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April 23, 2007

Pitt Jam Fest: Sunday

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The 2007 Pitt Jam Fest closed out with a surprise tournament winner and the young players in the field made sure people know about what they are all about.

Surprise, surprise

Grassroots Canada decided early that they weren't going to be pushed around. Ro Russell's team knocked off tournament favorite Boo Williams in the first round of the playoffs. Then the Juice All-Stars. The Arkansas Hawks were next, then the Southeast Elite before beating the D1 Greyhounds to win the tournament.

The kids from Canada had it rolling all weekend thanks in large part to the play of junior guard Devoe Joseph, who scored 15 points in the championship game.

The 6-foot-2 combo guard made shots; tough shots, easy shots, three-pointers, mid range jumpers and broke guys down with the dribble to get to the basket. He said he came to Pittsburgh in order to get his recruitment a shot in the arm. Job well done. Joseph was outstanding in every game he played.

Curtis Trotter, an unsigned senior, was also big time in the game. The 6-foot-6 forward from Henry Carr High School may have played himself into an Atlantic 10 level offer.

Flight schedules pushed us out the door and we missed the championship games.

Team Breakdown claims 16U division

Even with the championship games being played in the 17 and under division, the best basketball of the tournament wasn't played amongst the older kids. The 16 and under division was packed with big time players, highlighted by the play of Brandon Knight, one of the top prospects in the class of 2010.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard from Pine Crest High School in Fla. piloted a loaded Team Breakdown squad to the 16 and under championship. Knight was a scorer supreme in the playoff bracket, and reportedly throughout pool play. He looked at ease in his age group, scoring at will and making tough shots and making the easy buckets look even easier. He scored 19 points, including three three-pointers in the second half against a talented Carolina Raptors team.

Knight said he is hearing the most from North Carolina, Connecticut, Miami, Cincinnati and Georgia Tech early on the in the process. He is every bit the high-major player and a five-star level player for his class. Time is obviously on his size and has a team around him that will play deep into tournaments.

Breakdown has good size inside with a scary frontline of Keith Clanton, David Loubeau and Rakeem Buckles.

Clanton, a 6-foot-7 forward from Orlando Charter High School, is raw but certainly a guy to watch develop. He's long and bouncy and seems quite content with being a guy that does the dirty work inside.

Loubeau, a 6-foot-8 big man from Westlake Prep, has the makings of a future high-major prospect. He is being courted by Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Miami, Florida State and Florida early on. Loubeau is long and plays like that. He knows his strengths are inside the paint and didn't want to stray too far away from the basket, which was nice to see in today's world of endless face up four men.

Like Clanton, Buckles is raw but his upside might be a little better because of his bounce, body and bulliness around the cup. The Miami Pace product is coming up through one of the premiere programs in the Sunshine State at the high school level. He'll be tested against the best and see everyone's best game next year as a defending state championship.

2009, 2010 prospects rise up

Those in the high-major circles that know about Wally Judge don't want to read this but he's on pace to becoming a very special high-major prospect. Don't be surprised to see his recruitment explode.

Already boasting offers from Georgetown and Maryland and high interest from Villanova and Kansas State, the 6-foot-9 forward from Blandesberg (Md.) High School has the kind of game and potential that attracts all kinds of high-major schools.

Judge is a good rebounder and defender and he's also not afraid to jump into the lane and take a charge. In a three minute span, he took three offensive charges and helped throw the momentum back to his club. His hands are soft and big and strong. He catches everything and scored buckets. Judge put in 12 points against Team Final and good on the defensive end of the floor.

Teammate Rodney McGruder steadily gained the respect of on-lookers with his versatile play. The 6-foot-5 wing scored 14 effective points against Team Final and did what players at his position need to do in order to put his team into a position to win games.

Of course being a 2009 prospect, time is on his side to mature into a sure-fire high-major kid. Right now, he's a 'tweener recruit. The mid-majors would love to land him while the high-majors are waiting to see how he matures. Odds are, he'll be playing in the ACC or Big East one day.

The Indiana Elite program is one of the best in the country. And the 16 and under team is one of the best in it's age group. The team in Pittsburgh bowed out early thanks to a buzzer beater to Boo Williams but it was a hard fought win over the New York Gauchos that had people buzzing.

Guard Kyree Jones scored a team high 19 points. The son of a former college coach knows what he is doing on the hardwood. He has a game that will be charted by the high-majors.

Big man Jordan Prosser was a nice surprise inside. He did a great job of posting up with strength, sealing his man off and worked the glass. He scored 12 points in the victory.

Prosser also enjoyed the presence of 6-foot-9 big man Stephen Van Treese and 6-foot-8 forward Bobby Capobianco on the team, too. Van Treese is coming off a seven week recovery from mononucleosis. His legs are still trying to get back to full strength and he finished with 10 points. Capobianco also added 10 points.

The Gauchos' Durand Scott looked like the five-star player he was last year. We saw him in Houston in December with his high school team and as the tallest player on the roster, Scott had to play inside.

Back on the wing, his college position, the 6-foot-5 class of 2009 was very good against Indiana Elite. He scored 30 points in the defeat and did it any which way he wanted.

