We really missed the Mayor and his beautiful wife, Terri, at the 32nd annual Beach Ball Classic, held in historic Myrtle Beach, SC. Mayor John Rhodes, one of the three original powers behind the Ball, took ill on the eve of the classic and missed all but the opening round. He picked us up at the airport and then was gone… out the back door of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and into a waiting ambulance. Due to the miracle of modern medicine (and Terry’s minute by minute diligence) the Mayor is back at his deck in good shape. To all his friends, both in and out of basketball, that was by far the best result of this year’s tourney! And lets give kudos to his well-drilled staff, headed by the omnipresent Chad Smith, for running the event without a single hitch.
The brainchild of Dan D’Antoni, now an assistant coach for brother Mike of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Beach Ball grew rapidly into the most prestigious high school holiday event in the nation. D’Antoni was accustomed to winning… with brother Mike he helped lead Marshall’s Thundering Herd to a tumultuous NIT championship in the Old Garden in 1973, when the NIT was still king, and captured more than 500 wins as the head coach of Socastee (SC) High School. His Beach Ball “team” consisted of school procuror, Eddie Oliver, the soon-to-be mayor of Myrtle Beach and current Executive Director of the BBC, John Rhodes, and the late-great “Lambo” Schwartz, who worked tirelessly to gain community support for the Classic to be moved from Socastee H.S. to the vast expanses of the Convention Center. No less than 68 Beach Ball Classic graduates have played, or are playing, in the NBA. Next comes some players we will be adding to that list from this year’s tournament, sooner if not later. Later because this year’s BBC attracted a surprising number of young big guys…who can play!
Let’s go team by team, alphabetically. That means Bishop Gorman out of Las Vegas, NV, and their 6-11 slender southpaw, Stephan ZImmerman. The reclassified sophomore is so skinny he could slip through a wet straw and emerge dry. But Zim owns bonafide pivot moves, ignites the break with neat pitch out, follows well on the offensive glass and sports a nice arc on his free throws. Tack on two more years to the last half of 2013 and here’s a Big-Time pivot prospect. Same can be said for his 6-9 sophomore running mate, Chase Jetter, who, in limited minutes, showed excellent shot-blocking potential. High-Major at least. Rasha Muhammad, the 6-5 sr. brother of UCLA’s super freshman, Shabazz, is a mid to high-major two-guard who uses his extreme athleticism to get any shot he wants. His problem is consistency…mid-range jumper ok, hot-and-cold from beyond the arc. This year’s classic was bereft of major-league floor leaders but 5-10 jr. Noah Robotham was one of the few exceptions. Dribbles well either hand, feeds the bigs like a good lead-guard should and a dogged defender. Will make some High-Major coach extremely happy in two years!
Bishop O’Connell was superbly coached by Joey Wootten (what else should one expect from Morgan Wootten offspring?), and was headed by a trio of future college prospects. The surest of the bunch is uncommitted 607 sr. Junior Etou, a strong frontline swing who appears headed for an Upper-Major power-forward future. This all-out hustler is best at the defensive end using basketball’s three r’s to near-perfection…rebounder, runner, rejector. Maryland-bound jr. two-guard, Romelo Trimble, can fill-it-up from the charity stripe to the land of three while 6-7 soph Leroy Butts is mobile, agile but not yet hostile. Additional strength should do the trick. Coach Wootten was named one of the “100 people to watch” in DC in the 21st Century by the Washingtonian Magazine. Christ Presbyterian Acad. out of Nashville, TN, featured lean, mean scoring machine, 6-5 jr, Jake Allsmiller, a three-point specialist with a seemingly pure jumper, 6-7 jr. Jalen Lindsey, MVP of the King of the Bluegrass Tourney and blessed with Otis Elevator “ups”, and a 6-6 freshman, Braxton Blackwell, who appears headed for stardom. His athleticism will carry the day defensively even if the offense doesn’t pan out. If and when it does… WATCH OUT! We didn’t get a wholesome look at Rutherford (Forest City, NC) but with one eye closed we couldn’t miss a pair of Cavalier juniors, 6-5 Roddric Ross and 6-6 Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez, the longest name in hoop history. Travis came with a rep and his good moves to the hoop and finalization in traffic and at the charity stripe made the ballyhoo legit. Ross only shoots threes (seriously) but 5 for 9 in the game we saw, will get anyone’s adrenaline flowing. Both are Major at some level.
