NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Just two seconds into Saturday night’s adidas Super 64 showdown between Grassroots Canada Elite and New York City’s New Heights at Rancho High School, Texas commitment Tristan Thompson thundered home a dunk.
It looked like business as usual for Thompson and the Canadians, who had won 14 straight in the adidas-sponsored event and entered the week as defending champion.
But thanks to the inside play of Devon Collier, Ashton Pankey and Jayvaughn Pinkston, as well as torrid 3-point shooting in the second half, Bronx-based New Heights upset the Canadian juggernaut, 70-69, and advanced to the round of eight.
“They are a great team with great players, but we had a big chip on our shoulder today,” New Heights coach Kimani Young said. “There was a big article on Zag’s blog (Adam Zagoria, www.zagsblog.com), who is a friend of mine. But they were talking crazy, beating people by 30, making people bow down and all that. That didn’t sit well with us.”
Pinkston notched a team-high 19 points for New Heights, leading a balanced scoring effort that included Branden Frazier with 13, David Coley with 12 and Ashton Pankey with 11.
It was New Heights’ outside shooting that highlighted the key stretch of the game, resulting in a 58-51 lead for the Big Apple squad with just over seven minutes remaining in the second half. Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) guard Frazier drilled a pair of threes, followed by two more from Hakeem Harris of New Jersey’s Blair Academy – including a playground-style stepback that ignited the crowd.
“That’s just hard work in the gym every day,” Harris said of his game-changing threes. “Hard work. I don’t know what else to say.”
New Heights’ post trio of Collier, Pankey and Pinkston made life difficult for Grassroots Canada bigs Thompson and 6-10 Dwight Powell, limiting the duo to just 14 points. Thompson fouled out late in the game with nine points.
“We had something to prove,” Young said. “We played them two years ago when we were 15s and they took care of us. We haven’t forgotten that.”
In the morning session at Eldorado High School, there was a definite Duke feel as DC Assault met Gateway Basketball Club of Missouri.
Blue Devil assistant Steve Wojciechowski sat front and center to check in on future pupils Joshua Hairston and Tyler Thornton – both class of 2010 commitments from the powerhouse Assault program.
Hairston, a 6-9 forward who fits the mold of recent Duke post players, scored 13 points, while Thornton, a 6-3 guard, added 12. The duo led the club to Super 64 titles in the U15 and U16 brackets the past two summers.
DC Assault’s opponent – St. Louis-based Gateway Basketball Club – also had a Duke connection. Star wing Nathan Scheer, who poured in 25 points in the contest, has a cousin (Kathleen Scheer, former MaxPreps All-American) that plays for the Blue Devil women’s basketball team.
Behind the play of Scheer and big-bodied post Will Kirksey, Gateway built a lead of as many as eight points in the second half but couldn’t hang on as DC Assault dialed up the defensive intensity and took over in the final minutes.
“We just came out and played aggressive. You can’t come out playing scared, you’ll get beat,” Scheer said. “They are arguably the best team in the nation so to say you can play with the best teams in the nation is real nice.”
Cedrick Lindsay, a 6-1 teammate of Thornton’s at Washington, D.C.’s Gonzaga High School, led DC Assault with 25 points.
The Memphis Magic Elite followed with an 84-72 victory over Southern California All-Stars Red behind a combined 48 points from potential class of 2010 top 10 prospect Joe Jackson and 2011 star Adonis Thomas. Both are Memphis high school products with Jackson at White Station and Thomas at Melrose.
The Magic are among the more entertaining squads in Las Vegas, hammering down double-digit dunks in this one to the delight of the small gathering of fans in attendance.
MaxPreps’ coverage from Las Vegas continues Sunday at the Reebok Summer Championships.
More highlights from Saturday’s action at Eldorado and Rancho high schools;
Teams we saw: Compton Magic Black (Corona, Calif.), D1E Derrick Rose All-Stars (Chicago, Ill.), DC Assault (Laurel, Md.), Derek Smith All-Stars (Louisville, Ky.), Gateway Basketball Club (St. Louis, Mo.), Grassroots Canada Elite (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Memphis Magic Elite (Memphis, Tenn.), Net Gain Sports (Golden Valley, Minn.), New Heights (Bronx, N.Y.), Southern California All-Stars Red (Cerritos, Calif.) Waco Basketball (Waco, Texas).
