Maui Invitational: Day 1 Report
By Aran Smith
It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Hoops in paradise, what more could a basketball junkie like myself ask for?
Maui Invitational Day 1
Seeing big boy basketball played in essentially
a high school gym (the Lahaina Civic Center) is comparable to seeing a mega-superstar
such as Jack Johnson perform in a 200 seat theater.
The atmosphere and intimacy of a 2400 seat gym takes the competition and excitement to another level.
The gym is cleared after each game (aside from those who bought a full day pass or are credentialed) to make room for fans of the next game's teams.
The thirty or so scouts and one GM (RC Buford) on hand were treated to less than spectacular games in day one. The single elimination games turned out to be lopsided, which was by design with the top teams all advancing to the semifinals on Tuesday.
In the morning game, Texas made short work of St. Joseph’s. St Joes features a solid European level prospect in senior Ahmad Nivins, but for NBA purposes nothing to get excited about.
For Texas, AJ Abrams was the show knocking down 4-5 from 3 in the first half to help give the Longhorns an insurmountable lead. His Iverson like style of play will certainly draw looks from NBA teams despite his diminutive 5’10 frame.
James came out cold in the first half (1-7) having a number of shots rim
out. He might be the top overall prospect here, and while his athleticism was
on full display, his shooting touch was not. He’ll need to maintain a higher
level of consistent play to fulfill his current top 10 draft projection. James
brought his numbers up in the second half (15 pts on 5-15).
Connor Atchley displays an impressive combination of shooting, length and agility. He had two straight air balls from outside at one point and was slow to get on track. He appears content to be a solid contributor and team player and allow others (James and Abrams) assume the star role.
While this might hurt his draft stock some, it may not be too damaging as some NBA teams look for players who will fit into the team as opposed to taking a player accustomed to a starring role and turning them into a role guy. Whatever the case, scouts I spoke with are high on Atchley and agree that the Texas senior has a real shot to be taken in the first round.
Texas sophomore Gary Johnson might be just 6'7 but his rugged style and strength could allow him to find a spot with a team ala Chuck Hayes. Johnson is a beast who is sure to have a lucrative career playing PF in Europe if he's unable to find a Hayes-like nitche.
In the battle of in-State rivals, facing a highly ranked Notre Dame team, Indiana got off to a fast start with a bigger contingent behind them. The entire Indiana section erupted after an air ball grazed the net (very bizarre that an entire section of fans would see something that did not actually happen). The crowd reaction was so convincing that the scorekeeper even gave them 3 for the “phantom shot” making the score 7-2 , but onlookers quickly corrected the mistake.
While the Hoosers had twice the fan support and the most energetic coach you could ask for in Tom Arnold aka Tom Crean, their talent level was no match for "Gody" and the Irish. Crean has his work cut out for him, but it's apparent he will turn things around and restore Indiana to it's past tradition.
Luke Harangody looks like he jumped out of a time machine from the 1950’s with the flat top ‘do and his old school style of play. A pair of Chuck T’s and some Stockton shorts are all he’s missing.
Indiana’s one intriguing prospect Devan Dumas showed flashes of quickness and athleticism to accompany his solid size and point guard potential.
The evening set started off with a classic matchup of David vs. Goliath. The host Chaminade Silver Swords suited just 7 players which meant 3 players fouling out could have spelled a 5-against-4 scenario.
The gritty Chaminade squad got out to an early lead but the steamroller eventually flattened the ant. Give the local Silver Sword fans (who were outnumbered 8-1 by Tar Heel fans) credit, the “Lets go Chaminade” chants were still going despite a 40 point deficit in the second half. The Chaminade players will have a story they can tell their grandkids, and they will surely be pulling for North Carolina to win it all this year.
The absence of Tyler Hansbrough was a real dissapointment for UNC fans. The story for the Heels was Danny Green’s numerous ally oops and a solid game from their talented back court of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington who did their thing as expected with little resistance.
Playing against an opponent like Chaminade it’s tough to make any real conclusions about UNC. Freshman Ed Davis has a nice repertoire of offensive skills but his body shape and legs don’t appear to be of high caliber.
The final game of the day was the most competitive as Alabama got off to a quick start but Oregon reeled them in to make it even at the half. Alabama came out flat in the 2nd half and Oregon took full advantage building a 20 point lead and cruised to victory.
Most impressive for Oregon was their freshman power forward Michael Dunigan who has a nasty demeanor to compliment his strong, athletic frame. He led all scorers with 18 on a near perfect 8-9 fg and added 9 boards. Dunigan has unusual strength for a freshman and could develop into a top 10 pick after two years in college.
At times Dunigan squared off against Alabama’s freshman PF prospect JaMychal Green, which was the best individual match up of the day. Green missed most of the first half with foul trouble and eventually fouled out. He had to be stretched out and didn’t look as active tonight as he had in his earlier televised performance.
Alonzo Gee and Ronald Steele failed to impress although Steele appears to have gained some quickness since the Orlando pre-draft camp, after missing all of last season due to a knee injury. Senario Hillman was the Tide's top perimeter player playing lock down defense on Taquan Porter for the first half and using his outstanding athleticism to create baskets.
The matchups for Tuesday’s semifinals should provide a lot better insight into the top prospects with Dunigan facing UNC's loaded pantry and Harangody going up against Texas forwards James and Atchley.
Looking forward to another exciting day of kinipopo hina’i (Hawaiian for basketball)!
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Teammates Malik Hairston and Maarty Luenen unexpectedly heard their names called but Taylor didn’t.
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