MEMPHIS – The inaugural Penny Hardaway Hoop Fest had its second and best day of action on Saturday at White Station High School. At times, the capacity crowd swelled to more than 4,000 fans, who were treated to big-time performances. Jabari Parker, Robert Hubbs and local son Nick King were among the several standouts.
King of Memphis
While the Hoop Fest wasn’t advertised as Memphis versus the nation, it was easy to see that the locals wanted to protect their turf. Memphis East junior wing Nick King made sure he and his teammates handled business during a hard-fought 84-81 win over Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior.
Before hobbling off with an ankle injury late, the 6-foot-6 southpaw hit Our Savior for 22 points and six assists. The ankle injury won’t be an issue and King was thrilled to get the win.
“It was great to get that win,” King told Rivals.com. “We had to get a win to get some momentum for our district game with our rival Melrose on Tuesday night.”
Capable of playing inside and out, King is a versatile wing with a fairly complete game. Scoring is what he does best, but he’s also an outstanding passer.
“My strengths are that I can take it to the rack and that I can shoot the three with range,” King said. “I’ve been getting better with my mid-range game and using a pull-up jumper. My passing ability, I think has been underrated a little bit. I have good vision.”
A top 20 player nationally in the class of 2013, King is also a member of a strong Memphis-area junior class. He doesn’t get caught up in rankings, but he also wants to make sure he’s representing his hometown.
“Everybody wants to come out and put on for our city,” said King of the Memphis basketball culture. “We’ve just got to go out and play hard and people will see what we are capable of.”
Finally, King said that he’s not anywhere near making a decision and is currently sorting through plenty of attention.
North Carolina had an assistant on hand to watch him after Roy Williams took in a game a few weeks ago. King feels that the Tar Heels, along with Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee, Texas, Auburn, Arkansas and Marquette among others, have put offers on the table.
Simeon bounces back
After scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds in Chicago Simeon’s 73-54 win over Memphis Southwind, Marquette-bound Rivals150 senior Steve Taylor had a simple message.
“We wanted that game,” Taylor said. “We needed that game.”
Earlier in the week, Simeon was slapped around by Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep on national television. Saturday, the Wolverines bounced back and the play of Taylor was key. The senior was all over the glass, used his quickness around the rim and played with physicality.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Taylor gets help from a 2013 guy by the name of Jabari Parker. On a “quiet” night, the big wing went for 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 21 minutes while battling foul trouble. If teams let him on the glass, he can’t be guarded on the high school level.
Class of 2013 four-star shooting guard Kendrick Nunn also got it rolling in the second half, while point guards Jelani Neely and Jaylon Tate had strong games.
For Southwind, 2013 shooting guard Jajuan Johnson looked every bit the part of a future high-major player. At about 6-foot-4, Johnson is a dangerous jump shooter with deep range. He’s also got a terrific first step and is explosive around the rim.
Memphis head coach Josh Pastner was on hand for any number of guys, but word around the gym was that Johnson is rapidly moving up the Tigers’ wish list.
Versatile 2013 combo forward Johnathan Williams was another standout for Southwind. The 6-foot-8 Williams has added a bit of muscle in the past few months and plays with a high activity level. His team plays him all over the floor and he responded with production as a scorer and on the glass during a 15-point and nine-rebound night.
Saturday quick hits
Memphis Ridgeway scored a nice team upset over Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Power forward Kordario Fleming kept possessions alive on the glass and ignited the crowd with dunks. Rugged forward Craig Hill grabbed key rebounds late while scoring a bit as well. Also impressive was 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard Adam Weary, who knocked down deep jumpers and played tough defense. Weary looks to be a mid-major possibility during the spring.
For Montverde, Florida-bound senior Michael Frazier drained five threes in a 29-point, five-rebound performance. Along with Frazier, 2014 top 25 prospect D’Angelo Russell had his moments looking at times like a younger version of Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb.
One of the biggest names in the South this winter has been 2013 four-star shooting guard Robert Hubbs. At 6-foot-4, Hubbs showed that he can do everything needed from a shooting guard. He has range, explodes around the bucket and creates for himself off the dribble. He was good for 25 and mentioned Memphis, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Murray State and Kentucky as taking interest in his recruitment.
Early foul trouble and some personal frustration kept Austin Nichols from showing off everything he can do. But, during the 15 minutes or so the four-star power forward was on the floor, it was easy to see why high majors like him. He’s slender but physical, can run, has good hands and a pretty good skill level. North Carolina checked him out along with watching King and Parker and he also mentioned Tennessee, Memphis, Florida, Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn and Virginia as those most active in his recruitment.
Nick King wasn’t a one-man show at all for Memphis East. In particular, Kent State-bound Earvin Morris, 2013 shooting guard Matthew Butler and freshman wing Keelon Lawson were very good. Morris is an athletic and active wing who makes hustle plays. Butler was knocking down open shots and playing tough on both ends. But, maybe the 6-foot-5 freshman Lawson was the most impressive. He was skilled and poised, and looked as if he was more than comfortable making plays in a close game.
One of Barbee’s prime targets is Memphis Melrose junior wing Markel Crawford. Currently unranked, the 6-foot-4 Crawford has made a pretty strong case to change that when his class gets updated in the spring. He has springs in his legs and makes jumpers to the three-point line.
Oak Hill had too much for Melrose. The three-headed perimeter monster of Jordan Adams, Tyler Lewis and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera were feeling it. The trio combined to make a ton of three-point jumpers and build a big enough lead (26 points at one point) to hold off a furious Melrose rally.
The event’s namesake Penny Hardaway was on hand the entire weekend. Hardaway looked to be lending more than just his name to the event and was very active and approachable during the Hoop Fest. He and the staff running the event were first class.