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October 10, 2005

Pride of the Peach State

MARIETTA, GA - Georgia has always been good to the game of basketball and at the first annual Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase, over a hundred players began their quest to be counted amongst some of the state's top players. Rivals.com invited the top players to Southern Poly Tech University and watched them battle it out over the weekend.

Five-star big man battle highlights camp

Everyone wanted to see it. The camp's highest Rivals.com rated players, James Hickson and Gani Lawal, went head-to-head on Saturday night and the match-up didn't disappoint.

Hickson, a bullish 6-foot-8 power forward from Wheeler High School, has been the target of nearly every major program in the country during the open evaluation period in Sept. Over 45 high-major schools made their way to Wheeler to see the five-star big man in action because he won't be able to hit the high school hardwood until January.

So when the opportunity to play against Lawal, the other highly rated Georgia post player, Hickson took advantage of his court time. Fighting his way through triple teams, Hickson exploded for 40-plus points in a variety of ways.

He defines power forward by utilizing his big body on the blocks and powers through defenders to the cup. Most of his points come at the rim but he's showing a knack for working with his back against the basket, keeping the ball high and loves to pivot his way to a better scoring opportunity.

Lawal was no slouch either. He went off for 20-plus points and mastered the art of the pick and roll. The majority of his scores came off dunks, emphatic ones at that, and points in the paint. He's starting to extend his game to 12 feet and kissing shots of the backboard, ala Tim Duncan. Lawal isn't a back to the basket player. His best work is facing up on the offensive end and as a defender, he's a tremendous shot-blocker with great timing.

Both players have their own style. Hickson is a brute force that bullies his way around the paint. Lawal is more of a finesse player with great length and explosiveness off the floor. Who was better this weekend? Hickson certainly answered that question with his play.

For the hardcore Georgia hoops fans, this match-up was a rare treat. Hickson's Wheeler squad and Lawal's Norcross team are the two favorites to win the state. They battled each other in the state title game last year however neither player was at their current schools. Both transferred over the summer. Both Wheeler and Norcross are amongst the best public school teams in the nation.

Four-star prospects highlight guard play

There wasn't a better guard in the camp than Chris Allen. The four-star guard from Meadowcreek High School was the most consistent player all weekend long.

Allen is a confident scorer that can pour it in several different ways. He's master the art of using a high screen for creating space for himself, strong with a two dribble pull-up jumper and he's becoming more aggressive to the basket. He still needs to work on his defensive intensity but all and all, he proved that he's amongst the best of the best guards in the junior class. Allen said his top two schools are Georgia and Michigan State.

Also at the camp was 6-foot-5 shooting guard Jamar Moore. This kid loves the game of basketball. Want proof? He took a six hour Greyhound bus trip from his Thomasville home to Atlanta just to participate in the event.

When he got to the camp, he did what he does best - score from deep and score often. In his match-up against Allen on Saturday, Moore didn't have quite the showing he was expecting to have. That being said, he's still one of the better shooting guards in the Southeast. He's got a quick trigger, great size and takes good shots.

Seniors show up and shine

The class of 2006 wasn't as deep as the other classes but the talent didn't disappoint.

Charlotte bound wing Cameron Tatum gave a glimpse of what 49er fans can expect from the 6-foot-6 wing. He's one of the most athletic players in the country and wasn't afraid to show that off at the camp.

Blessed with good size, a non-stop motor and great handles, Tatum will the be the ideal wing for Bobby Lutz at the next level and should be a key player in the Atlantic 10 over the next couple of years.

Much like Sharaud Curry last season, James Florence is an under-recruited and under-appreciated point guard that can flat out play. The mid-majors are flirting with Florence but no one is really making a push and that shouldn't be the case. He's an underrated athlete, quick as a jet with the ball and a heady point guard that is making the transition from being more of a scorer to being a pass-first guy. He'll make a mid-major coach very happy and a high-major program grateful that they landed such a quality player in the late period. Don't sleep on this kid.

The state's biggest sleeper is Andy Ogide, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Paulding County High School. The springy post player loves to play above the rim, grab rebounds and show off his skill set inside the paint. Defensively, his big frame allows him to push guys off the blocks as well as box out just about anybody he wants to. The high-majors have been sniffing around this fall and he's starting to get onto the national map.

Ty Anderson, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oconee County High School, is a heady, hard-working prospect that always made the right play at the right time. Not overly athletic, he makes up for that with his knowledge of the game and good court sense. Maybe he tapped into his grandfather's wealth of knowledge. This low to mid-major prospect is the grandson of Lefty Driesell.