We haven’t had so much fun watching a high school player perform since being seated in the Old Madison Square Garden, a half hour before tipoff, to marvel at a Bill Bradley warmup for a Knick game. B-squared’s pre-game show was better than on Broadway. The player we’re talking about is Franklin, Ohio’s Luke Kennard, a remarkable 6-5 sophomore blessed with silky-smooth dribble moves with either hand…didn’t know he was a southpaw till he took his first foul shot…shoots and makes with either paw, passes unselfishly like a true lead-guard and bouncy competitor as his 11.7 rebounds per contest suggest. Luke emerged as the 6th leading Beach Ball scorer in history (32.7 ppg), trailing all-time high point producer, Mike Bibby (39.3). That quick stop-and-go dribble move and subsequent trifecta is unguardable at this level. And he’s only a soph. Oh boy! Teammate Travis Lakins, a talented 6-0 sr. headed for Ohio State on a baseball scholorship, owns a 90 mph fastball and a penchant for shooting and dribbling only when he has the ball. His highly-skilled 3-pointer, however, would make a career in hoops no less than interesting. Who said he can’t play both, but the Buckeyes appear a level too high. Jeff Pierce is a 6-7 sr. with just enough to stuff to make some Low-Major to Top Small College coach a good power-forward.
Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, NJ, will contribute a pair of Div. 1 players to next season’s wars. Georgetown has a commitment from 6-9 cornerman, Reggie Cameron, who’ll give the Hoyas exactly what they need, a big who can stroke it from deep. And Robert Morris lands 5-11 Kavoon Stewart, an undersized two-guard who will shoot straight for the Colonials in the NEC. Host Myrtle Beach continues to produce legitimate guards…remember Ramon Sessions?…and while no Ramon, 6-0 sr. Nolin Butler will help any D-2 program in America. Sees the floor, clever with the rock, made his free throws and stronger than he looks. And any Low-Major, seeking a lead-guard, could take a gamble.
Credit Coach Golden Holt, from Orem, Utah, with one of the most amazing turnarounds in high school annals. Taking the reigns of the Golden Tigers in 2010 and suffering through a 7-15 campaign, Holt steered Orem to an astounding 24-1 a year ago and the school’s first state championship in its 56-year history. One of the reasons is 6-7 jr. Dalton Nixon, a Mid-Major (at least) power-forward who makes his living along the baseline with a vast assortment of finishing moves. BYU is rumored. If 6-2 sr. Zach Hunsaker were a tad quicker we’d label him with big-time potential. The step-slow two-guard scores in bunches with a devastating three-ball and fits neatly into a Mid to High-Major scoring threat. Rufus King HS, out of Milwaukee, WI, will send 5-11 sr. Austin Malone-Mitchell to the Low to Mid-Major level. Calling him a combo guard is stretching it…he’s a two-guard trapped in a point guard’s body but can’t deny fearless driving activity and his penchant for making trifectas at crunch time.
Our man Gary DeCesare, now coaching St. Rita in Chicago, had a rough tournament. But the former St. Raymond’s (Bronx, NY) legend (2 NYS championships/4 City titles/NYS “Coach of the Year” on four occasions and produced more than 30 Div. I prospects) owns a few more at Rita… all underclassmen! Victor Law is a 6-7 jr. with a major-league touch on his mid-range jumper. Questionable shot selection, at this stage, the only noticeable drawback. It’s mostly potential for 6-2 jr. Dom Mathews, a scoring-guard with explosive quicks and bounce to match. But our favorite was 6-5 soph Charles Matthews, blessed with athleticism and an acute knowledge of the game for one so young. Some of his highlight film passes in traffic make a 1st-guard future, at 6-8 or so, more than a dream.