The Carolina Raptors 16 and under team is prospect heavy. 6-foot-7 combo forward David Pellum from New Hanover High School showed flashes of big time potential. He's can handle the rock, mix it up inside and causes a million mismatch problems for those that face him. Pellum plays alongside Wake Forest five-star commitment Ty Walker in North Carolina.

Get ready to read and hear about guard Dion Waiters. The class of 2010 guard is shaping up to be one of the next quality guards out of the always guard friendly Philadelphia area. Waiters didn't play this season at Southern High School and it looks like he is taking out his year off from the high school scene on the AAU circuit.

Waiters is explosive to the rim and uses his strong 6-foot-2 frame to ward off defender with power and toughness. He's a no-nonsense guy when he is attacking the basket. Waiters fits the mold of tough Philly guards of yesteryear. Built more like a senior instead of a rookie, he used his size well and intimidated the skinnier kids that tried to lock him down on defense. Waiters finished with a team high 14 points.

Paired with freshman guard Tony Chenault, a much heralded freshman, Team Final has quite the 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Waiters and Chenault worked well off of each other.

Chenault would probably like to have the final three seconds of the game back. Down by one and at the free throw line with two shots and the chance to seal the victory, the Neumann-Goretti rookie missed both freebies. Other than the two important misses, Chenault was pretty good.

In our last viewing of him at the adidas Phenom150 camp last summer in San Diego, he was one of the top five players in his class at the event. However, there were concerns about his overall athleticism. He's since improved in that department and doing more with his speed and ability to break guys down with the dribble. Think Kyle Lowry morphed with Sean Singletary. Not a bad pair of Philly guards to model himself after.

Chennault and Waiters were successful because they have a pair of impressive looking young post players that attracted the defense. Andre Gillette, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Neumann-Goretti, and Malcolm Gilbert, a 6-foot-8 freshman from St. Elizabeth (Delaware) are both intriguing players.

Gillette scored 14 points and grabbed roughly double digit rebounds against a big DC Assault frontline. He's still a work in progress but he has quick springs and plays around the rim throughout the game. Gilbert was tentative to start the game but picked it up as the game went along. Both guys are high-major must-watch prospects.

News & Notes from 17U

It has been a good month for South Carolina Marcus Goode. The big man scored an impressive 18 points against a big frontline of the Baltimore Stars. Goode scored at the basket for most of his points. Despite his 280-pound (maybe more) frame, he gets off the floor well and plays at the cylinder. He rose up for a couple of dunks and scored on three tip in or point blank buckets in the first half.

Goode was just as effective at the Boo Williams Invitational. He is stringing together good performances at the right time. He is claiming offers from Nebraska and Georgia for the moment while Georgetown, Clemson and South Carolina are all involved.

Cincinnati commitment Darnell Wilks had a good weekend in Pittsburgh. He was the most productive big man for the Southeast Elite. Wilkes was a double-double guy all weekend. He is a fine athlete that continues to round out his skill set.

Is there a better rebounding guard in the country than Courtney Fortson? He's an animal around the cup and will constantly challenge the big men for boards. Word is, he grabbed 14 rebounds against Hunting Park in the quarterfinals.

Pittsburgh fans had plenty to smile about this weekend. 2007 signees Dejuan Blair and Bradley Wannamaker both played in the event and both players got it done. Blair is his usual tough guy self, bullying teams around for blue collar points and man sized rebounds. Wannamaker was really good, leading his Positive Image team deep into the championship bracket. He'll be a fine player for the Panthers and fit right into to their style of play.

Full Package guard Iman Shumpert had an outstanding showing against DC Assault, scoring 19 points. He scored on four three-pointers, two of which came late in the game with defenders draped on him. Shumpert told his team to climb on his back and rallied his team back from a double digit deficit.

Teammate Stan Simpson continues to improve. That's been the motto for the big man this spring. He is a fine shot-blocker and an improving offensive player. There isn't any question that he'll be playing at the high-major level.

All eyes on us

Looking around the bleachers at the afternoon 16 and under games, we spotted a number of coaches looking at the rising prospects of tomorrow. Tom Crean, Jay Wright and Anthony Grant were the head coaches taking a peek at the Team Final-DC Assault tangle. Assistants from Kansas State, Maryland, Miami, Boston College, Xavier, Syracuse and Georgetown all saw a great game with good looking prospects.

At the Indiana Elite-New York Gauchos game, coaches from Notre Dame, St. John's and a host of Midwestern mid-majors watched while Crean looked at the talent as well as Purdue head man Matt Painter.

The Team Breakdown-Team Carolina game sat Grant, who continues to tap into his Florida roots for Virginia Commonwealth, and assistants from Florida, UCLA and Pitt.

Shumpert had a good crowd watching him this morning. Illinois and Georgia Tech both watched closely. Jay Wright spent a lot of time watching Boynton. Jamie Dixon and Rick Pitino stood baseline to watch Vargas, who was outstanding in a lopsided Breakdown 17U win. Assistants from Miami, Florida State, Georgetown and Maryland all got a good look.

Mick Cronin watched North Carolina guard Dee Bost, who had a very good weekend. Unsigned senior D.J. Kennedy had a big crew watching him. Fresh off a visit to Georgia, the Bulldogs shadowed him in Pittsburgh. Xavier head coach Sean Miller was joined by Norm Roberts of St. John's and Tom Crean of Marquette.



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