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January 21, 2013

Hoop Hall Classic: Wiggins vs. Vonleh

MORE: Hoop Hall Classic: Okafor dominates

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Action continued at the Hoop Hall Classic on Sunday, and several big-name players took to Naismith Court inside Blake Arena. Although the one-on-one matchup between the nation's top player, Andrew Wiggins, and top 10 senior Noah Vonleh never quite materialized, there was plenty to discuss.

Huntington outlasts New Hampton

The building was juiced with anticipation as Wiggins and Huntington (W.Va.) Prep took the floor to face Vonleh and New Hampton (N.H.) Prep. It wasn't like it was a two-man show, either, because both programs are loaded with talent. But Wiggins/Vonleh was the marquee matchup and it unfortunately never really got going in Huntington's 55-47 win.

While Wiggins drew an early assignment against New Hampton point guard Travis Jorgenson, Vonleh checked Wiggins on the other end. The result was two really quick fouls on Vonleh as he tried to contain Wiggins' electric first step. Foul trouble was a major theme for Vonleh. The Indiana signee played only 16 minutes before fouling out with nine points and five rebounds.

The undecided Wiggins showed glimpses of what he does with his first step and uncanny explosion in traffic (even when he can't get footing), and he used his straight-up leaping to finish at the rim and dominate on the glass on his way to his usual double-double. Wiggins didn't meet with the media afterward, but there are no changes in his recruitment. Florida State remains the only visit that he's taken, while Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina continue to try to arrange spring trips. Interestingly, none of the four programs was on hand to watch the standout senior on Sunday.

While Vonleh struggled, two of his New Hampton teammates stepped up to help. Re-classified junior power forward Tory Miller, who has interest from Nebraska, TCU, Minnesota, Providence, Arkansas and others, had a strong double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. One of Miller's summer teammates, Jorgenson, ran the show and finished with 13 points and four assists. Jorgenson has taken recent official visits to Georgia Tech and Boston College, and he has Tennessee (head coach Cuonzo Martin watched) and Creighton, among others, interested.

For Huntington, highly regarded four-star Xavier Rathan-Mayes didn't hit as regularly as he usually does from deep, but the Florida State signee seemed to come up with 3-pointers at key times. In the first half, he had a run-breaking 3 while trailing in transition, and late in the fourth he hit on one from the right wing as the shot clock was expiring. That was a backbreaker and scored the last three of his 12 points.

Selden steady; Mann emerges

The last time we saw Wayne Selden and the Tilton (N.H.) School play, we were looking for sophomore teammate Terrence Mann to have a bit of a breakout performance. The Kansas-bound senior had a big outing that November day despite struggling with his jumper, but Mann was a no-show, leaving Selden outgunned in a loss.

On Sunday, Selden again showed up in a big way. This time, though, Mann helped him while showing why he's been so highly regarded early in New England.

We'll start with Selden, who was doing his usual things in a 24-point, seven-rebound effort. There were lots of driving to the rim, he hit a few 3s and he played multiple positions on both sides of the floor. It's hard to pin him down to a traditional position; instead, look at him as a ballplayer you put on the floor and he makes you better. His explosion in traffic isn't what it once was because he's gotten so strong, but his all-around game relies much less on athleticism and overpowering guys than it did a year ago. He's definitely improved.

As for the 6-foot-4 Mann, he didn't shoot the ball like it looks like he should be capable of -- clean stroke, good shot preparation -- but he showed a lot more positive signs and will merit heavy consideration for four-star status. His mother played at Georgetown and is the current head coach at Northeastern, so it's not surprising that he has a good feel for things on offense and plays with high skill. He's skinny but has a frame that will fill out, and he'll get some explosion with maturity. Eleven points, six rebounds and four assists filled his stat sheet. Boston College has given an early offer, while others including Iowa, West Virginia and Maryland have been involved.

Final Sunday notes

The recruitment of three-star shooting guard Richard Williams should be over soon. A native New Yorker who is on a postgraduate year at Vermont Academy, the 6-foot-4 wing player could be making his college choice as soon as Monday. A three-star prospect, Williams can shoot from deep but is at his best attacking off the dribble and using his outstanding body control to finish in the lane. Hofstra, Kent State, St. Peter's, St. Bonaventure and a few others are involved, and he wasn't tipping his hand on Sunday after his 19-point, nine-rebound outing.

Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian had its two senior leaders get double-doubles, but Baylor-bound Ishmail Wainright's 14 points and 10 rebounds and unsigned big man Mark Wlliams' 19 points and 10 rebounds weren't enough to get the job done against a stout Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's team. Even though it didn't shoot great or distribute like it usually does, St. Ben's backcourt controlled the action while the big guys converted at the rim. Pittsburgh-bound big man Mike Young led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Old Dominion signee Denzel Taylor added 11 points and 10 rebounds in doing the dirty work down low. Syracuse-bound Tyler Ennis had 16 points and four steals.

Kansas City native Martez Harrison is coming into his own during a postgraduate year at Brewster Prep. A high-volume scorer in high school who regularly put up 40 points as a senior, the 5-foot-10 Harrison went to Brewster hoping to polish his playmaking skills and it has worked. A tough kid who gets to the bucket and leads his team vocally, Harrison showed a vastly matured game during an effective 12-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist, five-steal outing. According to Harrison, Fresno State and St. Bonaventure are currently coming at him the hardest, but his recruitment should be picking up over the next few weeks.

Harrison's teammate Chris McCullough is the big-ticket guy for Brewster, and he finished with 21 points and five rebounds. The Syracuse-bound junior is a high flyer, ridiculously quick for a 6-foot-9 guy and has plenty to offer. What he doesn't do yet is get in there and fight for loose balls in the mosh pit under the hoop and assert himself as a potential shot changer. He's an elite prospect, no doubt, but his game has areas that could use rounding out.

Similar to an offbeat rapper, the game of Butler signee Rene Castro is a bit unorthodox but somehow works. The 6-foot-1 combo guard is herky-jerky with the ball, not a great shooter and more of a change-of-speed guy than a burner, but he gets the job done. He was highly crafty while scoring 15 points for Worcester (Mass.) Academy in a big win over Wilbraham and Monson. For Wilbraham and Monson, junior Goodluck Okonoboh continued a strong campaign with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Okonoboh is a rocket off the floor but needs to improve his touch from the free throw line.



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