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January 19, 2013

Flyin' to the Hoop: No letdown for Findlay

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KETTERING, Ohio -- The first day of the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 for an evening doubleheader featuring four teams who have been ranked among the nation's top 25. In addition to local fans, college coaches from the Big Ten made the trip to Trent Arena to check out the talent. Among those in attendance were Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, Minnesota head man Tubby Smith and assistant coaches from Indiana and Ohio State. Others in attendance included Washington State, Wright State, Dayton head coach Archie Miller, Cleveland State, Toledo and Tennessee State.

No letdown

The hometown team, Dayton (Ohio) Thurgood Marshall, looked at its matchup with Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep as the perfect trap game. After all, the Findlay Prep Pilots were scheduled to leave straight from the gym for a game against Montverde (Fla.) Academy and probably were unfamiliar with just how good Thurgood Marshall is. With their team earning a national ranking for the first time in school history, Thurgood Marshall fans turned out in huge numbers to see it play against a Findlay Prep squad that many call the best in the nation. Unfortunately for Cougars fans, the Findlay Prep boys showed no signs of a lack of focus. They used their overwhelming length and athleticism to defeat Ohio's top team in a game that turned into a blowout early in the fourth quarter.

Findlay Prep got great contributions from a quartet of four-star prospects in guards Nigel Williams-Goss, Stanford Robinson and Allerik Freeman and power forward Christian Wood.

Williams-Goss could have developed the blueprint for point guard play with his game on Friday night, doing an excellent job of setting tempo, disrupting opposing ball handlers on the defensive end and attacking driving lanes to set up teammates, especially in transition. A Washington signee, Williams-Goss is one of the best in the class at using changes of pace. While he isn't the quickest player on the floor, he gets by defenders with his tight handle and dribble moves. Williams-Goss finished with 12 points and six assists.

Robinson loves to run his mouth when he gets it going on the offensive end, often leading to his opponent getting frustrated and making mistakes. This was the case on Friday. The Indiana signee poured in 16 points as he calmly drilled open 3-pointers, creatively finished around the rim with Euro steps and defended at a high level on the wing.

The most consistent shooter of the group, Freeman, a UCLA signee, shot the ball with extreme confidence in Kettering. Whether it was a pull-up jumper in transition or a spot-up shot in the corner during a half-court set, Freeman showed a quick release and good rotation on his 3-point ball, good for four makes and 16 points in the game.

Findlay Prep's top player on Friday night was its interior star, Wood. The UNLV signee is a borderline five-star prospect who has a great combination of agility, explosion and versatility. Wood set the tempo in the first quarter, knocking down two straight 3-pointers en route to a 10-point period. While the 6-foot-10 forward finished with only nine more points in the rest of the game, he threw down two emphatic dunks to assert his domination again with Thurgood Marshall making a run. Wood also led the game with 14 rebounds.

Despite a lopsided margin, some of Thurgood's top talent was more than competitive against the nation's top team. Senior wing Mark Alstork led the game in scoring with 23 points, sending a message to college coaches that he is deserving of all of his mid-major interest. Alstork is a good scorer from all three levels, with a strong frame to attack the rim and deep range on his jumper. Also for the Dayton squad, freshman power forward Derrick Daniels showed signs of promise, with several big blocks, rebounds and inside finishes. Daniels already has Division I offers and is being tracked closely by regional schools from the Big Ten.

Grinding it out

The game plan for La Lumiere Academy (Ind.) was simple against Huntington (W.Va.) Prep: Play a slow-paced half-court game, get defensive stops by outworking H-Prep and execute long possessions on offense. In pulling off the upset, La Lumiere did exactly that, silencing a pro-Huntington crowd by turning the game into a walk-a-thon instead of a track meet and winning 46-35.

In holding Huntington Prep to 35 points, La Lumiere made a statement that it ranks among the nation's elite teams and is as good on defense as anyone. La Lumiere did its best work on H-Prep's best player, 2013's No. 1 overall prospect, Andrew Wiggins. The 6-foot-7 swingman was held to 11 points, less than half his average, and attempted only eight field goals in the loss. Second-leading scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes was held to seven points on just 1-for-11 shooting.

Now, La Lumiere by no means had any dominant offensive moments in the game. But the Lakers did have a trio of prospects who impressed.

Sam Logwood, a 2014 wing, was probably the best all-around performer for La Lumiere, doing a good job in the half-court defending Wiggins and looking for deep jumpers on the offensive end. The 6-foot-6 forward finished with 11 points. Logwood is being recruited at the mid- to high-major level, and he was the target of several of the mid-major coaches in attendance.

Senior guard Jalen James had Washington State in the building to check him out, and although he struggled with his shot, James led the team with 14 points, paced by 12-for-13 shooting from the foul line. James is a quick, penetrating guard who is shifty in transition. He can struggle to finish and needs to learn to play under control, but James is aggressive on offense and was also particularly pesky on the defensive end.

Finally, 2013 big man Ade Aruna stood out on the inside for La Lumiere. The 6-foot-9 power forward got only a few shot attempts, but he converted around the rim with a nice hook shot and was an animal on the glass. Aruna attacks every rebound like it is a life-or-death battle, and that attitude reflects in the boxscore, especially because rebounding is a statistic that college coaches consider to be one that translates effectively to the next level.



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