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July 18, 2013

Rare battle of big men highlights Summer Jam

MORE: Day 1 notes from TheRecruitScoop.com

MEQUON, Wisc. -- On the opening night of the Under Armour Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports, the gym at Homestead High School was buzzing over the possibility of the nation's top three big men being on the floor at the same time. As it turned out, the nation's top player, Jahlil Okafor, wasn't able to make it. But the Mac Irvin Fire still rolled out No. 4 Cliff Alexander and Texas Select countered with No. 6 Myles Turner. Right next to them, No. 10 Karl Towns and No. 11 Kevon Looney were dueling, and there were several other notables putting their reputations on the line.

Alexander, Fire get the win

Summer basketball never has a shortage of terrific guard matchups, but it isn't as often that the grassroots circuit treats coaches, scouts and fans to a prime-time, big-man matchup. The Summer Jam offered that on Wednesday night when Cliff Alexander, 2014's No. 4 player, and the Mac Irvin Fire rumbled with No. 6 Myles Turner and Texas Select.

Texas Select built an early 14-2 lead before the Fire came roaring back to win in blowout fashion, and a true one-on-one battle between the 6-foot-8 Alexander and 6-foot-10 Turner never really materialized. However, the two did square off a few times, and it was certainly easy to tell that they have totally different styles.

On the evening we'll give the edge to Alexander. He got off to a slow start and hurt his shooting numbers a bit late with some misses on deep jumpers. But when the Fire seized control of the game, it had a lot to do with Alexander's rugged play in the lane. More powerful and explosive than Turner, Alexander was bothered a bit by Turner's length; but he posted up forcefully and went right into Turner's chest. He crashed the glass and played a power game in the paint that included one vicious block when he spiked off the backboard so hard it bounced off and hit him in the face.

Early on, Turner hit a smooth looking three-pointer. He also caught one in the post and immediately turned on Alexander and drained a contested 10-foot jumper. Alexander's physicality clearly bothered him a bit and Turner focused more on facing up to the hoop. While he blocked some shots and did a good job on the glass, Turner was mostly quiet offensively as the Fire came back and salted the game away.

Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Thad Matta and Bill Self were among the notable head coaches on hand, but Alexander focused on talking about the highly anticipated matchup.

"I want to come out and dominate the game and be the best player I can be," Alexander said. "[Turner] is one of the best players in my class, and he plays the same position, so you have to come out ready to play. It hypes me up before the game."

Alexander felt that he played well and had a plan of attack for going against a guy that he respects in Turner.

"What I like about his game is that he can shoot the three and he's very versatile," said Alexander. "He can put it on the floor, but his weakness is he's too light, so I put my weight into him every time. Every time I got the ball in the paint."

Comfortable with his position as a power player, Alexander still wants to work on his game and has had coaches giving him some comparisons.

"I do need to develop my post moves and work a little bit on my jump shot," said Alexander. "They (coaches) have made that comparison to Thomas Robinson and Amar'e Stoudemire."

LaChance shows full game

If you are going to be known as something, it's never bad to be known as a shooter. Three-star prospect Riley LaChance certainly has that reputation. But the 6-foot-2 point guard wants people to see that he has a complete game and that he is capable of running a team.

Competitive and cerebral, LaChance doesn't make a lot of mistakes and his shooting really puts pressure on defenders. He was on fire early against Team Loaded VA before turning playmaker and leading his team to a mercy rule win. Getting off to a quick start was key after a disappointing end to the last game he played with Ray Allen Select.

"We lost a tough one last week," LaChance said. "We got right back in the gym, and I could tell as soon as we hit the floor tonight that we were going to play well.

"I want to show that I'm not just a shooter. I want to show that I can play the point and do other things."

LaChance says that he has been on the campuses of Wisconsin, Marquette, Creighton, Iowa and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UWM has offered, and he said that he's gotten recent offers from Missouri, Davidson, Indiana State and San Diego among others. Xavier and Northwestern have been showing more interest.

LaChance says that he will likely pick a final five after July and look to set up visits after that. From his current list, he mentioned Missouri and Davidson as two that he would likely visit.

Fisher announces his presence

One of the more entertaining and in-your-face teams on the travel circuit is Memphis-based Team Thad. Nortun Hurd's squad has some star power, but it was a rising sophomore who really stood out on Wednesday night. Jaylen Fisher, a 6-foot-1 point guard, made a statement with his defensive toughness and willingness to take and hit big shots late.

In addition to burying some good looking jumpers, Fisher proved to be fearless attacking the lane on drives where he slowly lulled his defender to sleep before shifting into overdrive to get to the rim. According to Fisher, he racked up offers from Baylor, Memphis and Tennessee on Tuesday while Florida and USC are among those that have also reached out.

Final Wednesday night notes

There's not a lot more to write about Romelo Trimble. He's a gamer who knocks down shots, plays under control and Maryland fans will love him. Trimble's DC Assault teammate Chinanu Onuaku is also continuing a solid run. The current three-star prospect and member of the Rivals150 is among the fastest moving big man targets, and his rise into four-star status is all but certain at this point. The big man rebounds, has a great frame to work on and has some good touch around the rim. He had a big challenge on Wednesday night and passed it.

On the other side from Onuahu was the nation's No. 2 player in 2015, Stephen Zimmerman of Dream Vision. The skinny Las Vegas post had his moments and rebounded and passed very well, but Onuahu really made him work. A high school teammate of Zimmerman's and a four-star prospect knocking on the door of the top 30 in 2015, Chase Jeter continues to evolve as well. Jeter still lacks strength, but he's got some pop in his legs, soft hands and is embracing playing with more physicality. Shooter and 2014 four-star Namon Wright also got it rolling for a bit. The 6-foot-4 off guard really trusts his jumper and showed that he can use it from relatively close range, from midrange and deep.

Cliff Alexander wasn't the only one making noise for the Mac Irvin Fire. Class of 2015 four-star point guard Jalen Brunson hit some jumpers and was a steady hand at the top, while 6-foot-6 three star classmate Edward Morrow made plays. Morrow is a high energy guy who rebounds and runs the floor. Because of that, he gets rewarded with easy buckets around the rim.

Team Thad point guard Chris Chiozza continues to cement his place as an upper end point guard in 2014. Other guys are bigger, but he's tough and can really create. It's hard not to see a player similar to Phil Pressey. A Team Thad player who doesn't get a lot of hype is 6-foot-4 wing Jamerrio Jones. The product of Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose should probably be getting more run and looks to be at least an upper-end mid-major prospect. Jones is exceedingly tough, has a nose for the basketball and brings the fight to his opponent. He can score a bit off the dribble and makes some jumpers to keep defenders honest.

For the Illinois Wolves, Ohio State bound five-star Keita Bates-Diop was effective. He hit on some three-pointers and then slashed to the rim and got to the free throw line. Like Jones for Team Thad, three-star shooting guard Jayquan McCloud of the Wolves is another who takes the fight to defenders. More of a creator off the dribble and jump shooter, McCloud is a scorer and another who seems like a lock as at least an upper-end mid-major prospect.

Finally, we didn't focus on four-star Joe Burton's game, but it was easy to notice the Houston Defenders wing putting in work. The 6-foot-6 small forward erupted for 35 points and seemed to be knocking down a shot whenever we looked over to his court. Burton also threw down the dunk of the night on a nasty one-handed flash down the lane where he converted while being fouled.



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