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May 24, 2009

Nike MDC: Barton on top of his game

MORE: T.O.C.- Hewitt establishes himself | T.O.C.- Irving and Leslie shine

SUWANEE, Georgia - The Bobby Hussey Memorial Nike Memorial Day Classic got going on Saturday morning, and with a loaded field the action did not disappoint. With a lot of high level action it wasn't easy to stand out, but Baltimore native Will Barton definitely found a way to do so.

Barton cements his status

The story of the morning was the play of Harrison Barnes against Boo Williams. Barnes absolutely torched Boo Williams during the first session of games, and the performance was so impressive that in the evening the Boo Williams wings were still arguing about who got it lit up the most the in the second half. Howard Pulley lost that game to Boo, but it gave Barnes great momentum going into Pulley's game against Nike Baltimore Elite and fellow five star wing Will Barton.

Unfortunately for people watching, Barton and Barnes really didn't matchup all that often, but another five-star prospect, Josh Selby did go head to head with Barnes quite a bit. With Barnes guarding Selby, Barton seized an opportunity and absolutely took over the game.

Barton got the game going in style with a dunk, and from there it was simply his show. He scored with ease going to the rim, finished athletically with impressive dunks, made perimeter jump shots, and simply did anything that he wanted to do on the court. In the first half alone Barton had 19 points, and only missed two field goals in the process.

While Barton was on fire, Barnes struggled. His outside shot which was so pure in the morning game, took a while to get going against Baltimore Elite. He missed his first three field goal attempts of the game, and even uncharacteristically missed three free throws early on. Barnes did begin to right the ship at the end of the first half and showed why he is a premier prospect, but it was all about Barton.

In the second half Barton cooled down a little bit, but still he was scoring nearly at will. Due to some nice passes from Selby, Barton was able to convert easy buckets, and that got Baltimore Elite going. Add in Selby making shots that simply couldn't be defended, and the rout was on.

Barnes closed out strong, and did everything he could to keep Howard Pulley in the game, but Barton and company were simply too much. Barton topped the 30 point mark for the game, and in the process cemented his status as one of the best players in the country.

West Coast talent

Sometimes prospects in the west can be tough to get a great look at because of their limited participation at events in the Eastern Time zone, but that definitely isn't the case this weekend in Suwanee.

California Supreme showed up with an extremely talented squad, and leading the way for them was Gary Franklin and James Johnson. Franklin, a USC commitment, clearly wasn't bothered by any jet lag on Saturday.

With a great ability to get into the lane off the dribble and either create for teammates or make a shot, Franklin proved to be next to impossible to stop for the Georgia Blazers. Franklin started off by showing what he can do of the bounce, when he would beat his man of the dribble with his quick first step, and from there he launched from three.

Because his shot was on, the Blazers simply had no answer for him on the offensive end, and because of his tenacious defense, Franklin also made things difficult on the Blazers when they had the ball. Overall it was clearly one of the best point guard displays seen this spring.

The biggest recipient of Franklin's passes down low was James Johnson. Though Johnson did not start the game, he came off the bench and provided a huge lift. To get things going he nailed a nice looking mid-range jumper, and after that he put the entire game on display.

Franklin is a deceptive athlete who is more than capable of finishing well above the rim, has skills shooting the ball from the mid-range, and also can put the ball on the floor and beat less mobile big men off the dribble. Before fouling out, the skilled power forward was a big time matchup problem, and showed the form of someone who could really rise in the rankings with other strong performances.

Also coming from the west is Arizona native Daniel Bejarano. The five-star shooting guard is known mostly for his ability to score, but on Saturday more parts of his game came out. With his team undermanned against Brandon Knight, Austin Rivers, and company, Bejarno had to do a lot to help keep it close.

Do a lot is exactly what he did. Bejarano made all of his teammates better by breaking down the defense and creating easy buckets for others. Also he played excellent defense on Knight or Rivers, depending on whom he was guarding. As always Bejarano scored, but he didn't have that dominant performance lighting up the scoreboard like he is capable. While Bejarno was good, and did what he could, his Arizona Stars team still fell to defeat.

More notes

So far this summer Knight is playing with both Each 1 Teach 1, and Southeast Elite. It is obvious that at this point Knight and Rivers still don't have their chemistry in the backcourt. Neither player has a great feel for how to play with the other, but still they each find a way to put up good numbers. If they can do a better job of working together in the backcourt it could be a truly scary proposition for opponents.

The state of Georgia always seems to be loaded with talent, and 2011 is no exception. Georgia Blazers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell might be the best of the bunch from the Peach State in that class. An explosive scorer, Caldwell can get hot from deep in a hurry, and when he does there is no defending him. Also he is an excellent athlete with the ability to break his man down off the bounce. He does need to improve his decision making some, but the natural ability of Caldwell is very impressive.

