By Dave Krider
CINCINNATI, Ohio – Based on results of this week’s adidas It Takes 5IVE Classic at the University of Cincinnati, the state of Ohio high school basketball has risen above gold to pure platinum. Ohio teams captured the platinum titles in all three divisions – 17-and-under (seniors), 16-and-under (juniors) and 15-and-under (sophomores).
Interestingly, the Ohio champion which won the most prestigious title probably has the least known players. Rodney Dangerfield – Mr. No Respect – would have nothing on the All Ohio Force, which defeated the Washington, D.C., Assault Gold, 78-73, to capture the division for rising seniors.
The always-balanced Force were led by Kettering Alter’s 6-foot-6 Ryan Siggins with 17 points. Bill Edwards, an outstanding 6-6 shooter from Middletown, was close behind with 15 points. Matt Kavanaugh, a very underrated 6-10 center from Centerville who has committed to the University of Dayton, added 14 points. Zach Brown, a 6-3 backcourt leader from Mason, handed out close to 10 assists.
Point guard Darryl Trayham, a 5-8 rising junior, set the pace for the Assault with 19 points. Highly-regarded 6-4 Rodney McGruder (Archbishop Carroll, D.C.) added 16 points. Tamir Jackson, 6-1 shooting guard from St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.), and 6-5 Javon Farrell (Riverdale Baptist, Upper Marlboro, Md.) each contributed 13 points.
“I’ve had five of them since fourth grade,” Force coach Gregg Brown told MaxPreps. “We believe in balanced scoring, unselfish play and great defense. On any given night, anyone can be our leading scorer. These kids are winners and they can play with anybody in the country. We have three players (Kavanaugh, Edwards and Brown) who belong in the top 150 in the country. We also have a team GPA of 3.2.”
Brown said his team got its biggest shot of adrenaline with its second victory en route to a perfect 5-0 tournament record. The Force were seeded only No. 3 in a three-team pool – probably the toughest pool in the field. But after beating a talented Texas Select team – led by several players from powerful Duncanville – they ran head-on into the mighty Atlanta Celtics, who already had won several major tournaments and entered the week with a 37-4 record.
These are the same Celtics who have produced the likes of current NBA stars Dwight Howard and Josh Smith and are led this year by 6-9, 240-pound South Atlanta star Derrick Favors, who entered summer competition as the nation’s No. 1-ranked rising senior.
The Force shocked the Celtics, 64-61, in overtime in what probably was the best game of the three-day tournament. They did it by double- and triple-teaming Favors and holding him to 13 hard-earned points. He fouled out late in the game. This game was fiercely contested from the opening moments and was highlighted by bone-crunching defense and players constantly diving on the floor for loose balls. It was an all-out, gutty effort by both teams.
Kavanaugh, who is a steal for Dayton, and Siggins each scored 14 points for the Force, who scored seven times on three-point shots. Christian Watford, one of the country’s sweetest-shooting wings, paced the Celtics with 16 points. The 6-8 standout from Birmingham Shades Valley will be a strong candidate to be named Mr. Basketball in Alabama for 2008-09. Rising junior guard Trae Golden (McEachern, Powder Springs, Ga.) added 12 points.
Celtics general manager Corey Smith said of the Force “They’re right up there (among the best). They’re extremely well-coached, patient and play good defense. You always want to be in the top division, but we made our own bed. Everybody comes at you and plays as hard as they can.”
The Force then defeated a talented Indiana Elite LNO team in the first round of the tournament and Full Package Athletics from Illinois leading up to the finale. Meanwhile, the Celtics had to battle their way through the Gold Division, winning once on Monday and twice on Tuesday before falling in the third – and title – game by a surprising 61-43 margin to the New England Playaz.
Six-foot-ten Erik Murphy (St. Mark’s, Southborough, Mass.) paced the New England team with 22 points, while Watford’s 11 points were the best the worn-out Celtics could muster.
Favors was bothered by a sore back throughout the tournament, but he did a tremendous job of blocking shots and rebounding. His top scoring games were 21 points during victories over Texas Select and Seattle Rotary Select.
Smith pointed out that opponents have been smothering Favors defensively “like that the last three years, so he should get used to it. Three people check him in high school and two in AAU. I guess he’ll be glad to get to college. For a young kid, what impresses me is that on every shot that goes up he boxes out. A lot of people think it’s athleticism, but it’s really old-school fundamentals.”
