LAS VEGAS, Nev. –
In a city with an abundance of entertainment options, a splashy grand opening is a must.
By assembling one of the summer's most impressive casts of high school basketball talent and attracting a swarm of famous college coaches, the inaugural Fab 48 tournament at Bishop Gorman High School had the necessary components to grab attention even in Sin City.
But many of the brightest stars had trouble getting on track Thursday as underdogs and overachievers became the story of the day.
Several under-the-radar prospects took the court determined to leave those coaches with something to remember as the summer circuit draws to a close and teams lacking blue-chip talent snuck up and bit more highly-regarded squads in pool play.
The day's biggest disappointment was a botched morning showdown between Chicago's Mac Irvin Fire and the "Memphis" Magic. According to tournament organizers, the Magic were led astray by a GPS device and the game started 20 minutes late with just five players – none of whom were from Memphis.Wayne Blackshear
, a Louisville verbal commitment and MaxPreps.com's No. 4 prospect in the 2011 class, and the Fire took advantage, getting starters plenty of rest and winning 87-76 after some initial resistance by the scrappy five-man bunch, a makeshift group from San Diego – not Memphis.
"What I tell the guys always it to stay focused and be prepared," Mac Irvin Fire head coach Ronald Coleman said of the sudden change. "We are prepared to play anybody at any place at any time."
When the actual Memphis group did show up, they were re-assigned to face Texas Bluechips White in Bishop Gorman's side gym. Several big-time college coaches – including Memphis' Josh Pastner, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl and Florida's Billy Donovan – followed to watch Melrose
super-recruit Adonis Thomas
and the rest of the talented River City roster.
Thomas, bothered by a hamstring injury and spending a good deal of the game stretching on the sideline, turned in arguably the day's most dominating performance despite playing limited minutes. The 6-foot-6 wing just returned from a gold medal showing with the United States' under-17 team at the FIBA World Championship in Germany.
Read on for more news, notes and highlights from Thursday's action at the Fab 48.Recruiting updatesMichael Shaw
of Mac Irvin Fire and Chicago's De La Salle
has been a hot target since his freshman year. The 6-8 forward and No. 30 prospect in MaxPreps.com's 2011 Top 100 expects to narrow his list following the summer.
"I'm just taking my time," Shaw said. "My coaches just tell me to keep playing. I'll take some visits after the AAU season and then narrow it down. I'm not going to be committing tomorrow or anything like that."
According to Coleman, Georgetown, Michigan State, Nevada-Las Vegas and Texas are among the primary players in Shaw's recruitment, but he is waiting to see if offers from Duke or North Carolina materialize.
Shaw was slowed by a heel bruise in the early game, but the injury wasn't significant enough to keep him out of Mac Irvin Fire's evening tilt.
New Orleans D-1 Ambassadors and Riverside Academy (Reserve)
rising junior Ricardo Gathers
is often associated with the term "manchild," but there is nothing childish about the 6-7, 240-pound forward.
Gathers posted 17 points despite rolling an ankle in a 79-50 win over Poly Nation, attracting a good deal of attention from the horde of college coaches in attendance.
A possible top 10 prospect in the 2012 class, Gathers has more offers than he can count and, like Shaw, will be narrowing things down soon.
"Right now I'm pretty open," Gathers said. "I'm taking a look at all the schools coming after me, trying to get to know the coaches. I'll definitely narrow it down by the end of the summer."
Expect Ohio State to be in the mix as that was the only school Gathers mentioned when asked which offer stood out the most.Drew Gooden's unknown soldier
The Drew Gooden Soldiers feature five high-major prospects in the lineup with
, Jabari Brown
, Nick Johnson
, Josiah Turner
and Kyle Wiltjer
. They all did their thing Thursday, but the camouflage-clad, Oakland-based team also gets a big boost from undersized point guard Kiwi Gardner
of Manteca (Manteca, Calif.)
off the bench.
Gardner, listed generously at 5-9 but more in the 5-7 range, averaged nearly 25 points per game as a junior at Manteca, but also found himself dealing with controversy after bumping an official and serving a suspension.
"As soon as it started for me, it (the bumping incident) was over. I put that behind me and just played basketball," Gardner said. "I take responsibility for my actions but I'm still the same player, same person."
According to Gardner, several Pac-10 schools are monitoring and offers Alabama-Birmingham, Murray State and Old Dominion have already been put forth.
"We'll see what opens up after this tournament," Gardner said.New names at Seattle Rotary
Seattle Rotary's backcourt features plenty of flash with Tony Wroten Jr.
and Gonzaga commitment Gary Bell
, but a couple of new names might be emerging with the successful Puget Sound program and played big roles in an 82-59 over Grassroots Canada.
The most intriguing is 6-9, 280-pound Zach Banner
, a Lakes High School (Lakewood, Wash.)
behemoth better known to this point as one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2012 class. Grassroots Canada struggled to keep him off the boards and he was automatic in the paint as Rotary rolled to an easy win.
Banner isn't ruling out a basketball career by any means.
"I'm 6-9 now, so one or two inches and I might have to (go the basketball route)," Banner said. "I love both sports and right now in high school I'm playing both. We will see how it goes.
"My senior year I will decide. It's a possibility it might be both sports. Right now I'm just having fun."
According to Banner, Colorado has already offered and Washington, California, LSU, Georgia Tech and Texas Tech have shown interest.Chief Sealth (Seattle, Wash.)
guard Keon Lewis
and Seattle University commitment Glenn Brooks
could see some additional interest if they maintain Thursday's level of play throughout the weekend. Brooks scored a team-high 16 points in the win over Grassroots Canada.
That game provided one of the more promising individual matchups of the day as Wroten and Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
guard Myck Kabongo
spent a good deal of time squared off against one another.
