half to pull off the difficult road win.

Cannon, a bouncy 6-foot-4 junior college bound wing, put in 13 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. Jennings scored 13 points and hit just enough key free-throws on an absolutely cold night from the charity stripe for Marietta.

Centennial was paced by junior Lorenzo Brown, who controlled the game in nearly aspect. The 6-foot-4 combo guard scored 18 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds in the defeat.

It is easy to understand why Florida, NC State and Miami are turning up the heat with the four-star guard. He's a patient producer with a mature game. Brown knows how to turn it up at the right time is was one of the top overall prospects in the event on Monday despite the defeat.

News & Notes

Tucker held off Thompkins's tremendous day of work thanks in large part to the hot second half shooting of 6-foot-5 wing Manny Atkins. The strong-bodied junior scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his team's win.

Atkins caught fire in the second half from the perimeter and took the lead late in the game. He makes big shots and isn't afraid to keep firing attempts up, even when he's struggling to get it going.

Clearly a guy on the mid-major/high-major bubble, Atkins will be a hot recruit when teams dive deeper into the evaluation process on the national circuit. With that in mind, Atkins said Georgia Tech, Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Alabama, Providence and Xavier "are the main ones recruiting me now."

Tanner Smith, a Clemson signee, showed off his versatile game, scoring 11 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out five assists on a bum ankle in his team's loss to Tucker.

Columbia forward Travis Leslie scored 15 points in the loss and grabbed 11 rebounds in the process. The 6-foot-5 super-freak athlete is a pure energy player that has high-major ability but low-major skill. He'll find a home at the highest level because of his natural gifts but he hasn't really progressed as a basketball player over the last two years.

Leslie scored with authority at the basket and has a number of wow moments but knocking down jump shots and handling the ball are still major question marks this late in the high school season.

Wow factor

Dequan Jones opened the game up with a bang and then some. The Miami bound wing has about as good of springs as anyone in the nation and used his pro-level explosiveness for two man-sized dunks.

Here is a stat to chew on. After each of Jones's monster dunks, Wheeler went on a 6-0 run under a minute. Jones has an uncanny ability to change a game with an amazing confidence snatching play.

The 6-foot-5 wing was handcuffed with fouls and finished with the loudest 10 points you'll ever see. He blocked five shots with authority and protected the basket like a security guard. He's had better games but when it came to providing a spark, Jones was the man in a big way.

Sophomore guard Phil Taylor scored 22 points and hit timely three-pointers. He knocked down four of his five three-pointers and controlled the pace of the game with great poise, as he seems to always do on the big stage.

Despite being the smallest guy on the floor at most points, the 5-foot-9 point guard does a fine job of finding spots to grab rebounds. He collected five boards and handed out an equal amount of assists.

Now over halfway through his first year at Wheeler, forward Richard Howell looks like he has finally found his role with his new team. The 6-foot-7 junior scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, most of which came after he turned his ankle early in the game.

Howell is a producing big man when he is under the basket. His hands are strong, yet soft, and his court vision is tremendous for a player at his position. He finds his slashing teammates with ease and does a fine job of starting the transition after he grabs the rebound.

Howell said he'd like to end his recruitment perhaps some time after the season ends. Those in the mix include Michigan State, Tennessee, Memphis, Auburn, Georgia, Virginia Tech, NC State, Georgetown, Arizona, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, he said.

Ari Stewart, the lone five-star prospect on Wheeler's roster, was quiet despite scoring nine points. He dunked home four of his points late in the game in the open floor. Like Jones, Stewart was handcuffed with early foul trouble, limiting his production and effectiveness.

Mfon Udofia was cold in the first half, going zero for nine from the floor. Admittedly, Udofia was abysmal against Wheeler in the first 16 minutes, missing point blank shots, not converting easy buckets at the rim and not involving teammates.

The second half, as is always the case with him, was a different story.

