Day two of the 60th annual P.I.T. kicked off with an afternoon matchup between Wednesday night’s losing teams as Norfolk Sports Club and K&D Rounds Landscaping vied for a spot in Saturday’s Consolation Bracket final. Sparked by the fiery competitiveness of point man Charlie Westbrook (South Dakota), who chipped in a workmanlike 15 pts. on 7-12 shooting while holding West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant to single digits – due in no small part to relentless, 94’ ball pressure applied by the Summit League All-Conference performer – N.S.C. evened their record at 1-1 heading into Saturday’s finale. Buoyed by a frontline whose marquee name is Big East behemoth Augustus Gilchrist (South Florida) – who corralled a game-high 17 boards (8 offensive) – the triumphant squad showcased a multi-pronged attack on the blocks spearheaded by some lesser-known names.
The first of which came from Buffalo’s Mitchell Watt, the 6’10” versatile 225 lb. forward who garnered rave reviews for his performance in their opening round loss. Adding to an already impressive resume at the P.I.T., Watt put on a memorable audition for the NBA crowd Thursday by diving for two loose balls in the early going, retreated in transition ‘D’ and thwarting what may have been a thunderous alley-oop by the opposition after a teammate committed a live ball TO, and converting a crab-dribble/spin into the lane half-hook over CUSA All-Conference F Cameron Moore (UAB) – through contact – for an old-fashioned three point play at the 8:11 mark of the first half that drew audible murmurs from the well seasoned crowd. Showed adequate lateral speed/high bball IQ by switching onto Truck Bryant to halt a baseline drive when a teammate couldn’t get over the top of the pick. Utilized a shot fake to get his defender up in the air and converted an easy layup when no help came. Struggled in the second vs. heavy ball-pressure at the top-of-the-key by Laron Dendy (Middle Tennessee) but kept possession and did not force anything. Fouled out of the contest midway through the second half, but at least two of his fouls were committed to protect the rim after teammates were blown by. Showed strong base defensively vs. Rakim Sanders (Fairfield), who, although only 6’5”, can have his way down low with virtually anyone he puts on his back. Watt finished with 14 and 7 with 2 blocks in a second solid outing in as many days.
One prospect who did not make it into yesterday’s recap but definitely got my attention on the tournament’s opening day was the 6’6” jack-of-all-trades forward Wendell McKines. The WAC POY threw up a double-double in his first action at the P.I.T. but seemed a little too trigger happy from distance (2-7) to warrant recognition. After watching him a second time, though, it’s obvious why Marvin Menzies couldn’t keep him off the court this year in Las Cruces and considered bolting for Colorado State after the Aggies’ NCAAT loss to Indiana. The guy is a rebounding machine, plain and simple. Also showed a deft passing touch on a high-low exchange with Gilchrist in the first half in which he lofted the ball perfectly over the outstretched arms of a defender caught out of position (full-front) with no help – easy layup. Zipped it over a rotating defense to a wide-open Dominique Morrison (Oral Roberts) for a 3PA with perfect trajectory/velocity. Great skip pass. Shot attempts for the tournament thus far a little high and McKines was not a high percentage shooter this past season (45.9). If he can stick to what makes him valuable – relentless rebounding on both ends (8 of his 14 boards were of the offensive variety) – he may get a look. Body language went downhill as his touches decreased in the second half, which is something that must improve.
Rakim Sanders (Fairfield) put an exclamation point on his opening night performance with another stellar outing in a losing cause. His final stat line of 18 and 11 on 7-14 shooting is impressive enough, but it was the evolution of his floor game that caught my eye more than anything. The 6’5” swingman’s left hand is a tool he’s not shy about using these days. He caught the ball on the right wing free-throw line extended by jumping to the pass (back to the basket vs. heavy ball pressure), reverse pivoted into a jab-step (RIGHT foot still his pivot- so he jabbed with the left – which is technically correct because he will have no wasted motion when putting it on the deck with his left hand attacking the elbow/paint), jabbed twice then launched off his right foot – put it on the floor w/ 2 dribbles (left hand) and pulled up over a defender and hit a 10’ jumper. This type of evolution in ball skills is what coaches wake up in the morning. Other noticeable areas of improvement are his understanding of where’s his man’s going and beating him to the spot (drew a charge on Alex Young (IUPUI) by recognizing he couldn’t go right) and being unselfish by reversing the ball to open teammates, which is easier said than done in a setting like this. Strong performance for Sanders – lots of chatter amongst agents in the crowd over who has/will have his signature.
Thursday’s evening session opened up with Sales Systems, Ltd. and Roger Brown’s Restaurant squaring off in the first game of the tournament for both teams. Immediately making his presence known for the Sales Systems LTD squad was Arizona’s Kyle Fogg, who, although shooting a horrid 2-16 from the field on the night, tenaciously tracked fellow Pac-12 attendee Jorge Gutierrez from FT line to FT line. Fogg disrupted the CPOY by turning him routinely between the circles before the Cal product could initiate the offense. Holding Gutierrez to 1-5 shooting (and helping turn him over 5x), along with snatching 8 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists, Fogg impacted the game in ways that belie his woeful shooting performance and deserves mention for it. A physical presence at 6’3”.
