Terry Rains and I went back to Kean University for the Primetime Shootout on Sunday, joined by John Calipari and a few other notables. World Wide Wes was there acting secretive and saying hello to literally everyone that walked by.
Here are our thoughts on Findlay PrepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bounceback game, and the No. 1 team in the nation against the No. 1 player in the nation:
Findlay Prep 76, Newark East Side 50
Note that the entire team played far better on Sunday in a win over a game Newark East Side (except for a still-pressing Myck Kabongo, who again had five points in front of his hometown crowd). Nick Johnson scored 10 and played excellent defense, St. JohnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s-bound leaper Amir Garrett was above the rim the whole time while scoring 15, and Landen Lucas scored 10 and looked much more comfortable and fluid.
(With Garrett and Quality EducationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s SirÃ¢â‚¬â„¢dominic Pointer, you have to feel pretty good about St. JohnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s incoming class in terms of sheer athleticism.)
Perhaps the level of pressure going down since East Side is not exactly Montrose helped Findlay get in their comfort level. Maybe it was sheer humiliation after getting drubbed on Saturday. Any way you slice it, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d say SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance was more in line with what FindlayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s players are capable of.
St. Patrick 73, St. Thomas More 61
The main event on Sunday drew an A-list crowd: World Wide Wes, John Calipari, Ron Harper and Dajuan Wagner all came out. (Wagner told us he was specifically there just to watch Michael Gilchrist of St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s.) The game itself was very good; St. Patrick is No. 1 in the country, while St. Thomas More has Andre Drummond, currently ranked the No. 1 junior in America.
St. Patrick has more talent and is a well-oiled machine, but St. Thomas More hung in there until very late in the game based mostly on Drummond, who is a serious problem. I had heard Drummond was soft, but I liked his game a lot. He has a lot of talent and a very soft touch around the basket reminiscent of Elton Brand. If he gains strength, look out. Drummond is supposedly most likely headed to Connecticut, but has other Big East powerhouses and Kentucky on his list.
Gilchrist was nothing short of magnificent for St. Patrick. His game reminds me a lot of Harrison Barnes, except heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more explosive and assertive, and seems as if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perfectly contoured for success at Kentucky. Calipari, by the way, looked pleased — although he showed obvious concern when Gilchrist hit the ground hard at one point holding his shoulder. (He was fine.) Gilchrist isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a top-of-the-line elite athlete, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good enough in that regard. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tough to keep off the line; 13 of his 28 points came on free throws. He was good last year, but has markedly improved even from that level.
Dakari Johnson, the No. 2 freshman in the country, was an absolute force. He held his own against Drummond with 12 points and nine rebounds, and at times it looked as if the two were clones battling each other like LeBron in that early Chamber of Fear ad. Johnson is still growing into his body, but as his footwork gets better, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a very high level college prospect. He basically already is.
Austin Colbert, the 14th-ranked sophomore, was castigated by coach Kevin Boyle for some sort of mental error early on, and then sat for the rest of the game in favor of the bigger Johnson against Drummond. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a huge fan of Colbert — he was fantastic stepping in for an injured Gilchrist last year — and can only hope this tough love approach benefits him down the road. In the short term, I was disappointed not to be able to watch him play.
**Note** Terry and I recorded a video interview with Colbert that will be up soon.
Finally, Derrick Gordon — who we felt terribly for last year when he missed two free throws late in a one-point loss to Oak Hill — looks like a brand new player. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s streamlined his physique, he attacks the lane with abandon and he has a terrific attitude. Western Kentucky got a steal by signing him early, since I would think schools like Seton Hall and Rutgers would love to have him the way heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s playing now.