Few guards in the Southeast can close out a game with better shooting numbers and higher field goal percentage in the second half of a game like Udofia can. The four-star guard scored 19 of his 25 points in the final 16 minutes of play. He scored everything at the rim and challenged Wheeler's guard all the way to the basket.

Udofia has the look and feel of a two guard this high school. He's clearly a high-major player but it will be interesting to see where he falls in the pecking order for the high-majors at the point guard position this spring and fall when he hits the AAU circuit.

The kids are alright

The pedigree of Division I players is growing longer by the season at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga. Next in line is freshman guard Karl Cochran. The 6-foot guard played a big role for the Wildcats in a hard fought win.

Cochran scored 13 points and came up with big baskets and collected free throws down the stretch. His role has increased since the semester break and has the tools to be one of the many Division I players to come out of Wheeler.

In Columbia's disappointing loss, there was a glimpse into the future of the program. Sophomore Jershon Cobb scored a modest 10 points on five of 10 shooting from the floor. The wiry 6-foot-4 guard has a good touch in the midrange and a body that has a lot of filling out to do. When it all comes together, watch out. Cobb has a chance to be a player.

Sleeper central

Aric Miller, a baby-faced shooting guard from Tucker (Ga.) High School, had the gym buzzing with his perimeter scoring and key made three-pointers in a win over Wesleyan. All 17 of his points came in the second half, including four made three-pointers. The 6-foot-1 guard made a significant impact in the game and raised a lot of eyebrows with his play.

Miller, a young senior who just turned 17 years old, said he is a full qualifier and has received interest from Harvard and Charleston Southern this year. He added he is contemplating a year at prep school next year, too.

For low-majors looking for a quality big man, Kenny Mitchell of Columbia (Ga.) could very well fit the part. The 6-foot-7 power forward plays an important role alongside South Carolina bound big man Darius Morrow.

Mitchell, a long-armed big man, scored 11 points and collected seven rebounds in his team's defeat on Monday. He's one of the top unsigned big men in the Peach State. According to his coaches, Tennessee Tech, Lipscomb, Jacksonville and others are interested an involved.

Columbia point guard David Forest paced his club with a team high 22 points in the loss. The lefty knocked down three three-pointers and used his herky-jerky speed to get into the paint for buckets.

All eyes on us

With most of the college teams enjoying an off day from games on Monday, a number of coaches filed into the Centennial gym. Georgia head coach Dennis Felton was on hand to see the action as was Richmond head coach Chris Mooney. Jeff Capel of Oklahoma and Rod Barnes Georgia State also spent time in Roswell for the day's events.

Assistant coaches from Auburn, Cincinnati, Eastern Kentucky, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, North Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Richmond, Savannah State, South Florida, Tennessee Tech, Virginia, Wofford and Xavier filled the stands.

Scoreboard

Tucker 73, Wesleyan 69
McEachern 79, Columbia 69
Wheeler 82, Miller Grove 77
Marietta 63, Centennial 59

Other action from the Peach State

Down the highway in Marietta, a two-game set featuring a handful of Division I prospects was played at Southern Poly Tech.

Georgia bound guard Dustin Ware came alive in the second half, scoring 20 of his 24 points in the second stanza to lead his North Cobb Christian team to a 85-61 over Urban Christian.

Ware second half, took over, hitting on four three-pointers and finished with seven assists and five steals in the victory. The fiery competitor is one of the most underappreciated guards in the nation and continues to have a huge senior season.

Unsigned big man Matt Shaw continues his strong senior year as he went for 14 points and 13 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 power forward is a non-stop hustler and a fine low-major prospect at this stage of the game.

Cincinnati bound guard Cashmere Wright led Urban Christian with 24 points, including a number of highlight plays on the offensive end of the floor. He'll be a big time offensive force down the road for the Bearcats.

Georgia State guard James Fields added 16 points with his new team. The 6-foot-2 combo guard joined the team at the semester break.

The Patterson (N.C.) high school team opened it's game against the World Changers (Ga.) with a 28-7 run en route to a blow out win.

Georgia bound forward Drazen Zlovaric scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his second game with Patterson.


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