Along with the smooth shooting displayed by Dayton lefty Chris Johnson, who tallied 18 points including four triples, the losing Sales System LTD squad got an unexpected boost from Division II AA Jet Chang (BYU-Hawaii). The 6’4” versatile guard showed an ability to get his shot off against high major talent in a variety of ways. 1 dribble pull-ups, running with a purpose off the ball – snaking his way through screens or setting up cuts to flash open, and turnaround jumpers from midrange were a few tricks Chang had up his sleeve in the contest.
For the winners, 6’9” Mississippi F Terrance Henry gave onlookers reason to want more by showing just enough versatility on the offensive end to put out late-2nd round vibes into the cosmos. From 15’ in he looked fantastic. Utilizes his freakishly long arms well by creating enough separation to render his runners almost unblockable. Fed teammate Garrett Stutz when open with crisp entries – either on the bounce or on a string to a target vs. a sealed defender. The all-SEC lefty also used a shot fake to get his defender in the air before straight-line driving into the lane/absorbing contact after a beautiful jumpstop and finishing for an And-1. Finished with 10/4 on 5-10 shooting. Would like to see his stroke from deep in his next outing (shot a pedestrian 34.7% this year). Also would like to see him compensate defensively vs. a stronger opponent who tries to take him down low. Nice first game.
The lone 7-footer to make the trek to Portsmouth this year, Garrett Stutz (Wichita State) did what was expected of him Thursday night – rebound. But it was how he collected 14 boards (and dealt with getting the ball to a ballhandler afterwards) that merited inclusion in today’s recap. Stutz is fundamentally solid – keeps the ball high on every rebound (13 of his 14 were defensive) and pivots nicely into an outlet stance looking for his guards FT-line extended. As coaches know, that type of discipline only comes after hours and hours of repetition so a kudos is in order to Gregg Marshall and company on the Shockers’ staff. The all-MVC selection nearly doubled the rebounding total of Xavier Gibson, who manned the frontline for the Sales Systems team. Disappearing in some big games this year (e.g., both Creighton matchups), Stutz could benefit greatly from two more solid performances marked by him finishing off a high % of his team’s defensive possessions with rebounds. Excellent FT shooter may show more of his offensive arsenal in the coming days.
The nightcap matched the Portsmouth Partnership squad against Mike Duman Auto Sales, the final two teams to make appearances in this year’s event. And they certainly didn’t disappoint. The game, won by Portsmouth Partnership, featured four players worthy of closer inspection by the NBA contingent on-hand this week. JaMychal Green (Alabama) put up a videogame-like stat line with 29 and 10 (6 off.) on 14-18 shooting. Most impressive about the 6’8” 240 lb. forward’s performance was the way in which he went about his business. Green didn’t try to become someone is isn’t. He didn’t attempt a 3 (only took 10 all year and 17 in his college career). What he did do was space-out beautifully after setting ballscreens and pop for 15-17 jumpers and consistently knock them down. He played volleyball on the offensive glass and ran the floor with a purpose (ran straight to the rim in transition many times) and was rewarded for doing so on more than one occasion. Had crowd roaring after an alley from Jordan Theodore in the first half. Along with Chace Stanback, Green gets my nod of approval for most-likely to land on an NBA roster at some point in the next calendar year from this group.
Bradford Burgess (VCU) impressed me tonight, although his line doesn’t look like much (9 and 8 on 2 for 7 shooting). The 6’6” physical specimen showed range out to the NBA 3-pt. line off the catch, skied for rebounds on both ends, and muscled his way deep into the lane w/ his 225 lb. frame by utilizing a serviceable handle and good quicks. Got to the line twice as a result and knocked down his FTs. Corey Maggette like trajectory in a perfect world for Burgess – let’s see what he does the rest of the tournament vs. high major competition. With a solid stroke from deep and a penchant for getting to the line (4-4 tonight), Burgess could draw some looks.
Ashton Gibbs put on a clinic of sorts with his fabulous floor game in a losing cause. The Pitt product caught fire from long range, connecting on 3 of his 5 triples, and everything else fell into place for him. The cerebral lead guard displayed his moxie by getting Steven Idlet airborne on a shot fake, drawing a foul, and subsequently knocking down 3 FTs. Picked his spots well in the second half – spotted up in transition after spacing out wide to give teammate Julian Muvanga room to operate in the open court and find him on the wing. Also of note, the 6’2” Gibbs set up his cuts off the ball as well or better than anyone tonight, consistently V/L-cutting to get open vs. hugged up defenders.
Finally, Missouri’s Kim English made a strong case for himself tonight in regards to playing at the highest level. The 6’6” G showed excellent mechanics on the jumpshot (despite going just 1-5 from deep), rebounded the ball at a high rate for the position (8) and maneuvered his way into the teeth of the defense enough to go to the line 8 times (hitting 7/8). Little wasted motion/energy with English as he dribbled and drove with a purpose all night. Most impressive move of the night was a miss: his baseline turnaround over Oscar Bellfield in the second half showed a couple things: picture perfect form + no hesitation in exploiting a mismatch (had 4 inches on the defender).
Most Impressive Performances: JaMychal Green/Kim English
Top NBA Prospects: JaMychal Green/Mitchell Watt