The biggest surprise of the tourney, no, make that a shock, is that Scott County’s sr. Quin Richardson didn’t have a major college offer…or interest. That will change if it hasn’t already. The savvy-laden Georgetown, KY product will latch on to a Mid-Major program, at least, with an excellent stop-and-go dribble assortment, quick jump shot release with better than average results, and innate ability to spot the open man off his pet move. Strength is not a problem so what’s going on here? His backcourt partner, 6-1 jr. Trent Gilbert, will be the Cardinal star of the future. The guts two-guard drives fearlessly to the hoop, shoots deadly pull-up jumpers and free throws, sports good moves without the ball and quickness offsets lack of defensive size. And it shouldn’t be too long before Coach Billy Hicks becomes a serious contender for the coveted Morgan Wootten coaching award. He’s 781-212 lifetime (entering 2012-13) posted 23 District Championships, 9 Regional Titles, 2 State flags and was named Kentucky Boys “Coach of the Year” on no less than 5 occasions.
One of the great joys of Five-Star Camp’s history was the presence of the Dozier Twins…Perry and Terry…who came from South Carolina and poured out their talent and personality as players, counselors and coaches. Perry Dozier is the coach of Spring Valley HS in Columbia, SC, and his son Perry Dozier Jr. is a bouncy 6-5 soph with a nose for the ball on the offensive glass, ability to lead the break and reeks with growth potential. These intangibles will remain his win till a questionable jump shot is answered. Are you listening, Frank Martin? 6-3 sr. Dominique Taylor can stroke it from deep while his occasional teardrop makes opponents cry. And spindly 6-6 Jordan Bruner is a freshman of note. National “Coach of the Year” in 2006 and 2012, Doug Lipscomb, boss of Wheeler HS in Marietta, GA, has a can’t miss 6-10 soph, as the deluge of talented young bigs continues. Daniel Giddens owns sound rebound timing with double-figure stat sheet results, nice facing touch with an occasional fadeaway J, blacks shots to himself and already blessed with a superior basketball body. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, in this case of the Low-Major 2-guard variety. He’s Austin Smoak, a 6-1 sr. who relies on his mid-range game to get the job done.
Finally there’s eventual BBC tourney champ, Whitney Young (Chicago, IL), far too big and physical for Bishop O’Connell who persevered for a half with a 4+ minute outright stall. There’s no clock in South Carolina high school hoops, so the state must get with the basketball times, and we don’t mean the newspaper! In the BBC’s picturesque and information filled program there’s a feature on each school entitled “Famous Graduates”. At the top of the Dolphin list is Michelle Obama. About to replace the First Lady is 6-11 jr. Jahlil Okafor, a man-child with the basketball IQ of a college veteran…reposts intelligently, keeps his blocked shots in play, runs the floor like a Derby winner and finishes in or out of traffic with his soft variety of pivot moves. Our MVP! The committee’s choice was highly talented 6-9 jr, Paul White, who lived up to our opening-round notes throughout: “nice stroke from deep/Pinocchio-like nose for ball/sees floor/needs strength (that’s all)! Everything happens in threes so the third jr. is J.L. Peak, a natural two-guard who combines his prolific scoring ability with a delicious knack for team play. Coach Tyrone Slaughter (a State title and Runner-up in 8 years with several more to come!) would have it no other way. Peak will peak-out at a Major college, Mid to High most likely. We’ve already indicated who copped the MOP (Most Outstanding Player), Luke Kinnard, of course, now everybody’s #1 high school sophomore in America!
The only thing better than the ball at the Beach Ball are the people, and one of our favorites has always been Allen Smothers, President of Coastline Sports Media, the South Carolina’s “Sportscaster of the Year” and the radio and TV voice of the Classic since 1989. We asked out Smothers brother to list his best games and players in tournament history and here are his selections, with comments. We quote him almost exactly. Garf’s comments, if any, will be noted.
3) 1988 Championship Game – Archb. Molloy (Jamaica, NY) vs Macomber-Whitney (Toledo, OH). Molloy, coached by the immortal Jack Curran, won its third BBC Title 89-69. Forget the score…Kenny Anderson and Jimmy Jackson put on unquestionably the greatest individual battle in tournament history. This showcase at Socastee HS will forever be unmatched!
