North Augusta, S.C. - Some of the best players in the country and prestigious Division I coaches gathered for the top summer event on the grassroots circuit Tuesday. Peach Jam, held in North Augusta, S.C., this week lived up to the hype on its first day. The four-day event will conclude with a nationally televised championship game on ESPNU Friday.
Coach K, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Bill Self, Thad Matta and Tom Izzo sat on the sidelines as America's best competed in tough games.
Gophers head coach Tubby Smith and assistant Vince Taylor also watched various 2012 recruits, who could help the program in the near future. The team will lose a lot of athleticism and size when Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III depart after next season. A source close to the program said the team expects Rodney Williams to enter the NBA draft next summer. So the squad could have three scholarships to use on its 2012 recruiting class.
Smith and Taylor sat courtside while Spiece Indy Heat (Indiana) competed against Team Texas Titans. Gophers target and Spiece's DeJuan Marrero, a 6-5 small forward from Gary, Ind., made clutch plays during a tight win over the Titans. He's a solid athlete who's also a versatile defender.
Marrero, a 2012 prospect, said the Gophers have offered him a scholarship. He also has offers from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue, Xavier and Memphis.
"They're recruiting me pretty hard. I'm honored to have that. Tubby Smith is a good coach. I'm just looking forward to the future," Marrero said.
Spiece's teammate A.J. Hammons, a top-rated center in the 2012 class, also has an offer from the Gophers. The 7-0, 260-pound big displayed nice touch around the basket in his team's first game at Peach Jam.
He said he hasn't had much interaction with Minnesota's staff, but he said he likes the program.
"I know it's a good school. I know Tubby Smith is a good coach of big men," Hammons said.
After that matchup, Smith and Taylor checked out the All Iowa Attack's game against BABC (Mass.). All Iowa Attack features Iowa prep center Adam Woodbury, a 7-footer who's one of Minnesota's top targets. The Sioux City, Iowa, recruit's stock has soared since last month, when he won MVP honors at the NBPA Top 100 camp in Virginia. Roy Williams and Coach K were courtside during his first outing Tuesday.
But Woodbury struggled on 3-for-12 shooting. The athleticism and aggressiveness of his competition seemed to rattle him. There will be a lot of weight on his shoulders Wednesday. In my opinion, he's raw and a bit rigid on offense. But he's 7-1, so he can alter shots on defense. And big men can develop offensively over time. But the 2012 prospect will have to elevate his game if he's going to play for some of the top programs in the country.
The Gophers also checked out a pair of players from Michigan AAU program The Family. Jordan Price is a 6-7, 175-pound wing who plays for Country Day in Detroit. He went 6-for-10 from beyond the arc and scored 25 points in a 90-82 loss to Playaz Basketball Club. He's skinny. But he can shoot. Great form. He's under-the-radar, but he's the kind of kid who could blossom and really surprise folks in a few years. He's also a 2012 player. He said he's being recruited by Maryland, Colorado, Minnesota, Providence, Central Michigan, Lamar, Eastern Michigan, Northwestern and South Florida.
"[Minnesota is] a pretty good program. They're recruiting me hard. They said they want me to come in. ... Right now, I don't have any favorites," Price said.
Taylor and Smith also saw Junior Lomomba, Price's teammate, score 18 points in the same game. The 6-4 forward from Madison, Wis., said he hasn't heard much from Minnesota lately. A few more big performances in front of Smith and Taylor could change that. But he's undersized. And he's not a great athlete. So he might not be a great fit for Smith's system. But he's physical and fearless. He has potential.
The Gophers also watched Illinois prep Steve Taylor, a 6-8, 200-pound forward with Mac Irvin Fire, compete throughout the day. He's a physical 2012 forward with range. He has three stars on Rivals.com.
HOWARD PULLEY 1-1 AFTER FIRST DAY OF COMPETITION
Few expected Eagan-based Howard Pulley to exceed against a talented CIA Bounce squad. The latter, an AAU powerhouse from Canada, features five-star stud Anthony Bennett and high-major 2014 prospect Andrew Wiggins. Their starting center, Sim Bhullar, is 7-5. Seriously.
But Howard Pulley pulled off a huge upset after a furious start in their first game in the Peach Jam tournament. It was intense. A lot of trash-talking, hard fouls and physical play. But Howard Pulley's 17-and-under team wasn't rattled.
They took a 30 point lead in the second half and held off a late charge by CIA Bounce in a 94-79 victory. Benilde St-Margaret's Isaiah Zierden torched CIA Bounce with a game-high 31 points. Apple Valley rising sophomore Tyus Jones scored 19 points. And Hopkins senior Siyani Chambers added 17. A huge effort for Howard Pulley.
But they couldn't continue the success in their night outing against Mac Irvin Fire, which features America's best player, Chicago's Jabari Parker. Parker was unstoppable.
But Kyle Washington, who will play for a prep school on the East Coast after competing for Benilde in his first three seasons, played great defense. He's one of the top interior defenders at this event. He altered a lot of shots Tuesday.
I think Zierden and Washington really elevated their stock with the way they played in front of big-time coaches Tuesday. We'll see if they can maintain the momentum throughout the rest of the week.
-NBA All-Star Chris Paul was in the building. His CP3 squad is playing at the Peach Jam.
-Some great names at this event. Akoy Agau, Goodluck Okonoboh, Daddy Ugbede, Cleveland Thomas, Lionheart Leslie, Prince Ibeh. All real names, folks.
-Reporters get books with information on all of the players in the tournament. Coaches aren't so lucky. They have to pay $200 for the same book, albeit with bigger font.