Head coaches in the crowd: Randy Bennett (St. Mary’s), Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Matt Doherty (Southern Methodist), Scott Drew (Baylor), Frank Haith (Miami), Lon Kruger (Nevada-Las Vegas), Frank Martin (Kansas State), Sean Miller (Arizona), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee), Craig Robinson (Oregon State),Tubby Smith (Minnesota), John Thompson III (Georgetown), as well as assistants from Arizona State, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA and USC among others.
Tarik Black, 6-9, F, Memphis Magic Elite: Black’s arms and shoulders should be sore after doing chin-ups on the rim for most of the game against the Southern California All-Stars Red. Black dunked five times and missed a sixth attempt – a windmill that bounced into the crowd in the final minute. He is more than just a dunker, however. Black did a nice job of positioning himself to take advantage of the attention teammates Joe Jackson, Jelan Kendrick and Adonis Thomas drew, finishing with 18 points.
Ryan Boatright, 6-2, G, D1E Derrick Rose All-Stars:
Remember this guy? Boatright, a rising junior, committed to USC before his freshman year of high school – a move that created some inflated expectations of the type of player he should be. But he is a very solid guard and impressed in this game with an assortment of threes and drives to the basket, finishing with 24 points. Although he overdribbled at times, he took over offensively for the Derrick Rose squad in the second half and helped make it a game when things appeared to be going south. Boatright is a confident ballhandler and potentially an elite point down the road. He did pick up a technical – one of the few awarded to a player this week – so keeping emotions in check could be an area for improvement. According to Boatright, Kentucky, Connecticut, Duke, Kent State, Miami, DePaul and Florida State are among those showing interest since reneging on his pledge to USC last month. He did make it clear that USC is still in the mix, however.
Devon Collier, 6-8, F, New Heights: A pupil of Bob Hurley’s at St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., Collier teamed with Ashton Pankey and Jayvaughn Pinkston to give Grassroots Canada Elite bigs Dwight Powell and Tristan Thompson fits.
Allan Crabbe, 6-6, G, Compton Magic Black: Committed to California, Crabbe will be a great fit for Mike Montgomery’s program. He finished with 18 in a win over the D1E Derrick Rose All-Stars.
Branden Frazier, 6-3, G, New Heights: Frazier’s two big triples in the second half were huge in the New Yorkers' big win over Grassroots Canada.
Brady Heslip, 6-2, G, Grassroots Canada Elite: Heslip is Canada’s designated 3-point shooter and plays that role very well. He wanted the ball down the stretch and hit a big triple with 50 seconds remaining to help his team pull to within a single point.
Joe Jackson, 6-0, G, Memphis Magic Elite: It was a typical Jackson performance against the Southern California All-Stars Red, as he dialed it in from beyond the arc, sliced through the lane for finishes at the basket and created open-court opportunities by being a pest defensively (27 points). His most impressive moment Saturday was a drive to the basket and finish with contact against 6-11 Darrell Haley.
Bryce Jones, 6-6, G/W, Compton Magic Black: Jones has been impressive in two opportunities to see him play this week. He served up two memorable dunks against D1E Derrick Rose All-Stars Saturday, coming off the left wing in transition both times with reach-for-the-sky one-handers. Finished with 19 points in this one.
Cory Joseph, 6-3, G, Grassroots Canada Elite: The Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) rising senior helped spark a run midway through the first half against a talented New Heights squad by beating the press and hitting pull-up jumpers twice in three trips down the court. Led the Canadians with 20 points in a losing effort.
Myck Kabongo, 6-2, G, Grassroots Canada Elite: To join the Myck Kabongo fan club, e-mail me at … kidding. That would probably be an NCAA violation or something. But Kabongo’s confidence, swagger and talent are a huge asset to the Canadian squad and he deserves the adoration. Rick Barnes and Texas scored huge in securing his services. Ever the clutch player, Kabongo drilled a big three in the first half after New Heights rallied to tie the game at 29, and another in the second that brought Grassroots to within two after falling behind by five, finishing with 17 points.
Jelan Kendrick, 6-6, G, Memphis Magic Elite: Kendrick, a rising senior at Atlanta’s Westlake High School, started the game with a beautiful finger roll he set up by sprinting past several defenders following a steal. At 6-6, his speed with the ball is rare – an absolute greyhound in the open court. Kendrick got a little bit lost in the shuffle in this game with teammates Joe Jackson and Adonis Thomas taking care of things offensively for the Magic, but his incredible talent is impossible to completely overshadow.
