The opening day of the 2015 Steel City Invitational was nothing short of impressive on Saturday, as some of Alabama’s best teams and prospects matched up in the Pete Hanna Center at Samford University. The day brought some surprises, along with some noteworthy storylines.
Here are the storylines from Saturday at the Steel City Invitational…
JAVIEN WILLIAMS STEELS THE SHOW
Knight Eady, the organization heading the Steel City Invitational, has patented the “steel the show” headline since the tournament’s inception three years ago. On Saturday, it was safe to say that 2016 Woodlawn (AL) and UAB signee Javien Williams stole the show at the event.
Williams, a 6-foot-4 wing, started out a little slow in Woodlawn’s morning game against Hoover (AL). However, he still displayed some impressive characteristics. To this point, I have under-valued Williams’ ability to rebound. At the next level, he could be productive on the glass. He is quick off his feet and has great bounce, allowing him to snatch rebounds at its highest point. Despite a slow start, the electric guard finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds in a win.
Heading into the afternoon game against J.O. Johnson, many spectators came to lay eyes on Johnson’s 2017 five-star John Petty. Needless to say, during the anticipated matchup, Williams outplayed his counterparts and was the talk of the opening day.
Williams did a fantastic job of showcasing his offensive arsenal against Johnson. At the end of the first quarter, he had 14 of Woodlawn’s 15 points. That’s the type of zone the senior was in. He knocked down a couple of perimeter shots early in the game and finished with four made 3’s. He proved his elite status at the rim, though. Williams, a slithery slasher and finisher at the rim, finished at the rim and made it to the free-throw line. He competed and single-handedly kept the Colonels in contention throughout the game. If not for the morning game and tired legs, Woodlawn very well could have taken down Johnson. Nevertheless, Williams had a phenomenal Mr. Basketball audition and one of the best offensive performances I have seen this season. He finished with a day-high 36 points, and the question to be asked now? Is Javien Williams a top 100 prospect candidate? I’d say so.
SACRED HEART PROVES THEY ARE THE REAL DEAL
After just one day of a gameplay, the biggest impression from the entire event came from Sacred Heart. The Cardinals, who won the 1A state championship last season, made some noise Saturday, as they took down 6A state title contenders Bessemer City and 7A power Mountain Brook. These two signature wins come just a few weeks removed from Sacred Heart also defeating 7A’s Spain Park, who boasts Auburn commit Austin Wiley and Jamal Johnson.
Sacred Heart has arguably the best backcourt in Alabama with 2017 point guard DJ Heath and 2017 combo guard Kevion Nolan. The duo proved their elite status on Saturday, as both had big games.
Heath, a 5-foot-10 guard, is as tough as they come at the point guard spot. He had a great showing in Sacred Heart’s first game against Bessemer City, leading the Cardinals with 30 points on 10-19 shooting. While he will have to get more consistent with his jump shot, the junior hit some shots from the perimeter, including three 3’s. He is fearless attacking the rim and has a knack for getting fouled, converting 7-8 free throw attempts. Heath handled the pressure in both games and proved he is a worthy option at the point guard spot for mid-major and potentially high-major programs.
Nolan, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, is a nice complement to Heath. The long shooter is a dangerous shooter and scorer from everywhere on the floor. One coach observing said it best: “This kid is a bucket getter.” Against Mountain Brook, Nolan made a statement with his game. He knocked down shots in rhythm from the mid-range and 3 on his way to 31 points. However, the most impressive thing was his ability to get to the free-throw line. Nolan used his high IQ to get fouled and make it to the charity stripe, where he made 16 of 18 free throws. He’s one to keep an eye on as the event continues.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS
Luke Touliatos, 2017 SG/SF, Homewood: Touliatos was another prospect that enhanced his stock after a big opening-day performance. The 6-foot-3 shooter played a big part in Homewood’s upset over Madison Academy, as he finished with 34 points on 12-19 shooting. The junior doesn’t have an ideal shot technique, but he proved it is all about the ball going through the net. He hit six 3’s and also showed a high motor. Touliatos warrants heavy D2 and NAIA attention with his shooting ability.
Trendon Watford, 2019 PF/SF, Mountain Brook: Despite being one of the youngest prospects in the entire event, Watford may have the best long-term potential. The 6-foot-7 combo forward is extremely skilled for his age and his mid-range game is flawless. The freshman has great touch and has plenty of ways to score the ball from 15 feet and in. Watford has received plenty of national attention up to this point, and rightfully so. He has made his case as one of the top players in the 2019 class, and he followed that up Saturday with 27 points.
Josh Langford, 2016 SG, Madison Academy: Over the past year, Langford has made some serious strides with his jump shot. Each time out, he looks more and more confident with his shooting range. Against Homewood, the Michigan State signee hit a variety of shots from different spots on the floor. If he continues to be a constant threat from the outside, the rest of the Big 10 could be in trouble.
RJ Mhoon, 2017 PF, Faith Academy: One of the biggest impressions from Saturday was the transformation of RJ Mhoon. In years past, Mhoon has been stuck as a tweener between the 3 and the 4. While his position is still a question, vast improvements have been made in his game, mainly his shooting. The 6-foot-6 athlete showed an improved shot, as he hit three 3’s in a quarter-and-a half for Faith Academy. Mhoon is already known for his defense and shot-blocking ability down low. If his shooting stays this consistent and his ball-handling improves, he becomes an intriguing mid-major prospect.
Brandon Wright, 2016 CG, Ramsay: Wright made his case as one of the best remaining available guards in the state in two games Saturday. The 6-foot-1 guard headed a big 2nd quarter comeback for Ramsay to help run down Pelham in the Rams’ first game of the day. He converted on five three-point shots to help overcome a 10-point deficit and lead Ramsay to a victory. On the court, he brings great composure and control of the game. He is the X-factor for a talented Ramsay squad. For now, his recruitment is mostly mum, but that needs to change. He’s worth a look for low-major programs and below.