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December 20, 2005

A lot of Love at City of Palms

FORT MYERS, FLA. - Monday was supposed to be the slow day at the City of Palms Classic. For a while there, it looked like that was going to be the case. Then Kevin Love took to the floor. The five-star junior did something a lot of elite level guys don't oftentimes do.

A lot of Love

The Kevin Love "How to Rebound" video is coming to a store near you. The Lake Oswego, Ore., native put on a clinic on Monday on the glass against Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Love officially pulled down 27 boards but may have topped the 30 mark by several different counts on the scorer's table.

However many Love had, he was downright nasty. Love's domination on the glass helped his Lake Oswego team knock of the California power 68-59 in the night cap.

These boards weren't your average run of the mill, clean it off the glass with no one around you kind of boards. Love was snatching everything off the rim. He did it with two, sometimes three, guys around him. Love out-rebounded Dominguez on his own 27 to 21.

Watching Love play is a thrill for the basketball purists out there. He knows how to box out effectively, use his big body to push people off the blocks and get perfect position to get the ball.

Finding a comparison for Love isn't easy. Love is a basketball smoothie. Throw in Wes Unseld, Elton Brand, Sean May and Sam Perkins all in one and you have a guy like Kevin Love. Can he score inside? You bet. Check his 27 points on 7 of 14 from the floor and 12 of 14 from the floor line. He even sank home a three pointer. Obviously he can rebound. Passing? There isn't a big man that can dish the rock like him.

All of this sounds a little sensationalized, right? Do yourself a favor and watch Love up close and personal. He's a joy to watch. But talk to Love, who is still not in tip-top shape, he's not satisfied with where he is physically and overall stamina.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Love said. "I still have some other stuff to show you guys. Wait until I play somebody like Brandan Wright."

If that happens, it will be in the City of Palms championship final.

Wing battle starts the day off

Future Oklahoma forward Damion James had 31 points, 11 rebounds and helped Nacogdoches beat the Pendleton School 56-44. Just looking at the numbers alone, it would be easy to assume James, a five-star prospect, had another great day at another great high-exposure tournament.

James did play well when it comes to scoring but his shooting wasn't spectacular (11-29 from the floor). He oftentimes forces the issue when he leaves the floor and shoots an off-balanced shot and relies too much on one-on-one baskets. In a nutshell, this wasn't the best 31 points we've seen James put up.

James matched up with 2007 Clemson commitment Laron Dendy for the game and in the first half it looked like James was getting the better of the youngster from the Palmetto State. But guys that are headed to the ACC seem to always know how to respond to a bad start (2-8 in the first 16 minutes of work).

When his shot wasn't falling, he went hard at James and Nacogdoches. Dendy took his game to the rack and ended up on the foul line 11 times, sinking eight in the final stanza. That put Pendleton back in position to win the game and his hustle set the tone for the squad in the comeback but it was a little too late to get the win. Dendy finished with 18 points.

Get used to seeing the name James Tyler, all 7-feet-1, 320-pounds of him. The sophomore from North Carolina is getting his body in shape and fine tuning his skills at he Pendleton School. The class of 2008 prospect is a load to handle, as one would imagine inside the paint, but his stamina will always be a question until he gets his body into tip-top shape.

Tyler has good hands and displayed a good looking baby jump hook with both hands and moves players out of his way when he wants to score. Tyler finished with 12 points (4-6 FG, 4-4 FT) and eight boards. The high-majors will follow him around because of his size and the fact that he's starting to put it all together.

Carolina combo playing up and down

Eric Wallace is going through a little growing pains. The muscular wing from Robert Glenn High School in Kernersville, N.C. was a highly-touted freshman because of his great body, athleticism and raw potential. Now that two years have past, people - and coaches - are looking for what's beneath his great body.

Sure he had 14 points and five rebounds against St. Patrick's (N.J.), but there are still some major parts missing from the puzzle that makes him an elite high-major kid. Much like what we learned in the summer, Wallace isn't a good shooter, evident by his 4 of 12 from the field, 6 of 13 from the foul line and 0 for 5 from deep.

Wallace's close friend and new teammate Marshall Moses is doing what it takes, however, to make the elite guys take notice. The 6-foot-7 forward move-in from Aiken, S.C. was outstanding in defeat. Moses put in 25 points (9-15 FG) and six rebounds.