2) 2001 First Round - Latta (SC) vs DeMatha Catholic (Hyattaville, MD). This is the game that made Raymond Felton a household name! Tiny Latta shocked the prep world by upending famed DeMatha 78-73 as Felton poured in 33. Naismith “Hall of Fame” Coach Morgan Wootten was quoted as saying the junior guard put on the second best display, ever, against his squad. Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) was #1, of course.
1) 1991 Championship Game – Dubar (Baltimore, MD) vs Simon Gratz (Philly, PA). This will more than likely remain my favorite and most exhilarating game ever because of the vast number of stars in the game and the way it ended. Rasheed Wallace’s Gratz team was the two-time defending BBC champion and led big early. The only lead Dunbar had was at the buzzer as Donte Bright tipped in a Keith Booth miss as the horn sounded giving Dubar a thrilling 55-53 victory in their only BBC appearance.
8) Rasheed Wallace – Simon Gratz (Philly, PA) – 1991/1992/1993 – His team won 2 BBC Championships and almost single-handedly won a third. Best dunker ever.
7) Jason Kidd – St. Joseph’s (Alamdea, CA) – 1991 – Played both perimeter and post for St. Joe’s and scored 99 points in his 3 games.
6) Mike Bibby – Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, AZ) – 1995 – Has the top 2 scoring outings in tourney history…48 vs Eau Claire & 45 vs Paintsville.
5) Kobe Bryant – Lower Merion (Philly, PA) – 1996 – The legend, who rivals MJ (and now LeBron James) as the greatest NBA player of all time, scored a phenomenal 42, 42 and 40 in his three Myrtle Beach contests.
4) Richie Farmer – Clay Country (Manchester, KY) – 1987 – It’s shocking that he only appeared in one BBC because of the vivid memory of his impact. Farmer backed his dribble up court and turned to fire a fall-away jumper at the top of the key in what seemed like a thousand times and 999 of them went in! An absolutely amazing performance for the tiny Kentucky school.
3) Raymond Felton – Latta (SC) – 2000/2001 – Played in the most attended game (8000+) vs Lincoln’s Sebastian Telfair (Felton scored 35/Telfair 29 in victory) in 2001. His 33 in stunning upset of DeMatha in 2000, remains a hoop legend.
2) Grant Hill – South Lakes (Reston, VA) – 1988/1989 – His teams were only a bit better than average but individually he holds a BBC record in literally a dozen categories. An all-around superstar and person!
1) Kenny Anderson – Archbishop Molloy (Jamaica, NY) – 1986/1987/1988 – I told Garf that if I attended 32 more of these Beach Ball Classics I doubt that anyone will EVER surpass Kenny as the best player in the history of this event. Every minute of every BBC game that Anderson played in he was the very best player on the floor and will forever be the all-time greatest player in Beach Ball Classic history.
GARF’S LONE COMMENT: Great job, Allen, but please remember this…only 3 things last forever…death, taxes, and DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak!
As Columbo would say, “One More Thing.” It would be criminal to exclude BBC’s extra-added-attraction, the “Sunday Showdown”, featuring a pair of the best young players in North America, both from South Carolina! Hammond School in Columbia sports 6-1 freshman Seven Woods, a marvelous athlete with eye-popping reverse dribble moves, not always under control at this stage. School’s out when he learns to finish. Mullins, SC will keep Myrtle Beach in heavy traffic for the next 4 years with the return of Jalek Felton, nephew of the Knicks, Raymond. Yes, it’s true, he’s a 6-2 8th-grader who already shoots and makes threes like we breathe. Added to his phenomenal talent is the ability to see and find the open man. Raymond had to teach him to pass. Each of the above has a teammate worthy of note. Woods’ buddy is 6-4 soph Xavier McDaniel, son of you-know-who, another superstar athlete with time on his side for his game to mature. When Felton’s not shooting trifectas he’s finding 6-3 sr. Dmitri Reaves, a legit low to mid-major two-guard. Good size, strength and finishes in traffic.