Neither had their most impressive outing, but Wroten did help spark Rotary with a number of hustle plays and points in transition as Grassroots Canada looked nothing like the team that dominated the adidas Super 64 over the past two summers.Court 2 eye-catchers
Media seating for the Fab 48 was along the sideline of Court 1, making it difficult to get engaged in what was happening on Court 2.
But recent Wisconsin verbal commitment Sam Dekker
of Sheboygan Area Lutheran (Sheboygan, Wis.)
was hard not to appreciate even from a distance.
The long, active and attentive wing forward for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors was not a major name in recruiting circles until attending the Badgers' camp in mid-June.
"It all happened real quick," Dekker said. "I had offers from some mid-major schools and Northern Iowa. I went to their camp and I knew that Coach (Bo Ryan) was looking at me but I didn’t think they were really, really watching me.
"I played a couple of games and they offered me and the next day I committed. I've always been a big Badger fan."
Ryan was practically seated on the Warrior bench Thursday to check in on the 6-7, 185-pounder, but will have to wait a while to get him on campus. Dekker will be just a junior this year this fall, giving him plenty of time to bulk up before heading to the Big Ten. Nice pick-up for the Badgers.
Dekker's teammate Jean-Pierre Tokoto
of Menomonee Falls
posted 25 points in the Wisconsin Playground Warriors' 75-57 win over the Bad Boyz of Richmond, Calif. Tokoto is an elite wing in the 2012 class with offers from the likes of Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and UCLA.
Guards Christian Gore
and Kory Alford
of the Danny Granger Hurricanes also had nice showings in an evening win over a Team Odom squad filled with quality California players.
Gore, a 6-3 guard from El Paso's Franklin High School
, is very athletic and handled Team Odom's pressure well. He is hearing from a couple of Patriot League schools in addition to San Diego, Texas Christian and Southern Methodist.
Alford is the son of New Mexico head coach Steve Alford and a rising senior at La Cueva
in Albuquerque. As might be expected, Kory can knock it down from deep.
Six-foot-nine forward Emmanuel Ochenje
– a native of Nigeria who played at Brehm Prep
in Illinois last season – was part of Team Odom. Why? It's possible that he may be joining Darius Nelson
and Ramon Eaton
at Sacramento's Sheldon
Eligibility concerns in California could lead him back to Brehm Prep, but it would be a huge pickup for an already-loaded Sheldon team.
Ochenje, who started playing basketball at the age of 15, is hearing from Arizona, Dayton, Missouri State and Long Beach State, among others.Nash a virtual no-showLeBryan Nash
, the No. 14 prospect in the class of 2011, was almost a no-show for the Dallas Mustangs' tilt with the New Jersey-based Playaz – literally. He was mysteriously absent for the first four minutes of the game, then emerged from out of nowhere and was on the bench, where he stayed for most of the game.
Despite extremely limited minutes, the 6-7 Lincoln
forward did manage to provide one of the better alley-oop dunks of the day (and there were a lot of them).NBA connections
* Rafer "Skip to my Lou" Alston is back as the coach of the New York Panthers.
* Drew Gooden, who recently signed a five-year, $32 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, was on hand to see his namesake squad – the Drew Gooden Soldiers – crush Texas Bluechips Navy. The Oakland-based squad was up 47-18 at the half and cruised to an easy win.
* J.R. Smith of the Denver Nuggets was on hand to watch younger brother Dimitrus, a powerfully-built reserve for the Playaz of New Jersey.
* Nick Van Exel, a 14-year NBA veteran, was working the gym as part of his new gig as assistant coach at Texas Southern.
* Former Sacramento King and Duke legend Bobby Hurley is now an assistant coach at Wagner and joined brother Danny – his new boss – in watching the Playaz victory over the Dallas Mustangs. Danny Hurley is entering his first season at the school after a successful run at the high school level with St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.)
* Danny Granger took pictures and offered support as his Hurricanes beat Team Odom.
"Good thing we were winning," Hurricanes guard Gore joked.Teams:
Danny Granger Hurricanes (Albuquerque, N.M.), Drew Gooden Soldiers (Oakland, Calif.), Grassroots Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Franchize All-Stars (Houston, Texas), Hurricane Rebels (Milwaukee, Wis.), Mac Irvin Fire (Chicago, Ill.), Memphis Magic (Memphis, Tenn.), New Orleans D-1 Ambassadors (New Orleans, La.), New York Panthers (New York, N.Y.), Play Hard Play Smart (Sacramento, Calif.), Playaz (Paterson, N.J.), Seattle Rotary (Seattle, Wash.), Team Odom (Los Angeles, Calif.), Team Philly (Philadelphia, Pa.), Texas Bluechips Navy (Arlington, Texas), Wisconsin Playground Warriors (Milwaukee, Wis.).Coaches:
It might be easier to list the major Division I head coaches not at Bishop Gorman Thursday, but here is a sampling of those in attendance;
Steve Alford (New Mexico), Dana Altman (Oregon), Tommy Amaker (Harvard), John Beilein (Michigan), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), Cameron Dollar (Seattle), Billy Donovan (Florida), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Frank Haith (Miami), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Danny Hurley (Wagner), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Trent Johnson (LSU), Steve Lavin (St. John's), Phil Martelli (St. Joseph's), Sean Miller (Arizona), Mike Montgomery (California), Josh Pastner (Memphis), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee). Rick Pitino (Louisville), Craig Robinson (Oregon State), Bill Self (Kansas), Herb Sendek (Arizona State), Tubby Smith (Minnesota), John Thompson III (Georgetown), Bruce Weber (Illinois), Buzz Williams (Marquette).