When the class of 2007 prospect shoots it from the elbows, he's money. That's always been his go-to shot and it's generally money every time. He's starting to take his jumper out to the three-point line but knows that he'll make a career out of everything from 15 feet and in. But Moses isn't just a catch and shoot guy anymore. He's mastering the pump fake, taking a dribble or two, mixing in a nice pivot move and scoring off the dribble.

Mid-major surprise

The is a conversation running amongst college coaches, national hoops writers, fans and even the novice basketball observer that this year in college hoops is down, that the high-majors aren't as good as the high-majors of yesteryear and that it's anyone's game come March.

Maybe.

The mid-majors have something to do with it too. Look at Bucknell. Look at Western Kentucky. Look at Nevada. Look at Old Dominion. The list goes on and on.

One of the reasons why is because of the recruiting that is getting done at the mid-major level. That's been evident here already at the City of Palms tournament.

Memo to the LaSalle staff: You have a major steal in St. Patrick forward Yves Mekongo-Mbala. The class of 2006 senior signee led the way for Kevin Boyle's group in an 88-57 win over Kernersville. Mekongo-Mbala was outstanding with 27 points and 12 rebounds. He was scoring from all over the floor, including a perfect 3-3 from deep.

Brandon Giles, a 6-foot-4 guard from Auburndale (Fla.) High School, signed with Western Carolina in the fall. Talk about a major steal. The Sunshine State native is a jack of all trades guy that has a high basketball IQ, good body and mixes it all together for a nice product. The kid leads and does the little things that probably doesn't get noticed in the box score.

Tony Davis, a 6-foot-7 wing from Sarasota (Fla.) Riverview High School, has been hot all tournament long at the City of Palms. He's headed to Central Florida next year and the Golden Knights have a major steal in him. He's long, bouncy, can rebound, score from the wing and make things happen as a passer. He's averaging a solid double-double at the City of Palms.

The mid-majors are winning because they are landing talented kids earlier and earlier and working just as hard, and usually harder, than the bigger schools. Best of all, kids are starting to see the beauty of playing and making a difference rather than going to a big name school and getting the occasional run here and there.

Recruiting Front

College coaches will be making their way to Southwest Florida International Airport, driving past the panther-crossing sign en route to the gym (yes, that sign does exist in Fort Meyers) and getting a chance to see some of their top respective targets and commitments.

Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was on hand to see Moses, Corey Fisher and others…UNC assistant Steve Robinson was in early to likely see Wallace and Love from the 2007 class…Georgia Tech assistant Peter Zaharis checked out the scene all day, eye-balling a number of guys including Moses, Jennings and others…USC assistant Gib Arnold made it a point to get to Florida in order to catch Guillandeaux and Jennings...Connecticut assistant Tom Moore manned his usual baseline seat to see Fisher and others…Jacksonville assistant Daryl Bruce was looking at a number of Florida area guards…Tuesday will likely be a busier day at the panther crossing, according to most committed guys in the house.

Love said his top three are UNC, Duke and UCLA and calls Duke his "dream school."

Love's teammate Michael McLaughlin, a 6-foot-6 power forward that plays like a kamikaze said he's hearing from a lot of low-majors, Division II and Division III schools but he could see his recruitment bolster this season because of his blue-collar approach to the game and Lake Oswego's competitive schedule this season.

Fisher rattled off a list of DePaul, Villanova, Connecticut, Memphis, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Providence and St. John's. Fisher said he has been offered by all of them.

For high-majors looking for a good shooting guard in the class of 2006, Ruben Guillandeaux of St. Patrick's High School is your guy. The 6-foot-4 guard went off for 20 points (7-8 FG, 3-3 3 point FG) in an evening victory. He's improved since the summer and it's not a surprise why he decided to wait to sign in the spring because his options are increasing by the day.

Guillandeaux said he's "still wide open" and looking at USC, Washington State, LaSalle, Pitt, Virginia and others.

Auburndale (Fla.) High School guard duo Kendrick Johnson, a 6-foot scoring point guard, and P.J. Turner, a 6-foot point guard both opened some eyes with their play in an 85-72 win over South Dade. The two said they are both open in the recruiting process. Turner said Jacksonville is looking at him as are some Division II schools. Johnson said he's completely wide open.

On Tap

1:45 p.m. - Cape Coral (Fla.) vs. Riverview (Fla.)
3:30 p.m. - Reserve Christian (La.) vs. Piney Woods (Miss.)
5:15 p.m. - Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) vs. Booker (Fla.)
7:00 p.m. - Episcopal Academy (Pa.) vs. Lake Howell (Fla.)
8:45 p.m. - Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln vs. Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy


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