SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The last day of the Spalding Hoophall Classic may have had only five games, but it was the big one, full of TV matchups. There was plenty of star power, and the only game not nationally televised was a great game to start the day that came right down to the final buzzer.
The first three games of the day were all close, while the fourth was close until the fourth quarter. The last one wasn’t quite as close as the final score might suggest. The constant was the talent, and although each team had star performers, most also had good support players and/or younger talents that helped out and are also worth noting and watching in the future.
We take a look at the scores, then notes from the game action.
Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s 57, Philadelphia (PA) Constitution HS 56
Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd 79, Marietta (GA) Wheeler HS 70
Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy 76, Cleveland (OH) Villa Angela St. Joseph 72
Montverde (FL) Academy 76, Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman 57
St. Louis (MO) Chaminade College Prep 88, Fairfax (VA) Paul VI 78
A thriller features a couple of underrated talents to start
The first game of the day set the stage quite nicely. It was a close game throughout and came down to the buzzer, and it featured a couple of solid, under-the-radar seniors who played well for their teams. One of them almost won it at the buzzer.
The always-talented St. Anthony’s had Wichita State-bound Markis McDuffie (6’8″ Sr. SF-PF), who is long, athletic and active, and was especially good on the glass in posting a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds. A couple of baskets came on stickbacks, and along with Jagan Mosely (6’3″ Jr. SG) and promising young guard R.J. Cole (5’11” So. PG) he led the way for the Saints.
Ahmad Gilbert (6’7″ Sr. SF) did all he could to give Constitution a chance to win. The George Mason signee went for 27 points, hitting a number of big shots and almost getting a layup at the buzzer. He sped up the floor with the ball and had a good chance, but he went up earlier than he would have if not for the buzzer and was a little too strong with it as the ball rolled off the rim. The lefty is very athletic and hit three shots from deep, and has room to grow with his ball skills.
The first game was all you could ask for to set the stage for what was to come.
Rabb comes to play and lifts O’Dowd, with an assistant
Ivan Rabb (6’11” Sr. PF-C, Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd HS) has been ranked among the elite players in the country for a while now. Some services have had him atop their list at one time or another. You can understand why when you look at him and see his physical gifts, as he’s long and athletic to go with his size, but watch him play and you might have questions.
Rabb’s motor has been a bit inconsistent, as he doesn’t seem to have an edge to him that drives him to dominate. He’ll put up numbers, and you can see he has a good skill set for the post, but he can seemingly disappear. One analyst thinks he’s trying to process the game more, and considering how well he can pass, he may well be conscious – one could argue too conscious – of involving teammates.
Those questions were nonexistent on Monday afternoon. Rabb played with a competitive motor he hasn’t shown very often, especially in the second half. While his opposite number, Jaylen Brown (6’7″ Sr. SF), had a big first half, it was Rabb who took over in the second half. He scored 16 of his 24 points after intermission to lead the way. He scored often on the post, getting a tip-in one time using his length, and was constantly attacking for close field goals. He added 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Rabb had good help from Paris Austin (5’10” Sr. PG), who was the big X-factor in the game. Austin had 18 points and nine assists, and the Boise State-bound guard can still mature more physically. He had a highlight reel play once when he went coast-to-coast with a spin move mixed in at the foul line to get to the basket. Both teams had a star who played well, but Austin was the difference-maker for his team.
But Rabb was the star and won the battle of them that counted. Brown may have out-scored him (31 points) and matched his rebound total, but Rabb’s team won and that matters most.
Big names get noticed, but complementary players have the big game
The star attractions in the third game of the day were a couple of bigger players, Kansas commit Carlton Bragg (6’9″ Sr. PF, Cleveland (OH) Villa Angela St. Joseph) and Ohio State signee Daniel Giddens (6’10” Sr. PF-C, Mariette (GA)). While Bragg played well with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Giddens had a tough afternoon with foul trouble, including a technical, it was a couple of other players who shined the most.