All Ohio Red – with an impressive array of rising junior big men – captured the 16-and-under crown with a hard-fought 79-74 victory over D.C. Assault. The towering lineup included 6-8 Jared Sullinger and 6-6 James Weatherspoon of Columbus Northland, 6-9 Adriean Payne of Dayton Jefferson and 6-4 Jordan Sibert of Cincinnati Princeton.
Sullinger and Sibert shared scoring honors with 16 points. Juwan Staten, a 5-11 guard from Thurgood Marshall, added 15. For Assault, 6-1 Eric Atkins (Mt. St. Joseph, Baltimore, Md.) was high with 18 points. Cedrick Lindsay, also 6-1 (Gonzaga, Washington, D.C.), added 17 and 6-9 Joshua Hairston (Courtland, Spotsylvania, Va.) had 14.
In the 15-and-under division, the Ohio Basketball Club rolled to a 64-49 victory over the Michigan Mustangs as 6-7 Chane Behanan (Cincinnati Aiken) dominated with 30 points. Six-foot-seven Percy Gibson (Detroit Southeastern) was high for the Mustangs with 17 points.
* Seattle Rotary Select was one of the most crowd-pleasing teams, led by standout rising senior point guard Peyton Siva (Seattle Franklin). A rising junior, 6-9 Joshua Smith of Kentwood, and a rising sophomore, 6-5 guard Tony Wroten (Seattle Garfield), stamped themselves as stars of the future.
Smith, a powerful force inside, poured in 26 points against Derrick Favors, though his team suffered an 80-64 defeat. He also had 17 points during a tough 76-75 overtime loss to Indiana Elite One, which is loaded with rising senior Division I college prospects.
Wroten, who is lightning-quick and has the rare ability to slide between defenders to score, was high against the Hoosiers with 23 points and Siva added 20. For the Hoosiers, 6-0 Jordan Hulls (Bloomington South) scored 20 points, 6-5 Colt Ryan (Batesville) - who was on fire early – had 19 and 6-8 Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio) had 14.
* Indiana also fielded a pair of 15-and-under teams that bear watching in the future. Indiana Elite One has a 6-10 rising sophomore, Marshall Plumlee (Christ School, Arden, N.C.), who has two older brothers who already are big-time players. Cody Zeller, a 6-8 rising sophomore (Washington, Ind.), also has a pair of older brothers who have made big-time impacts.
Team Indiana has three seven-footers from the Sudan. They have been brought to the United States by Bloomington, Ind., resident Mark Adams, who runs the A-Hope Foundation, which helps African teenagers get an education. So far he has helped over 20 basketball players through his foundation.
The towering trio – all high Division I prospects according to Adams – are rising sophomore Deng Leek, who attends Patterson School (Lenoir, N.C.); Obij Aget, who will be a rising freshman at Veritas Sports Academy (Greensboro, N.C.); and Peter Jurkin, who will be a rising freshman at United Faith Christian (Charlotte, N.C.). Adams said that Jurkin and Aget are repeating their freshman years due to the language barrier and other normal adjustments.
* Duncanville, Texas, is expected to have its best-ever team in 2008-09 due to the return of super rising seniors Roger Franklin (6-5) and Shawn Williams (6-7), plus the transfer of outstanding 6-10 rising junior Perry Jones from Dallas Woodrow Wilson.
* Director Criss Beyers noted that the tournament drew 90 teams from across the nation and Canada. He added, “We had 275 to 300 college coaches and got great feedback from coaches and players.”
* Derrick Favors was one of six rising senior high school players to take a June trip to Africa sponsored by adidas. The other Americans included 6-3 Dexter Strickland (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N.J.), 6-9 Brendan Lane (Rocklin, Calif.), 6-7 Reeves Nelson (Modesto, Calif., Christian), 6-8 Tyler Griffey (Lafayette, Ballwin, Mo.) and 6-6 Jerry Brown (Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco, Calif.).
Daren Kalish, who is basketball asset manager, said the trip was in conjunction with the Adidas Nations Basketball Experience program, now in its second year. Adidas is forming two national USA teams, one of rising seniors and one of rising juniors. Officials also are putting together six international teams – representing Latin America, Africa, Europe, China, Canada and Greater Asia.
While in Senegal and Mali, the six USA players mixed with 18 hand-picked foreign players to play a pair of regulation games. The trip “was more about good-will and training,” Kalish noted. “Our focus is skill development and we have coaches (with NBA experience) over each country. Paul Silas is our USA coach.”