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January 22, 2013

Hoop Hall Classic: NWG is clutch

MORE: Hoop Hall Classic: Wiggins vs. Vonleh

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Make no mistake about it, the organizers of the 2013 Hoop Hall Classic saved the best for last. On a day that featured Aaron Gordon destroying rims, Lone Peak continuing its run as the most fun team in America and a big-time outing from Jabari Parker, it was a game between Findlay Prep and Montverde Academy featuring an epic clutch performance from Nigel Williams-Goss that ended the weekend in style.

Williams-Goss has epic moment of clutch

The event's next-to-last game featured two of high school basketball's titans as mighty Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep matched up with a loaded Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad. Each team featured a starting lineup with four top 100 players in a rematch of last year, when Findlay made a heroic comeback to beat Montverde in the National High School Invitational.

Early, it looked like Montverde wanted to test the strength of Findlay on the interior. With five-star point guard Kasey Hill picking up early foul trouble guarding Williams-Goss, Kentucky-bound Dakari Johnson and West Virginia-bound Devin Williams controlled play on the glass and in the trenches. Headed to the fourth quarter, the duo had combined for 28 points and 21 rebounds as Montverde built an 11-point lead. Meanwhile, Findlay was struggling. Williams-Goss was having trouble getting anything going, and if it wasn't for some key jumpers from UCLA signee Allerik Freeman and UNLV signee Christian Wood's inspired play, Findlay may have been run out of the gym.

Then came the fourth quarter and Williams-Goss came to life. Always known as a clutch player who will do anything to win, NWG got it started on the defensive end. The Washington-bound point guard looked almost on the brink emotionally as he screamed at his teammates to get some stops. Once those stops came, NWG took things over on the offensive end and scored 18 of his game-high 26 points during the final quarter. The final three came on a dagger pull-up 3 from straight on with under two seconds to go to give his team the 62-59 come-from-behind win.

Make no mistake about it, Williams-Goss is a special competitor and that fire and intensity rub off on teammates. His winning ways will be welcomed in Seattle.

He didn't score late, but it's important to point out the contributions of Wood as well. He is more of a face-up forward and jump shooter than a traditional big man, but the 6-foot-9 four man really turned up his motor and played with toughness when it looked like Montverde was going to manhandle Findlay on the interior for all 32 minutes. He needs strength, but his upside is significant.

Lone Peak rolls; Gordon impresses

It's not often that a blowout holds the attention of an audience the way things went down in Highland (Utah) Lone Peak's 81-46 win over San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. But, with Lone Peak being as fun a team to watch as there is in the country and the downright impressive effort put forth by Mitty's five-star senior, Gordon, the game was highly entertaining.

We've seen Lone Peak play six times this season, and everybody is learning about the BYU-bound trio of seniors Eric Mika and Nick Emery and junior T.J. Haws. Once again they were great. The Lone Peak offense is crisp and controlled, and the best part about it is that coach Quincy Lewis allows his players freedom and tells them that the open shot is a good one.

Emery had 20 points, three assists and five rebounds while showing his parking lot range. Mika held things down on the interior with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Haws chipped in 18 points, three assists and six rebounds. On Monday, though, underappreciated shooting guard Conner Toolson was huge as well. Another with a BYU link (his father played there before playing in the NBA), the 6-foot-2 Toolson made all six of his 3-pointers en route to a 22-point, seven-rebound effort. Toolson says he's not gotten any Division I offers, and that needs to change.

Shifting gears, the undecided Gordon was arguably the most impressive player of the weekend. Everybody knows about his athleticism and it was on full display during several ridiculous dunks in traffic or transition. But the 6-foot-8 17-year-old has added strength, continues to improve his ball handling and remains a terrific passer. While his teammates were lying down and playing possum, Gordon never dropped his intensity level and put together a brilliant 27-point, 12-rebound effort with three assists and four steals.

Gordon wasn't available to talk after the game, but there is no change in his recruitment. It remains a three-horse race among Arizona, Kentucky and Washington, and nobody close to him is giving hints.

Parker leads Simeon

For the most part, Parker and Chicago (Ill.) Simeon ended things before they even began against Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill. While Oak Hill came out a bit disorganized, the Duke commit scored Simeon's first 11 points and Simeon rolled to a 81-68 win.

Still working his way into shape, Parker cashed in on Oak Hill's poor defense early. He got established around the rim and was then able to face and knock home open looks from 15 to 22 feet all day long. With his face-up skill and post game, the thought is again that perhaps he is more suited to playing as a college four man than as a small forward. But that will take care of itself. Parker finished with 28 points and five rebounds while making 12 of 19 shots from the field in the best effort he's had in a while.

Parker also got plenty of help from the Illinois-bound duo of four-star shooting guard Kendrick Nunn and three-star point guard Jaylon Tate. Nunn was engaged on the defensive end, and when he is he tends to get into an offensive comfort zone, which for him is slashing to the bucket, attacking rebounds and finishing in transition. He was good for 21 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists in the best outing Rivals.com has seen from him in a while. Meanwhile, Tate took only three shots but impressed. The 6-foot-2 senior isn't a scorer, but he's got an understanding of how to get his scorers the ball and was efficient in doing so. He dished out eight assists, took care of the rock and knocked down his free throws while adding 10 points.

Final notes from Hoop Hall

It's hard not to appreciate the Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony backcourt of Josh Brown and Hallice Cooke. The duo who will attend Temple and Oregon State, respectively, embody everything that legendary coach Bob Hurley has always been about with his program. They are tough, they execute and they can be trusted to make game-winning plays. That's exactly what they did in combining to score 25 points and dish out eight assists in a comeback win over a very athletic Tifton (Ga.) Tift County squad. They had early turnovers, but late it was Brown's grit on the glass and off the dribble in the lane, combined with a few shots from Cooke, that got the job done.

For Tift County, unsigned senior power forward Donnell Tuff lived up to his name. A bit undersized as a power forward at about 6-foot-6, Tuff is a big-time athlete and physical competitor around the rim. He tries to dunk any and everything and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.

It will be interesting to see what level the recruitment of R.J. Curington ends up on. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard can make an open look, and he appears to have the green light during his senior season at Oak Hill. How he handles off the bounce and defends on the wing on the next level could play a big part. He's understandably getting mid- to high-major looks as the spring signing period approaches.

Oak Hill's best player is South Carolina signee Sindarius Thornwell, and the final rankings will reflect that. The 6-foot-5 wing has added muscle, and better selection with deep jumpers has increased his shooting percentage. His handle is a bit shaky, but his all-around game continues to improve and his 27-point, five-rebound, five-assist effort was a solid one. He's got the ability to play as a physical, attack-the-rim scorer, and Frank Martin and staff will love that.

In the words of former NFL coach Dennis Green, Reggie Cameron is exactly who we thought he was. The Georgetown-bound four-star is a calculated, sharpshooting wing who is all about finding spots on the floor and playing with patience. He can be used as a stretch four and plays with a high hoops IQ that will fit in a Princeton-style offense. His 20 points keyed a Hudson Catholic win over Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha.

Finally, it is our opinion that Robert Morris stole one in point guard Kavon Stewart. He's not the biggest floor general and he's not the best shooter, but Stewart is a winner and plays with extreme quickness. Stewart probes defenses and keeps them on edge with his penetration ability, and he's far from selfish. Were he available now, he'd be one of the more heavily recruited point guards out there.



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