Joining Caldwell in the Blazers backcourt is Nick Marshall. Marshall can play a bit out of control at times, but still he is super talented. Marshall finishes through contact well at the rim, and also showed the ability to really shoot it from deep. Also Marshall is a big time quarterback prospect, so right now the only real question with him isn't if he will play at a high profile school, but it revolves around which sport he will be playing at the highest level. With his play on Saturday as well as the spring as a whole, he will have his choice of basketball schools to go along with numerous football options as well.

Syracuse commitment C.J. Fair can get overshadowed at times because of the way Barton and Selby score points, but Fair does a lot for Baltimore Elite. A long and rangy combo forward, Fair rebounds well on the offensive end, scores down low when he gets the chance, and even showed the ability to step out and hit three ball.

Playing his first major tournament of the spring was Jordan Latham. Latham has been out of action since the end of the high school season with a knee injury, but got out there and played well. He still is not 100 percent, and is working his way into shape, but Latham showed good hands, a nice touch when facing up, and rebounded well on the offensive end. He needs to get tougher on defense, but it was a solid start especially considering his time on the floor has been limited.

In a triple overtime victory for the Mac Irvin Fire, Meyers Leonard was extremely impressive. His energy and production sparked a Mac Irvin comeback, and without him on the floor there was no way they would have won. Most impressive with Leonard was the way he absolutely attacked the glass. Leonard had numerous tip dunks off of his teammates misses, and was a force on the boards on both ends of the floor. Offensively his game was mostly within three feet of the rim, but he recognized his advantage down low and simply went to it. It was the best he has played in a long time.

The team on the losing end of that battle with Mac Irvin was the Alabama Challenge. The Challenge put up a good fight, and a huge reason was Ralston Turner. Turner is a good athlete with a quick release on his jump shot. He was making shots from deep with a good frequency, and also he used his athleticism on the defensive end to cause problems.

The Family stunned the New York Gauchos in a morning game by one point, and Roy Marble Jr. deserves a lot of the credit for the victory. Marble is a tough 6-foot-5 wing player, and his ability to score inside and out proved to be too much for the Gauchos. While Marble doesn't blow you away with his athleticism, he is plenty athletic and knows how to play the game. He scored well over 20 points in the upset victory.

Showing great improvement for the Gauchos is point guard Derrick Wilson. The stocky 2011 floor general is as good as it gets on the defensive end of the floor, and his offensive game continues to come around. As he gets a consistent jumper he will be much more difficult to defend, but for right now his defense combined with his ability to get others involved is very important.

It was a day that Jerian Grant will not soon forget. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard played great for Team Takeover, in both games on Saturday, but Takeover lost both, and it is going to sting for Grant. Takeover had Grant running the point, and he was able to really make plays going off the dribble. He showed a good feel for the position, and more often than not good things happened when he had the ball in his hands. The only negative for Grant was his late foul shooting. He missed a key front end of a one-and-one in Takeover's first loss, and then missed two free throws with one second left in their loss to the Georgia Stars. Take nothing away from Grant, though. Without him Takeover would have been in much bigger trouble in both games, and his play besides the foul shots was nothing short of outstanding.

Team Texas Elite is one of the more talented squads in the tournament, and Cameron Clark could be the best of the bunch. With Phil Pressey missing the first game due to travel issues, Clark put on a show. He used his athleticism to finish in traffic, and also he got it going from deep. Clark continued that strong play the rest of the day, and showed why his stock is absolutely soaring.

After missing the first game, Pressey arrived in time to play in Team Texas' evening contest. As always Pressey showed the high level passing and basketball IQ, but also he shot the ball fairly well, outside of his dunks. Pressey missed a several dunk attempts, but in the process the 5-foot-10 guard showed more explosion than ever. Maybe even more impressive than his improved athleticism was his ability to play defense. Pressey takes pride in harassing opposing guards, and had several steals converted into easy buckets.

Keep an eye out on a pair of impressive freshmen. T.J. Bell out of Illinois who plays for Meanstreets and Ricardo Gathers from Louisiana who runs with Louisiana Select. Both showed a world of potential playing at the 17 and under level. Gathers is 6-foot-6 and absolutely cut from granite with excellent athleticism. At 15 years old his ability to play physical with older big guys as well as having skill is quite impressive. Bell is someone who does most of his damage down low, and at 6-foot-7 with long arms, he has a chance to be very good with some more seasoning.

School Lists

Derrick Wilson noted that Georgia Tech and Stanford are the main two schools recruiting him, but also listed North Carolina and Syracuse.

Phil Pressey says he is hearing from the entire Big XII, Arizona, UCLA, Florida, UConn, and Ohio State

Cameron Clark rattled of an impressive list of Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA, Kansas, Arizona, Arizona State, Memphis, and Kentucky.

Big time 2011 target James McAdoo is listing North Carolina, Florida, Syracuse, UCLA, UConn, Clemson, Texas, and nearly the rest of the Big East and ACC.

Roy Marble has an offer from Buffalo, and interest from Michigan, Dayton, Oregon, Indiana, Western Michigan, Iowa, and Providence.

Jordan Latham is getting significant attention from Xavier, Marquette, and Virginia Tech.



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