Will Kirksey, 6-7, F, Gateway Basketball Club: Kirksey is a big 6-7 and was determined to take it to Duke verbal Joshua Hairston Saturday morning. “He’s going to Duke so I knew he would be tough. I just knew I had to bring my A-game today,” Kirksey said. He was successful on a few occasions, outmuscling Hairston and ripping offensive boards for second-chance opportunities en route to 14 points. He is a hustler that also showed an aptitude for passing the ball. Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Tennessee-Martin are in the mix for his services.
Ashton Pankey, 6-8, F, New Heights: Another product of Jersey City’s famed St. Anthony program, Pankey more than held his own in the paint against Grassroots Canada’s combo of Dwight Powell and Tristan Thompson.
Jayvaughn Pinkston, 6-6, W/F, New Heights: Any college football program in the country would take Pinkston no questions asked to play tight end or defensive end. But make no mistake, he is a basketball player and much more than just an impressive-looking athlete. He cleared out teammates against a sagging man-to-man and bull rushed 6-8 Renaldo Dixon – as well as the rest of Grassroots Canada – on one drive to the basket. He has a functional shot from the outside, although he wasn’t getting them to fall on Saturday. Pinkston finished with 19 points and easily recorded double-digit boards (only scoring stats are kept).
Nathan Scheer, 6-5, W, Gateway Basketball Club: Scheer won’t blow opponents away with athleticism or quickness, but he is a versatile and competitive wing player that will be a great addition for somebody. Scheer poured in 25 points against DC Assault, hitting from deep, getting to the line and slashing to the bucket and welcoming contact. Missouri Valley schools are showing interest and he has also heard from a couple of Big 10 programs.
Adonis Thomas, 6-6, W, Memphis Magic Elite:
Love this rising junior’s game. Thomas, a product of Memphis’ Melrose High School and member of the USA’s U-16 team that captured gold earlier this summer in Argentina, was the main reason this lineup of stars worked for the Memphis Magic Elite. “We have good players on our team offensively, so I try to bring defense to the team knowing that defense wins games. I try to be the defensive stopper of the team,” Thomas said. He finished with 21 points and passed up opportunities for more with unselfish passes to set up teammates. He also flashed elite-level athleticism by pinning on a shot that appeared to be nearly halfway up the glass (although he was whistled for goaltending). The elite 2011 talent has offers from Memphis, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio State, Florida and Oklahoma. He expects to make a decision in the spring of his senior year.
Kevin Thomas, 6-9, F, Waco Basketball: A little bit similar to Anthony Lee of Nike Team Florida, who we saw at the Main Event Friday. Thomas plays strong and isn’t afraid of contact despite his lean frame. “My strengths are my length and my athleticism,” Thomas said. “I can get off the floor real good. I’m a good shot blocker. I’m working at getting better moving my feet so I can guard different positions.” According to Thomas, Middle Tennessee State is one of the few schools he has heard from. Expect that to change soon.
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson has his jersey hanging from the wall at Eldorado High School, where he rushed for 6,396 yards and 81 touchdowns during his prep career. Clearly inspired by the hometown connection (okay, maybe not), St. Louis-based Gateway Basketball Club nearly pulled off a big upset against DC Assault playing in the shadow of Jackson’s Eldorado High School No. 34. … A 3:30 p.m. meeting between the Derek Smith All-Stars of Louisville and Net Gain Sports of Minnesota featured a pair of recent West Coast commitments. Curtis Washington, a 6-9 forward from Elizabethtown, Ky., became Kevin O’Neill’s first verbal at USC earlier this month. Chanse Creekmur, a 6-7 wing forward from Marshalltown, Iowa, pledged to Santa Clara last week. Despite an impressive showing that included 25 points in front of a cadre of college coaches, Creekmur says his decision is firm. “The (Santa Clara) coaching staff is what really stood out to me,” Creekmur said. “I bonded real well with the coaches and they recruited me the hardest out of anybody. I’m putting my trust in them. I’m happy I’m with Santa Clara and on the Bronco family.” The same game also featured Hopkins High School (Minnetonka, Minn.) graduate Anthony DiLoreto, one of the few true 7-footers we have seen this week. … TNT analyst and world champion with the Houston Rockets Kenny “The Jet” Smith was in attendance at Rancho for the Grassroots Canada-New Heights game. … DC Assault alumni and current Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley was on the bench for the team’s evening game against Team Philly Blue, a big win that advanced them to the round of eight. Another Assault product, Duke’s Nolan Smith, also watched from the stands.