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April 9, 2007

Real Deal wrap-up

Fayetteville, Ark.-There was more to Sunday's action at The Real Deal on the Hill than the championship game. Here is a look at some of the other action along with some prospect observations.

Semifinals: Pump N Run 66, Atlanta Celtics 64

Pump N Run had a 10 point lead at the half and kept a lead near that margin throughout the second half until a six point flurry by Chris Singleton cut the margin to one point with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Singleton drained an NBA range three and then after a Pump N Run turnover was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws.

After Pump N Run struggled to safely inbound the ball, Jerime Anderson hit one of two free throws and the Celtics were unable to convert on their final possession.

Anderson played a solid game, making three three-pointers in route to a 12 point game. He also handled the ball and navigated the high ball screen with composure. Without committing a turnover, he handed out a couple assists and secured a couple rebounds.

The Wear brothers also had strong offensive games with Travis Wear scoring 11 points and David Wear contributing nine points. Both hit a three pointer and David missed only one shot while Travis missed only two.

However, the main story of the game was the superb all around play of Jrue Holiday, which including handling the point guard position down the stretch and the physical rebounding of Reeves Nelson.

Holiday finished with a strong stat line of a game high 19 points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds. Along with some highlight type plays, he also provided the stability with the ball to consistently hold the Celtics at bay.

And every time a big rebound was needed, Nelson seemed to secure the ball with his large, strong hands. The sophomore totaled a game high ten rebounds to go along with seven points.

Howard Thompkins and Derrick Favors were also solid for the Celtic on the interior. Thompkins was troubled at times with the large and deep Pump N Run front line, but as a crafty player, found ways to score his 11 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked a shot.

Favors, who needs to strengthen his upper body and put on more weight, scored nine points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks. Like Thompkins, the most impressive aspects of Favors game are his crafty skills more than physical dominance.

Semifinals: LA Dream Team 69, Southeast Elite 64

The brilliant run through the tournament finally came to a halt for the Southeast when they ran out of gas against the Renardo Sidney led LA Dream Team. One player who didn't run out of gas, however, was Southeast Elite point guard Courtney Fortson. A relentlessly competitive leader, Fortson put up 28 points in the loss and relentlessly attacked the basket to keep his team in the game during the second half.

The athletically gifted and talented Darnell Wilkes and the skilled and heady Romero Osby ran out of steam and didn't have an answer for Sidney. Playing like an elite player, Sidney was the strongest and quickest big man on the court. For the game he had 21 points, eight rebounds and a couple blocks.

Sidney also got a lot of help from his supporting cast of Jalonni Diggs, Malcolm Kirkland and Zach Payton. Diggs, who is an unsigned senior, knocked down several jumpers against the Southeast Elite zone in the first half. Kirkland was a force on the boards. And Peyton took advantage of smaller defenders by posting them up.

Loose ends

Darnell Wilkes is an outstanding talent who showed a will to win especially on the defensive boards. In fact, he has the talent to make a nice living playing the game one day. But it is also clear that he has a lot to learn about playing the game. He is way to quick to leave the floor when contesting shots, and although he is capable of knocking down threes when in rhythm, he does a poor job at preparing himself to shoot. These are a couple of examples of where Wilkes has room to improve technically as a player.

On the other hand, the Wear twins are very well schooled on how to play the game. They are always prepared to catch the ball and demonstrated sound technique on the defensive end, especially when matched up against Renardo Sidney in the championship game. However, they both need to develop a nastier and more physical side to their game. As five-star prospects at 6-foot-9, they should be getting their hands on a lot more rebounds.

Jrue Holiday had a very good tournament and was spectacular at times. Most impressive was his play at the point guard position. Understand this: as good as a shooting guard Holiday is, he is even a better point guard. He has a sublime feel for the game as a powerful penetrator. His handle is both strong and smooth, and he has terrific court vision. In regards to his sublime feel for the game, he has an uncanny ability to get the hot hand and great shot.

The one area of Holiday's game that could use the most work is the development of a traditional pull up jumper in the midrange after beating the first defender. Too many times in Arkansas, he challenged multiple defenders with circus type shots instead of pulling up for the wide open jumper.

Chris Singleton has the length and skill to be a fine combo forward, but he must first get much stronger with the ball. He struggled to make plays off the dribble against physical defenders. And like the Wear's, came up with not near enough rebounds.

Justin Brownlee of the Smyrna Stars caught the eyes of Rivals.com. A smooth athlete, Brownlee is good with the ball and has great length. However, he looked quite shaky as a shooter.

Lorenzo Brown is ultimately a point guard in the Rivals.com's view, but is playing off the ball for the World Wide Renegades. Although it is difficult for him to show what he can do offensively, Brown did make a number of athletic plays defensively both around the basket and in the open court. When he did come up with the ball, he was impressive in transition as both a finisher and passer.

You would be hard pressed to find a more competitive player than Courtney Fortson. Simply put, he is a coach's dream.

Romero Osby displayed a wide range of post moves and finished well with his left hand. He also has a knack at efficiently penetrating by his man and finding a shooter in rhythm after only one or two dribbles.

DeAndre Liggins can score in the midrange off the dribble and by posting up. Lacking confidence in his long range jumper, Liggins doesn't have horrible form but he does shot a heavy ball. He needs to get more wrist action into his release and use his arm less for strength to remedy the problem. He might never be a shoot first guy, but there is no reason he can't become a good enough shooter to keep the defense honest. As a passer, he has a terrific feel for the game, and he causes problems for opponents in a variety of ways as a large point guard.

It is important that Emmanuel Negedu goes to a college with the right system for him. If he gets bogged down in a half court game, he is not nearly as effective as he is in a spread out and fast game. A freak athlete, Negedu is, however, undersized. He does have some touch from the midrange, can make a jump hook and does not look completely out of place on the perimeter, but what he does best, he does around the rim.

When comparing Tyler Zeller to his older brother Luke Zeller, Tyler is bouncier and quicker off the floor than his brother. He is much better as a back to the basket player as well, but doesn't shoot the face up jumper as well as Luke.

Head Coaches watch

Lorenzo Romar (Washingon), Lute Olson (Arizona), Ben Howland (UCLA), Dennis Felton (Georgia), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee), Tubby Smith (Minnesota), Bob Huggins (West Virginia) and Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) were all in the stands on the final morning.


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