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July 21, 2013

S.C. Pro Am Day 10 wrapup

Day 10 of the S.C. Pro Am basketball league took place at Heathwood Hall featuring several current, former and future University of South Carolina players, and Gamecock Central was there.

In game one, rising senior Brenton Williams and incoming freshman forward Demetrius Henry teamed up again in Henry's return to action after missing the past few weeks. After sinking an open 3-pointer in the game's first minute, Henry's rust showed, as he missed his next seven attempts - including a dunk - and was a non-factor the rest of the game. More concerning, however, was his decision-making, as he mishandled passes, took out-of-control shots and was pushed around inside on defense. He finished with 9 points, 4 of which came in the last three minutes, on 3-of-12 shooting.

Though he's 6-foot-9, Henry is on the thin side and has struggled to establish defensive position, set screens and get the rebounds one might think his height would deliver naturally. For the game, he had the same number rebounds - 3 - as Williams. Henry has a decent outside shot, but from a 6'9 wing in the SEC, that alone won't get you very far. Henry will certainly benefit from the strength training he'll get, the coaching he'll receive and the competition he'll face beginning this fall.

Williams, who has been superb in the league this summer, was unusually quiet, scoring just 10 points three days after posting 34 and only dishing out only one assist. Henry and Williams' counterparts on the other side of the court were two former Gamecocks - Austin Steed and Dominique Archie - who fared better. Not only did their team win the game on a last-second 3-pointer, but Steed and Archie got the better on the scorer's sheet as well, finishing with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Game two featured rising sophomore forward Michael Carrera (teammate Justin McKie was a no-show) against incoming freshman guard Jaylen Shaw. I've said before that Shaw has been the most consistently impressive of the freshmen - Sindarius Thornwell included - in the Pro Am this summer, not from a dynamic scoring standpoint but from the standpoint of his overall fundamentals, ball-handling skills and court savvy. He doesn't rattle under pressure, he can drive and spin in the lane against taller players (he's listed at 6'1) and is an assist machine, finishing Sunday's game with a rock-solid stat line of 16 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Also to his credit, Shaw played in the next game for a different team that was short players, helping run the point for them rather than looking to score and coasting to a 4 point, 4 assist, 2 rebound effort.

"I have been extremely impressed with Jaylen Shaw, more than I initially thought I might be," said former Gamecock point guard and S.C. Pro Am commissioner Carey Rich. "I've been watching him closely to see how he'd transition from the off guard to the point guard, and he's been terrific controlling the ball and playing smart.

"He's very crafty, and I think he has a real chance to contribute early."

Carrera simply continues to do what he does, which is intimidate, play physically and be an elbow-slinging, hyperactive jackhammer under the basket. He finished the game with his customary double-double, scoring 23 points and collecting 12 rebounds on 10-of-25 shooting, including 2-of-7 from 3-point range.

Former Gamecock big man Johndre Jefferson, who wore his Gamecock basketball shorts instead of his team's garnet ones, was tasked much of the afternoon with handling Carrera. To his credit, Jefferson (6'10) did so as well as anyone willing to bear hug a chainsaw can do, and what's more, he was a dynamic force on the offensive end, matching Carrera with 23 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

In the third game of the day, incoming USC freshman forward Reggie Theus, Jr. competed. The 6'6 wing, who only joined his teammates three games ago, is beginning to settle into a role on his Pro Am team and is improving with each game. Sunday afternoon, he showed a crafty inside game and some back-to-the-basket moves en route to 11 points and 4 rebounds in what was by far his best showing yet.

NOTE: Though Seventh Woods did not play and has appeared in only one league game this season, Rich said Woods could be back on the court as early as this Thursday. Also a no-show Sunday was incoming freshman guard Duane Notice, who played earlier this season for Team Canada and made his Pro Am debut last week, and 2014 USC commitment Marcus Stroman.

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