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April 10, 2007

Boo Williams Invitational top surprises

One of the best things about the Boo Williams Invitational is discovering unknown talent.

Rivals.com's Justin Young breaks down his top five surprises from the weekend in Virginia.

Boo Williams Invitational top five surprises
Reginald Johnson, C, AAU Team: Boo Williams

Every year there is always another "next" player. Johnson could fit that bill this year. Johnson looks and plays like former LSU standout Glen "Big Baby" Davis. An engaging personality off the court, Johnson doesn't do a lot of talking on it. He spends most of his time using his big body to shield opponents so he can grab rebounds. Johnson often muscled his way to the rim for two points.

The North Carolina native is pushing the 300 pound mark, but his frame carries it well. Johnson is more of the exception than the rule with bigger, plus-sized post players. He moves with quickness, gets off the floor faster than you'd think and has surprisingly good mobility. Johnson is blessed with long arms and seemed to be an inch higher than his opponents for rebounds.

The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Prep prospect came into the Boo Williams Invitational with a number of mid-majors hot on his trail and a couple of high-majors sniffing around. Virginia Commonwealth, East Carolina, Fairfield and UNC Wilmington beat everyone to the punch. Now Virginia, Florida, Clemson and Virginia Tech have thrown a hat into the mix.

It will be interesting to see what coaches line up to see Johnson in action in two weeks at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest. Johnson he's trying to earn even more scholarship offers.

Cory Smith, C, AAU Team: Alabama Challenge

Players don't come out of nowhere anymore because of the 24/7 world of .com recruiting. But somehow, some way the big man from Alabama slid under the radar. Those days of being a little known prospect are over after a good weekend in Virginia.

Smith did what effective big men do. The Pleasant Grove High School prospect rebounded, blocked shots, set picks and was an enforcer inside the paint. He struggled with foul trouble because of his aggressive play, but he was consistently effective for the Alabama Challenge. Smith is still raw offensively and much better as a defensive post player at this stage.

He cut his teeth against some talented teams, and Smith was unfazed by his opponents. He tipped off his spring season on the right foot and has placed his name on must-see lists for a number of programs.

Kevin Dillard, PG, AAU Team: Mean Streets

Few guards in the 32-team field had more of an impact on the game than the 5-foot-11 floor general from Chicago. In fact, one could argue that he was one of the top five players in the tournament from start to finish. Dillard was that impressive.

Dillard was the spark that pushed Mean Streets to the final, where the Chicago team was fewer than three seconds away from knocking off Boo Williams for the tourney title. Never rattled and never intimidated by the opposition, Dillard was calm in the pilot's chair and played a smart game in the backcourt.

Dillard was Mr. Big Shot when his squad needed a score. He also has several key assists to either Michael Dunnigan or Josh Crittle inside the paint. Dillard was great off the bounce, saw holes in the defense and exploded to the opening.

As it stands now, the Homewood-Flossmoor point guard said he isn't focusing on recruiting. Odds are some high-major programs will have to ask some serious questions about whether the sub 6-footer can help them at their level. Dillard stepped up with his play and delivered.

Royce White, SF, AAU Team: Howard Pulley

While most of the top dogs in the 17-and-under division of the tournament were rising seniors, White proved that the kids are alright, too. The 15-year-old was very impressive over the span of six games, and certainly made a strong case for himself as one of the top prospects in the class of 2009.

White, a product of De LaSalle High School in Minneapolis, recorded three double-doubles for Howard Pulley and did a nice job of utilizing his inside-out abilities. He has a smooth perimeter game and a good burst of athleticism in the open floor. White can put the ball on the floor as well as stop and pop in the midrange.

Every bit the high-major prospect, White will be a name that is much discussed over the next two years. He has the makings to be a special player at the national level. He showed flashes of brilliance throughout the weekend and helped Howard Pulley claim the bronze division title.

Dominic Cheek, SG, AAU Team: Playaz

After seeing Cheek last summer at the adidas Phenom150 camp, we knew he would be a player over time. Apparently, the St. Anthony's (N.J.) prospect has a quicker timetable than originally thought. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard helped put his Playaz club in the 16-and-under championship.

Offensively, the rail-thin guard put the ball on the floor with ease, attacked the basket and made some incredibly tough shots with his left hand. Cheek's aggressiveness put him on the line, where he was a perfect 8-for-8 in the championship game. Cheek scored 13 of his team's first 19 points in the title game.

The class of 2009 prospect has size, speed, scoring ability and two more years of intense instruction from his high school coach Bob Hurley, Sr., to improve his overall skill set. With added bulk to his long frame, Cheek will be a very attractive high-major prospect.



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