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Not all about LeBron

December 16, 2002 Columns No Comments


It’s Not All About LeBron

by Jed Tai

Admit it, you watched.

If you’re a fan of basketball, you likely tuned in last Thursday night to ESPN2’s broadcast of the St. Vincent-St. Mary’s versus Oak Hill Academy contest to catch a glimpse of LeBron James, who if you buy all the hype, is the biggest thing to hit basketball since James Naismith poked holes in the bottom of the peach baskets.

While every writer and commentator on the planet is breaking down James’ game down to the most minute detail (and with good reason), what’s lost in the hubbub is the fact that there were a good number of other future basketball players in the game who – unlike James – will actually be playing in college next season. For even if the “Chosen One” had not played, it was still a matchup that would delight the hardcore high school/recruiting aficionado based on the talent on the court.

So, if you missed the game or were completely wrapped up in watching #23 for St. Vincent-St. Mary you didn’t notice anyone else, here’s a look at some of the future Division I talents who were also introduced to the nation for the very first time on Thursday (listed in alphabetical order):

Sian Cotton, St. V-M
College: considering Florida, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, others
Stats: 3 points on 1-for-2 fg, 6 rebounds, 2 assists

Cotton is a better football prospect as a defensive tackle and will likely be playing on the gridiron in the future, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him serve in a Julius Peppers/Teyo Johnson role down the line for whatever college he ends up at. He’s a widebody but he has some skills. Since he wasn’t a featured player on offense for the Irish, he didn’t touch the ball often, but late in the game he hit a 15-foot baseline jumper and showed some nice interior passing throughout the contest. And, of course, he hit the boards hard.

Dion Dacons, Oak Hill
College: considering Appalachian State, Davidson, others
Stats: 11 points on 5-for-10 fg, 5 rebounds

Dacons – the only returning player at Oak Hill from last year’s team – has been noted as an outstanding student, but he’s also not a half-bad basketball player. Despite his lithe frame, he worked his way to some tough baskets in the paint and contributed on the boards. He showed a nice touch on his shot and pretty much took what the defense gave him. Defensively, he matched up on James quite a few times and didn’t embarrass himself. He should be a nice pickup for a low-to-mid level program in college.

Ivan Harris, Oak Hill
College: committed to Ohio State
Stats: 13 points on 6-for-7 fg, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks

Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien made the trip up from Columbus to watch the gem of his recruiting class, and he had to have come away happy. The 6-7, left-handed Harris played very efficiently, hitting his first six shots, including a three. He showed smoothness to his game and used his long arms to effectively rebound and defend – including a nice help block of LeBron James on one play. You’ll see him on TV again as a high-schooler; most likely at the McDonald’s All-American game in the spring.

Dru Joyce, St. V-M
College: committed to Akron
Stats: 5 points on 2-for-9 fg, 3 assists

Joyce is small to begin with at 5-9, and it really showed on the court. He hung around the perimeter for most of the game and hardly ever penetrated or showed much creativity with the ball, although one alley-oop to James in the first half was pretty. The fact most of his shots were way behind the three-point line (7 of his 9 attempts were threes) makes you wonder if he’ll be able to get off shots at next level. Still, he is an outstanding ball-handler and he was able to harass Williams on defense with his quickness.

Byron Joynes, Oak Hill
College: considering Connecticut, Maryland, others
Stats: 3 points on 1-3 fg, 4 rebounds

Joynes is a huge widebody at 6-9, 300 lbs, and certainly threw his body around in the contest. He worked hard on the boards and one of his hard fouls late in the game threw LeBron James to the deck. He did show a bit of polish to his game converting on a nice post move in the second half and a nice dish to a cutting teammate in the paint later on. It’s pretty clear he does need some work though – especially on his body – but some major programs are interested.

J.R. Reynolds, Oak Hill
College: committed to Virginia
Stats: 10 points on 3-for-9 fg, 2 assists

The 6-2 Reynolds only shot 3-for-9 from the field (2-for-7 from three-point range) but hadn’t misfired that often until Oak Hill really got down in the end and the Warriors were chucking up threes in an effort to catch up. He showed a pretty nice looking stroke, even though he didn’t hit many. He did tend to force the action a bit on some wild drives to the basket, but appears to be a good athlete with a nice body. He should be a contributor at Virginia.

Romeo Travis, St. V-M
College: committed to Akron
Stats: 17 points on 7-for-14 fg, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists

If James hadn’t played, the 6-7 Travis would have been the star of the game. While it is apparent the familiarity between him and James played a part in him ringing up big numbers (James often found Travis underneath for open hoops), Travis does get the credit for having the knack of hanging around the hoop to receive those passes. But he not only scored on those but by converting offensive putbacks as well. While he didn’t hit any of his three three-point field goal attempts, you could tell from his lefty shot that he has that kind of range. He was also extremely active defensively with the four rejections and a couple of steals. He is a great pickup for a school like Akron.

Marcus Williams, Oak Hill
College: committed to Connecticut
Stats: 3 points on 1-for-14 fg, 6 rebounds, 7 assists

Williams clearly didn’t have one of his better performances (unlike a game last week where he set a school record with 24 assists) – but he is the latest in a long line of Oak Hill point guard greats (Strickland, McInnis, Avery, Blake, to name a few). Despite the rough shooting night, he did display nice floor leadership, keeping good care of the ball and finding open teammates either underneath or on the perimeter. And while his shot wasn’t falling, he helped out on the glass and on defense. However, the fact he made some poor decisions on the break and kept on shooting does go to show why some feel he’s more of a combo guard than a pure point guard. But, at 6-2, 185 lbs he has nice size and should be an impact player at UConn next season.

By the Way

The broadcast of the St. Vincent-St. Mary versus Oak Hill matchup was billed as the first high school regular season game broadcast by ESPN in 13 years. For whatever reason, the network hasn’t specified which exact game it was that was shown back in 1989. In case you were wondering exactly which contest it was, it was a matchup between St. Anthony’s (NJ) and Flint Hill (VA), two of the top ranked programs that season. Like the St. V-M/Oak Hill matchup, it was star-studded: St. Anthony’s was led by seniors Bobby Hurley (Duke) and Jerry Walker (Seton Hall) and a freshman named Rodrick Rhodes (Kentucky/Southern Cal), while Flint Hill featured George Lynch (North Carolina) and Aaron Bain (Villanova). Now you know.

Hoopville senior writer Phil Kasiecki contributed to this article.

     

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