Coming in from the Augusta area was Curtis Brown, a 6-foot-4 wing from Hephzibah High School. He's an athletic prospect with a good frame and solid skill set that showed flashes of high-major skills. He's better off served at a low to mid-major program.

Ben Smith isn't a sexy prospect but he sure is efficient and makes things happen. The 5-foot-10 point guard always finds a way to win games, knows how to lead a team and he's tough as nails. His understanding of the game makes him a guy that can help a low to mid-major program.

Doing it and doing it well

After missing a good part of the AAU season in July, Zac Swansey used the camp to show that he's one of the better point guard prospects in the Southeast. The 6-foot-1 point guard is now at Dunwoody High School after shining for the last two years at Flowery Branch High School.

He's a gritty point guard that can score 40 points or drop 12 assists in any game. He'll find ways to score the ball but with weapons around him, Swansey is proving that he's a potential high-major target in the class of 2007. He was one of the top point guards at the camp.

Aaron Gilstrap is an intriguing player to watch from the class of 2007. He's a tremendous shooter and the lefty isn't afraid to go hard to the basket and score in traffic at the rim. Playing at Marietta High School, some people have made comparisons to former MHS star Ezra Williams, who went on to star at Georgia. The comparisons are off only because Gilstrap is a much better athlete.

Wheeler High School is one of the top schools in the country because they return a majority of the team that won the state championship last year. Adding Trey Lang and Adrian Williams certainly helps their efforts for winning another title.

Lang, a 6-foot-7 forward junior forward, is a bouncy athlete who is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding his potential. The son of former NBA veteran Andrew Lang, this class of 2007 has a chance to be a high-major guy. Right now he's a tweener.

Williams, a 6-foot-1 point guard, is also the son of a former sports star. His father is former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams. On the hardwood, the younger Williams is an athletic point with good handles, great motor, impressive grades and a game that is really starting to emerge as a high-major prospect.

Another class of 2007 forward to watch is Terrell Bell out of Stone Mountain. He's starting to really find his niche as a small forward on the offensive end of the floor. He can play the power forward spot but he's more comfortable as a face up player that can handle the rock and attack from the wing. Still needing to improve as a shooter and ball-handler, Bell determines what level he plays at as he improves his wing skills.

No one is going to work harder than two-sport star Cameron Heyward. The burly 6-foot-6 power forward and son of former NFL fullback Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, this class of 2007 prospect from Peachtree Ridge is a better football prospect than a hoopster. That being said, he's not a bad basketball prospect. He's improved his spring off the floor and post moves. He's tough to stop at the high school level inside the paint.

At Norcross High School, coaches are seeing guys like Jodie Meeks, Brenton Butler and Gani Lawal but another player to watch is 6-foot-6 wing forward Jordan DeMercy. He's an athletic wing that has a chance to be the next Norcross Division I stud.

Breaking out

No one broke out more than B.J. Frazier, a class of 2007 6-foot-5 wing from Stephenson High School. After moving to Georgia just a year ago from Springfield, Ill., he's adapted nicely to the style of play in the South. He's the ideal slashing wing forward that has incredible hops, high-level energy and a world of potential. Still working on becoming a must-defend shooter, his raw athleticism has already attracted the eyes of several high-major schools.

As far as big men are concerned, no one helped themselves more than Bassy Inameti. He proved that he should be counted amongst the state's top players in the loaded class of 2007. At 6-foot-7, he has the size, footwork, hands, ball-handling skills and athleticism to make him an attractive high-major prospect. Now at Peachtree Ridge High School, he'll be able to shine amongst guys like Zach Graham and Cameron Heyward.

Showcases like this allow guys like Jeremy Simmons to do just that - showcase their skills. The 6-foot-6 forward has the tools to make the mid and high-majors look at him long and hard. Playing alongside Cameron Tatum at Tucker High School, Simmons will be able to utilize one on one defenses from the wing. He's still a player without a true position right now but he's certainly a guy to keep your eye on this season.

At 6-foot-5, Connor Nolte is an intriguing prospect because of his lights out shooting ability. The class of 2007 prospect from Milton High School has a chance to be a mid-major level player.

Hugh Martin, a class of 2007 wing from Whitefield Academy is a nice combination of leadership, great grades and a non-stop motor. The South Carolina move-in has all of the ingredients for a big year as a junior. Martin is a solid mid-major guy right now.

Stay logged onto Rivals.com for Tuesday's breakdown of the top 2008 and 2009 prospects from the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase.


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