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May 25, 2006Memorial Day Weekend in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area can mean only one thing. It is Tournament of Champions time. The campuses of North Carolina, Duke and NC State are taken over by some of the nation's top prospects and this year's field is loaded once again.
Returning for the crown
The Southern California All-Stars have had little trouble this spring, winning the Las Vegas Easter Classic and the Kingwood Classic in April. The West Coast team's next stop is on the other side of the country at the Tournament of Champions.
SCA won the 2005 Tournament of Champions and a number of the players from that team return to defend the title. Leading the way for SCA is manchild Kevin Love, a hot target for North Carolina.
Love has plenty of support around him including Duke commitment Taylor King, exciting 2008 point guard Brandon Jennings, versatile wing Darrington Hobson and a pair of USC commitments in Daniel Hackett and Malik Story.
SCA will tangle with the Memphis Magic, Jackson Panthers and Texas Top Prospects in pool play.
Rivals.com five-stars well represented
A dozen five-star prospects from the class of 2007 will be in the tournament field. Leading the way is Oak Hill forward Michael Beasley, a 6-foot-8 lefty forward that burns teams inside and out with his DC Assault club. He is joined by Austin Freeman, who is committed to Georgetown, and big man Julian Vaughn. Duke commitment Nolan Smith will not be playing this weekend as he is still nursing a knee injury.
Beasley and Love aren't the only top big men in the field. The top five prospects will have plenty of competition from Anthony Randolph of the Dallas Mustangs, Herb Pope of the Pittsburgh JOTS, J.J. Hickson of the Worldwide Renegades and Kansas commit Cole Aldrich.
Guard play will be strong thanks to a pair of two Big Ten commitments and a major target for the conference. Illinois pledge Eric Gordon suits up with Indiana Elite while Michigan State commit Chris Allen plays for the Worldwide Renegades. Evan Turner, a versatile wing from Chicago, leads the way for the Illinois Wolves.
Welcome to the Triangle
It is a yearly tradition during the Memorial Day Weekend. A number of top prospects will also mix in an unofficial visit to Duke, North Carolina or North Carolina State. Perhaps the biggest name on campus is Kevin Love.
The ultra-talented five-star big man will unofficially visit North Carolina on Thursday. The Tar Heels are in his top two along with UCLA. Love will be one of the most watched players in the field. He will be at the Dean E. Smith Center on Friday night at 8 p.m. with his Southern California All-Stars team.
Future North Carolina forward Deon Thompson may be in attendance with the Rising Stars of America. Future Duke forward Lance Thomas will also be in town with the New York Panthers.
2007 Duke commitment Taylor King will play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against the Jackson Panthers.
It will be interesting to see how the exposure of the tournament helps the recruiting efforts of the new NC State staff.
Sorry, we're taken
A number of the top players in the tournament field are already committed.
The ACC will be well represented. Laron Dendy, a Clemson commitment, leads the way for the Carolina Celtics. The Baltimore Stars have a pair of Maryland pledges in big men Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory. Team Breakdown is piloted by point guard Edwin Rios, a Miami commitment. Boston College commitment Rakim Sanders plays for the NE Playaz.
The Final Four is represented well as future Florida guard Gary Clark is one of the many prospects for the Florida Rams. UCLA commitment Chace Stanback plays for the Rising Stars of America.
Syracuse put in the work early for the class of 2007 and the big hitters, minus Dante Green, will be in North Carolina this weekend. Antonio Jardine and Rick Jackson suit up for the Playaz while jet quick point guard Johnny Flynn plays for the GC Ballers.
Alabama has it's future backcourt in the field as the Atlanta Celtics bring Senario Hillman while Southeast Elite boasts Rico Pickett. The Long Island Lightning are home to Justin Burrell (St. John's) and Corey Fisher (Villanova). Fox Valley Skillz guard Scott Christopherson is headed to Marquette.
Coast to coast coverage
Every region of the country will be represented at the TOC.
The Northeast has a strong contingency of Rivals150 players. Other teams and players of note are the Pittsburgh JOTS (Dejuan Blair, Terrelle Pryor), Juice All Stars (Malcolm Grant, Triple Threat (Jeff Jones, Chris Braswell), Playaz Basketball Club (Corey Raji), New York Panthers (Sylvan Landesburg, Melquan Bolding), Team NJ Elite (Idris Hillard) and NY Elite (Teeng Akol).
The Midwest is equally strong. The Chicago Jaguars are lead by Nayal Koshwal. The Illinois Wolves feed of the power play of guard Demetri McCamey. The Michigan Hurricanes have a deadly trio in Alex Legion, Darquavis Tucker and Anthony Crater.
Perhaps one of the best teams in the field are the Spiece Central Stars. Rivals150 big men Matt Howard and Jujuan Johnson man the blocks. The Fox Valley Skillz have a healthy Keaton Nankivil inside the paint. Blessed IJN enjoy the scoring of guard Eshaunte Jones.
The two biggest states in terms of basketball prospects - Texas and California - have a handful of Rivals150 players in the field. The Houston Swoosh boast big man DeAndre Jordan while the Dallas Mustangs have Brockeith Pane, and D'Wayln Roberts. California's Rising Stars bring forward Darnell Gant to the tournament.
The South is loaded with talent. The Arkansas Hawks are headlined by Michael Sanchez. The Memphis Magic are led by guard Maurice Miller. The Jackson Panthers are fueled by Biko Paris. The Worldwide Renegades have toughness from Trevor Mbakwe.
The Georgia Hurricanes have athleticism from Tony Neysmith, Tracy Smith and Zach Graham. The Atlanta Celtics are deep inside with Derrick Favors, Howard Thompkins and Martavius Adams.
The 1-2 punch of Eric Wallace and Marshall Moses gets things going for D-One Sports. The Tallahassee Wildcats are tough with Adam Allen and A.J. Stewart.
Youth is served
The class of 2009 is well represented with four dynamite prospects in the field. After playing against each other at the Wallace Prather Memorial Classic in Atlanta and together at the Arizona Cactus Classic last weekend Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson return to their respective teams.
Sidney suits up with the Jackson Magic while Stephenson gets it done for the Juice All-Stars.
Also in attendance is Kenny Boynton of Team Breakdown.
There are 40 teams in the 16 and under division. Expect the competition to be just as tough amongst the class of 2008 prospects. Amongst the top teams in the field are: Atlanta Celtics (Green and Gold), Carolina Raptors, DC Assault, Georgia Stars, Grassroots Canada, Michigan Hurricanes, Playaz, South Carolina Ravens, Team Breakdown, Westchester Hawks and many others.
Twenty four teams make up the 15 and under division. Amongst the top teams in the field are: Atlanta Celtics, Birmingham Storm, DC Assault, Georgia Stars, Playaz, Southeast Elite, Southern California All-Stars, Team Daniels/Showtime Ballers and many others.