Each year, several of the top high school programs in the nation are invited to Southwest Florida to participate along with several of the states own high schools in the seven day event.
In the past, NBA and college stars such as Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Chris Duhon, Tayshaun Prince, Joe Johnson, and Marvin Williams have competed in the prestigious tournament. This year is no different as highly touted prospects Kevin Love (No. 2 C, 2007), Brandan Wright (No. 1 PF, 2006), Wayne Ellington, (No. 1 SG, 2006), Gerald Henderson (No. 3 SG, 2006), and Lance Stephenson (2009) will be competing with their teams for a C.O.P. title.
This past Tuesday night featured three of the biggest stars in the class of 2006.
In Game 20 of the event, Episcopal Academys (Merion Station, Pennsylvania) dynamic duo, Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson, combined for 52 points, leading the Churchmen to a 81-65 win over the Lake Howell Highlanders (Lake Howell, Florida).
Ellington, a 64 combo guard, committed last May to Roy Williams UNC Tarheels. In the words of Scout.coms Dave Telep, [Ellington] is far and away the best two guard prospect in high school basketballs class of 2006. Versatile is the one word that can be used to describe Ellington. He is a player who has the ability to beat you from outside or blow by you on his way inside. With those kinds of talents, many consider him to be a one-an-done candidate in college basketball.
Ellingtons teammate and best friend, Gerald Henderson, decided to stick close but not too close to his good buddy following their time at Episcopal. In the fall of 2006, he will suit up for UNCs cross-town rival, Duke. At 65, Henderson fits the mold of Krzyzewskis former great wing-forward, Grant Hill. Henderson is a versatile, smooth player who can shoot from mid-range or go strong to the basket.
Both Ellington and Henderson played all but 2 of the 32 minutes in the blowout win. Ellington finished with 30pts (9-16FG, 11-15 FT, 1-4 3pt), 7rbs, 2assists, and 1 steal, compared to Hendersons 22 (8-15 FG, 6-6 FT, 0-1 3pt), 12rbs, 2assists, and 1 steal.
The two players athleticism, quickness, speed, and strength were too much for the smaller Highlander defenders. The constant attacks on the basket resulted in frequent free throw opportunities for both players, including several old-fashion 3pt plays for Henderson.
The win sets the Churchmen up with a date against Lake Oswego and star player Kevin Love. The two teams will match up Wednesday night at 7:00pm.
Despite the impressive outings by the two Philly stars, the performance of the day goes to Brentwood Academys (Brentwood, Tennessee) star senior and the No. 1 PF in the class of 2006, Brandan Wright.
Wright is considered by many to be the nations best post player behind Lawrence North Highs Greg Oden. At 610, 200lbs, some might be deceived at the skinny left-hander. He is projected to play the PF position at the college level, but his speed, quickness, and the ability to put the ball on the deck give him the opportunity to play the wing at the next level.
After getting off to a slow start, Wright picked things up to lead his Eagles team to a 82-63 victory. The turning point and play of the game for the Brentwood star came midway through the second quarter. After missing on a turn-around jump shot, Wright proceeded to split the double team, grab his own miss with one hand (in mid-air, no less), and emphatically stuff the ball into the hoop. He went on to shoot 12-16 from the floor and 8-11 from the foul line, finishing with 32 points.
On several occasions, he used his length to reach right over shorter opponents for a rebound, then dribbled coast to coast where he would finish things off with an effortless layup. Following one such play, a scorekeeper could be heard saying, Thats why hes going to North Carolina.
The 610 big man gave his team a 5th ball handler, and with handles like a guard, he was nearly impossible to guard. When he wasnt leading the fast break, Wright was in the post using his long frame to post up helpless defenders. Even the double and triple teams werent able to slow down the versatile big man.
Tomorrow night, Wrights Brentwood team will face St. Patrick, a New Jersey team led by Yves Mekongo-Mbala (committed to La Salle). The game is set for 9:30pm.