Florida State-bound Dwayne Bacon (6’6″ Sr. SF, Lakeland (FL) Oak Hill Academy) had the big game with 33 points and eight rebounds for Oak Hill Academy, and it looks like things are coming together for him. While he’s always been athletic and capable of scoring, he shot the ball very well here, including from long range (5-11), one of them a deep three-pointer before the third quarter buzzer.
Bragg’s teammate who shined was Northwestern-bound Dereck Pardon (6’8″ Sr. PF), who had 17 points on 8-14 shooting along with six rebounds. Pardon has a good frame, finished with contact and is an athletic post player who uses that to his advantage instead of pretending to be a small forward. While Bragg faced up at times and found teammates, Pardon worked inside and benefited from some of Bragg’s passing.
Bacon also had good help from Missouri-bound Terrence Phillips (5’11” Sr. PG), a strong guard who ran the show well. He didn’t put up big numbers – seven points, seven rebounds and five assists – but he was a key to the win as well. Oak Hill trailed for a lot of the first half and some of the second, but rallied to take home the win.
Ben Simmons the biggest bright spot in an ugly game
The most highly-anticipated matchup of the weekend was probably Montverde Academy taking on Bishop Gorman. Both programs are powerhouses, both are highly-ranked and loaded with Division I prospects, and both have a lot of size in their lineups. Unfortunately, the game didn’t live up to its billing in the sense that the basketball left something to be desired. The two teams combined for 55 turnovers, with Bishop Gorman giving it away 33 times.
There was one bright spot however: Ben Simmons (6’9″ Sr. SF, Melbourne (Australia) Montverde Academy), who wasn’t immune but did so much to overshadow the turnovers.
Simmons is widely considered the top prospect in the class of 2015, and understandably so. Although he is very athletic, that’s not the biggest part of his game and as such it’s something that can be easily underestimated when you watch him. The best parts of his game are his great skill package and the way he simply competes. While he had seven turnovers on Monday, he scored 36 points on 15-24 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. That he attempted just one three-pointer may speak to that being a weak spot right now, but it also tells you that he plays within his skill set to be effective.
What’s also impressive is that Simmons scores multiple ways. He scored in transition, on drives, short jumpers, and several times with stickbacks, including a couple of nice ones a few feet from the basket in traffic. Near the end of the game, he drove to the left side of the basket, was pushed out of bounds but managed to bank home a shot anyway. It was that kind of day for the LSU-bound forward.
Charles O’Bannon Jr. (6’5″ So. SG, Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman) had a nice game in defeat, scoring 22 points on 7-10 shooting. He’ll be a player to keep an eye on, especially given his pedigree. But the big men, who comprise a lot of their key players, never really got going, and that kept Montverde right there or in the lead until they broke it open in the fourth.
Tatum leads, fine support cast leads to a win
While Jayson Tatum (6’8″ Jr. SF, St. Louis (MO) Chaminade College Prep) is the star attraction for his team, he has a pretty good support cast. That was evident in his team’s win to close out the event, especially early on as he didn’t score for a while.
Tatum uncharacteristically didn’t score until about midway through the second quarter. His team led throughout that stretch, which was clearly bad news for Paul VI once he got going. The offensive star of the first half, and indeed a lot of the game for Chaminade, was Mike Lewis II (6’1″ Jr. PG-SG). He would finish with 23 points on 7-11 shooting, including 6-8 from long range, along with four assists. Tatum would ultimately top him with 25 points and 14 rebounds, and frontcourt mate Tyler Cook (6’9″ Jr. PF) added 15 on 7-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. Once it all came together after halftime, they broke the game open and were never seriously threatened.
All of that helped overshadow a 38-point game by V.J. King (6’7″ Jr. SF, Fairfax (VA) Paul VI), who really turned it on in the second half. He was 14-24 from the field, impressing with his athleticism and ability to score in transition.
Tatum still has to improve his long range shooting, though he looked good from mid-range on Monday. Considering how good his skill set is now, there’s reason to believe an improved long range shot will come in time.