As we get closer to the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, we wanted to put some teams under the microscope. Robert Alfonso, Jr. took a peek at five teams to watch on Thursday. Today, we dive into five more teams to watch and the players that make those teams go.
The Upward Stars came to the 2012 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions as an upstart program filled with fresh faces, familiar coaches and one game plan: play, win, let everything else take care of itself.
The plan worked perfectly. The team finished the tournament in the final four only to lose on a buzzer beater to runner-up Garner Road.
This year's Upward Stars team is similar to last year's program, says coach Curtis Wheeler. The familiar link is this: this team has talent. And a lot of it.
"We don't have the security around the basket like we did last year but we have some new guys that haven't played at this level before that could emerge," Wheeler said. "Across the board from one to 11 we have a chance to have a team that can finish on Sunday."
As one of the top players in the event, P.J. Dozier will certainly draw a strong crowd of college coaches. The 6-foot-5 class of 2015 guard enjoyed a big-time sophomore season at Spring Valley (S.C.). His recruitment will draw coaches from coast-to-coast.
Dozier is the top dog for the Stars but this team is deeper than the five-star stud.
Point guard Dantez Bennamon of Goose Creek played well at the Icebreaker tournament at the start of the month and could emerge as a fine Division I point guard prospect. Not bad for a guy that is also one of the top quarterbacks in the Palmetto State.
Big men Javis Howard, DeMetre Rivers, Wesley Johnson and Troy Henderson all have Division I offers. The quartet mix and match very well and cause some serious match-up problems.
"The way we built this roster was having two guys at every position. Then from there we wanted to have someone that could come in and do something than the guy that he replaced," Wheeler said. "I think we'll be a good team once we get to Atlanta."
N.C. RED STORM
Deshawn Freeman's Twitter handle is @Cant_Guard33. That's a proper moniker for the 6-foot-7 class of 2013 power forward. The dread-locked post player was the MVP of the Icebreaker and the talk of the event in Augusta.
Simply put, he brought it.
And so did the Red Storm. The North Carolina team blew through teams at the start of the month, finishing the Icebreaker in the championship game. Entering the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, the Red Storm have to be considered one of the top teams in the field this year.
The backcourt of T.J. Evans (Apex HS) and Carlee Clemons (Millbrook HS) should be one of the better duos in the field. Evans can flat out shoot while Clemons will be one of the most athletic guards in the tournament.
Big men Thaxter Spruill (2014/Clinton) and Papa N'dyiae (2014/Christian Faith) anchor the front court alongside Freeman.
Deep, big, skilled and interesting. That's a good combination of things for college coaches to pull up a chair and take a good, long look at the Charlotte Nets.
Matthew Fisher-Davis, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Charlotte Christian, may be the most intriguing rising senior on the roster. He is coming off a junior campaign that saw him score nearly 18 points a game and shot nearly 45 percent from three.
Inside the paint is 7-foot Raekwon Long, a class of 2016 prospect. You can't miss him. He'll be the biggest player in the entire tournament field this season.
Go down the roster and you'll find a long list of prospects with good size for their respective positions.
The yells are almost akin to battle cries you'd hear on Last of the Mohicans or Braveheart. The screams are meant to intimidate the opposition.
So far this spring the screams have worked for SC Kings big man Anthony Moses, a 6-foot-7 from Sumter High School. He played well at the Icebreaker to start the grassroots season off, averaging nearly 30 points a contest. He did it by powering through people, including a big-time match-up against Dan Manzi, another spring riser.
"He's a little bit crazy," one coach that knows Moses well told me. "I kind of like that."
So do I.
As Moses sets the tone, the rest of the team follows suit. They play hard, play with purpose and play without intimidation.
Point guard Jordan Dingle of South Aiken has good size at 6-foot-2, knows who he is as a player and goes from there. Wofford recently offered a scholarship while a host of others are keeping close watch.
Wing Jaylen Lawrence of Silver Bluff (S.C.), Christian Mills of Dutch Fork (S.C.) and Tre Miller of Newberry (S.C.) and a host of others round out a roster worth watching at the 2013 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.
Like sleepers? Coach Gerald Ogletree has 'em. The three guys you'll want to see are Gerdarius Troutman (2014, Taylor County High School), Mike Harden (2014, Smiths Station) and Kimiun Woods (2014, Carver).
Troutman (pictured above) is a smooth shooter with size (6-foot-4) and could be one of the top sleepers in Georgia. We saw him at the beginning of the grassroots season and liked him enough to hand over the first ever invitation to The Preview.
Try this on for size: Harden is the four man for the Georgia Kings and a fine one at that. Hard work and hustle has been his calling card so far this spring. The 6-foot-6 power forward Smith's Station (Ala.) is his high school team's starting point guard. So, there's that.
Oh, did I mention Harden has a 4.9 grade point average and if the school year would end today, he'd be the valedictorian? Brown, Cornell, Harvard and others are involved.
Woods isn't very big but the 5-foot-10 point guard is super quick and smart enough to realize what he's working with.
Also with the team this year is 2013 center LaMarcus White of Kingdom Prep. The 6-foot-10 big man is considering a post-graduate year but wanted to play the spring out to see if anything opens up. At one point in his recruitment, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson, Jacksonville and UT-Chattanooga were serious players, Ogletree said. White could still end up at a college in the fall.
"We have some really talented kids and being that we are south of Atlanta you find yourself sometimes in no man's land," Ogletree said. "If you can advance in a tournament like Gibbons, you can really help yourself against nationally known program. They can play against the best."